Select the right color to accentuate your home's beauty

Select the right color to accentuate your home's beauty Credit: Newsday composite

With spring's welcome arrival, it's also the season for home improvements. One of the less labor-intensive but most noticeable ways to beautify a home is to paint it. With nature's rich palette in full view, local experts have some tips on choosing paint colors for Long Island's most popular home styles.


THE STYLE Georgians tend to be formal homes with classical details. They generally have a paneled front door with a decorative crown supported by pilasters.

THE EXTERIOR The house should be white with black trim or maybe hunter green, says Arlene Travis of Mansions and Millionaires, a nonprofit that restores and showcases Long Island mansions. If the home is brick, white trim with black shutters is favored.

THE INTERIOR Travis favors neutrals. Huntington designer Eileen Kathryn Boyd suggests a stone gray entryway, fire engine red living room, chocolate brown dining room and an apple green kitchen.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY "The only place you should deviate would be the front door, which, if you want to be really avant-garde, you could paint maybe a royal blue," Travis says.

The Cape

THE STYLE A ubiquitous home style on Long Island, the Cape Cod has a pitched roof that comes down close to the window tops.

THE EXTERIOR Boyd favors a cool gray backdrop with white trim and a red door. Another good combination is beige with white trim and a black door. "These homes can also look good painted light blue," she says.

THE INTERIOR Boyd advises using similar tones. "The exterior of the home should be an indication of what's going to be on the inside." So if you choose a beige exterior, good selections for the interior could be sage green, tawny beige, coral and perhaps a chocolate brown dining room with white trim.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY Boyd says, "a 'mellow yellow' or buttery yellow can work well on a classic Cape."

The Colonial

THE STYLE Originally a home of the wealthy, the Colonial became popular in the suburbs in the 1920s. It's a two-story home, generally with a prominent front door, columns supporting an overhang and double-hung windows.

THE EXTERIOR Huntington architect Mike Wallin says the best color is white, but pale yellow is also a good choice. Boyd adds that a mid-tone gray with Dutch blue shutters also works well.

THE INTERIOR Designer Isabelle Ferranti, who is based in Huntington, recently used cream in many parts of a center-hall Colonial and accented the dining room in chocolate brown. Diane Cullinan, who runs Design Concepts in Lake Grove, says that if a homeowner wants to use historical colors, slate blue, brown and red are good. "You could do your entry and hallways one color and other rooms in other colors."

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY Ferranti says a sandy tone or "organic" color such as soft beige or bone as well as gray would work on the exterior. Inside, grays are "easy to work with as they are very compatible with many other colors."

Contemporary and modern

THE STYLES Design experts agree that Contemporary and Modern homes should almost always be painted white. "The idea is that the shape of the home is a piece of art in itself, so color shouldn't take away from that," says Greenvale architect Mark Stumer, principal at Mojo Stumer and Associates.

THE INTERIOR White is also best for inside, Stumer says. Homes are often elevated and surrounded by greenery. The purpose of the home design, he says, is an open layout. Color is brought in through rich woods and the home's decor.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY Beige or light gray are possibilities, both inside and out.

The Tudor

THE STYLE "Tudor-style exteriors are mostly composed of brick, stone or stucco and quite often combined with exposed timbers," says Glen Cove architect William J. Wall. He says brick, stone and stucco are usually done in earth-toned browns, grays and creams, and trim work in dark colors.

THE INTERIOR Cullinan favors using a lighter palette inside. "It tends to work best with warm colors such as beige, antique white, rich creams and gold." Designer Deborah Batterson, an instructor at the Metropolitan Institute of Design in Syosset, recommends soft grayish blue or soft grayish greens.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY You could use light yellow on the stucco, Batterson suggests. "And if you really want to deviate from convention, you could use very, very light green or blue," she says.

Splanch and split-level

THE STYLES In a split-level, the living room and kitchen inhabit a single story on one end. On the other, two-story end of the home is generally a sunken garage and family room below and bedrooms above. The splanch, a sort of split-ranch hybrid, has a sunken recreation room and/or basement; garage, kitchen and dining room on the ground level; living room a few steps up; then bedrooms a few steps up from that.

THE EXTERIOR Recommended color combinations are similar to the ranch: white, gray, cream, beige or tan with deeper accents. "A monochromatic color scheme, which is using one color in different tints and shades, is also very striking," Batterson says. For the split, Boyd offers a cafe au lait exterior with graphite gray shutters. As for the splanch, she recommends an eggnog-colored base with bluestone-blue shutters.

