Choosing colours for the interior and exterior of your house is a big deal. Buying paint and hiring a professional painter is expensive, and the colours you choose will determine how you feel in your home year round. We are determined to make good choices with lots of online research, colour inspiration, and driving tours of local homes to see similar colours in action.
Personally, I’ve learned a lot about interior and exterior paint during this process. I’ll document some key points here and share some of the paint colours we are considering for our new Island home.
What I’ve Learned About Interior and Exterior Paint Colour During My Research
It’s important to start by identifying your home’s style and neighbourhood
Here’s a designer suggestion we felt made our life a whole lot easier during this home build project.
Figure out your home’s style. This will help you decide on a creative direction for your entire home project, making it far more straight forward to choose everything else, including an appropriate colour palette. Interestingly enough, I found that most online designers preferred a classic home design with the symmetrical look of a Colonial with shutters, neutral exterior paint colour, and a bold and colourful front door. Either that, or a modern farmhouse style, which borrows many elements from classic home design; but, with a more casual “lived in” tone.
Designers also suggest being cognizant of styles prevalent in your neighborhood, especially if you live in a historic area, or a newer suburb with covenants in place.
Most designers recommend choosing neutral colours for the exterior
I think they are absolultely right! Exterior home paint colour is a long term commitment. It’s expensive to change, and nobody wants a house that looks tacky or outdated quickly. But, I loved this suggestion: add a fun spot of colour to your front door. It’s easy and affordable to change whenever you want.
Keep reading to see what we’ve got planned for our house!
Pay Attention to Light Exposure and Light Reflectance Value (LRV)
How an interior wall colour looks will depend on how much natural light enters the room during different times of day and whether your room is north or south-facing. The LRV of a paint colour is also a factor.
LRV refers to how light or dark a paint colour will look on a scale of 0 (black) to 100 (white). The higher the LRV number, the lighter the colour. The lower the LRV number, the darker the colour. Lower/darker colours absorb a lot of light, so not much light is reflected back into the room. This explains why a navy blue may look fantastic on the paint chip at the store; but, it can look almost black when painted on a bedroom wall.
South-facing light exposure, is a much more intense light. Dark colors will appear brighter and light colors (particularly white) may make the room look washed out. North-facing light exposure, is a cooler light so you may want to choose lighter colours with warmer undertones to create a cozier balance.
I found that the Benjamin Moore website did the best job of showing colour choices during various times of day. Visit my link for Santorini blue and scroll down to the section titled “Lighting”. It let’s you choose morning, afternoon, ambient and night to see how the colour changes based on the time of day. How awesome is that?!
Colours look much brighter outside in the direct sunlight
This was one of the more surprising designer tips I came across in my research! It’s particularly important when choosing exterior home paint colours.
Pay attention to the light reflectance value (LRV) of the colours you are considering and be aware of any undertones. For example, Sherwin Williams Alabaster has an LRV of 82 and a slightly creamy undertone. That means it’s quite reflective in the sunlight and will look brighter. Although Alabaster is considered to be a white, on a south-facing home it’s warm creamy undertones are accentuated.
White is the most difficult colour to select
This is where those tips on LRV and light exposure come in handy. There are literally tons of whites and off-whites. They can have blue, grey and yellow undertones depending on the light exposure and surrounding colours. If you look up these colours online, don’t trust what you see on your computer screen. Every computer monitor calibrates colour differently so make sure you follow the tips below on testing your colours.
You may find it helpful to know Benjamin Moore’s known truest white is Chantilly Lace. It’s one of their most popular colour choices for a pure, bright white. It can work for trims, doors, ceilings and on occasion the walls as well. The majority of its use is for millwork because it’s a ‘pure’ white. Sherwin Williams’ Pure White is an extremely bright white color paint that is not too stark and not too creamy. Their Extra White is only slightly brighter than Pure White but it’s a starker white with a slightly blue undertone in cool light. You could use this information as a starting point when researching whites.
The most popular whites recommended by many of the online designers for trim appear to be Benjamin Moore Simply White (warm with a very subtle yellow undertone), Sherwin-Williams High Reflective White, and Sherwin-Williams Alabaster (warm but more depth than Simply White).
Use Pinterest Boards to collect inspiration and compare colours at a glance
This is a tip from yours truly. Pinterest is free and it’s easy to set up an account. It’s a great tool for gathering your online research and inspirational images all into one place. You can refer to it anytime and from anywhere, or share it with your friends, family, and even your interior designer, with one click.
I’ve learned from past experience that choosing paint swatches from a website or paint store, isn’t the best way to narrow down colour choices accurately. So, I decided to search online to find my colour choices in action. It turns out, that there are tons of bloggers just like me who have built new homes, or redesigned existing homes, and they are happy to share their experiences and photos with others.
I was able to use Google search terms like “What is the best white color for exterior of house?” or “What is the most popular exterior home colour in 2022” or “Exterior Homes in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White (or any other colour I was considering)”. Google pulled up hundreds of images I could browse through to find what I liked, and then “save image for Pinterest”. Once I saved all my favourites, we were able to review the Pinterest boards at a glance and start narrowing down final colour choices together.
If you’re building a new home and you’re lucky enough to have a great builder, they can also help you decide on interior and exterior paint colours for your home.
Always test your colours before you commit
When trying to decide on exterior or interior paint colours for your home, online designers recommended testing at least two or three colors for consideration. I think this is a super smart idea! Colours almost never look quite the way you thought they would, so having alternative choices ready to try will save you time going back and forth to the paint store.
In our case, the builder’s paint crew are happy to paint our sample colours right onto the exterior siding and trim for us to see. I know this will help us avoid wasting time and money on paint colours that don’t look the way we hoped they would.
Other suggestions by online designers were as follows:
- Purchase sample sized paints from local paint stores in the colours you are interested in trying. Ask the painters to paint it on test areas, or DIY. You could buy poster boards from the dollar store and paint each one with a sample colour. Then prop your boards against the walls vertically, in multiple places, to see how they look in different types of light.
- Order large peel and stick samples from Samplize. These are like super huge post-it notes hand painted with a specific paint color from each company: Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Farrow & Ball, or PPG. Each sample has two coats applied with a roller for color accuracy and texture. They are created with a non-damaging adhesive that is repositionable so you can test it out in multiple locations. (Feb 2023 Edit) Recently, Samplize added sample colour bundles which will help you even more to choose your paint colours.
Choose Colours