THE INTERIOR Boyd suggests a light grayish lavender entry, Dutch blue living room, light grape dining room and an elephant gray kitchen for the split; for the splanch, an ivory entry, deep mauve living room, pine-tree green dining room and a yellowy-white kitchen.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY The sky's the limit, experts say.


THE STYLE Craftsman-style homes were designed to blend in with nature and tend to use a lot of wood and stone. They often have broad, overhanging roofs and deep porches.

THE EXTERIOR Wallin says the colors should be in the browns and yellows and include natural wood stains. "We want the colors to be harmonious. Your eye should flow freely over the house and come to a rest on certain accents, such as the trim," he says. Cullinan agrees. "You should use natural tones. Greens, rusty oranges, lighter creams or bones are good. The backdrop should be lighter and darker colors used for accents." Bright colors are not preferable.

THE INTERIOR Recommendations for the exterior and interior are similar, but Cullinan notes that on the inside, "the backdrop should be lighter and darker colors used for accents."

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY Batterson suggests cool tones, such as medium to dark blues, as well as grayish greens, such as sage.


THE STYLE This is the iconic one-story home popular in the suburbs.

THE EXTERIOR Ferranti says good colors are sandy or tan, or soft gray or pewter. "These colors make a house look crisp and clean," Ferranti says. For the accents, she recommends black.

THE INTERIOR Ferranti advises using "generic, soft and pleasing colors," particularly if the home's floor plan is open. Cream is a good, warm choice for the open areas, she says, as opposed to brighter whites that lack pigmentation. Paint the moldings white or even the same color as the base, perhaps using a higher gloss finish.

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY "The front door is a good place to use a different color, such as red," Ferranti says.


THE STYLE In San Francisco, the term "painted ladies" is used to refer to the city's elaborately painted Victorians: This style of home was meant to be colorful.

THE EXTERIOR "Style and eccentricity run the gamut," says Wall, who does a lot of work in Sea Cliff, where there are a number of Victorians. "Gingerbread Victorians can be trimmed in bright blues, magentas, but backed by a more neutral base color," Travis agrees. "In the Queen Annes, which are full of carved wood with elaborate exteriors, there is a lot of leeway with colors from grays to oranges, really to many, many colors."

THE INTERIOR Stay colorful, using purples, bright oranges and reds, but in small doses, Batterson says. "These bright colors should be against a lighter, more neutral background."

IF YOU WANT TO STRAY When painting a Victorian, it's all about personal style, so the choices before you are as vast as the imagination. Just remember to follow general color rules and have fun painting.

Tips on color

If you want to paint your home, but not necessarily the colors recommended, here are some general rules of thumb from the experts:

1. Stay true to your surroundings. If your neighborhood is more traditional, it's best not to paint your house a very bright color.

2. Don't mix apples and oranges. If you'd like to use bright, bold colors, don't combine them with earth tones -- and vice versa.

3. Use art to create your palette. If there is a fabric, quilt, painting or rug you love, using the colors from that piece can be a great place from which to formulate a color scheme.

4. Step out with the front door. If you want to stray outside the lines and give your house your own stamp of color, the front door is the place to do it.

5. Go with the flow. If your home has an open floor plan, it's best to stick with one color in the open parts of the house. If rooms are separated by trim, you can use different colors.

6. Remember historical roots. When painting, try to keep in step with a home's historical nature. In general, use neutral base colors and add more color through accents -- such as a front door or through furnishings -- to create a timeless, pleasant home.

7. How does it look in the light? View your color choices in sunlight, particularly your exterior colors. For interior colors, check them out in sunlight and under a lamp.

8. Surf the Web. Do an image search for your home style to get a broad idea of color possibilities. Some paint companies also have interactive areas on their websites that allow you to experiment with color.

Don't forget the roof

When deciding what colors to use on your home, don't forget to look up -- the roof is an important element of your color scheme. "The roof is a massive expanse of color and should be a reflection of your home's color story," Boyd says.

Nearly all the experts agree that a dark roof is the way to go. "In general, the roof should be much darker than the house," Wall says. "It should act almost as a hat so the roofline doesn't just disappear and you can see how high the house goes."

Wall adds that many roofing companies are now making roof tiles with added colors to act as shadow lines. "It gives the impression of a richer, deeper roof," he says.

Travis agrees, but says that if you have a roof with interesting architectural details -- such as gables or turrets -- you could go a little lighter. "Perhaps a pale gray or pale green," she says.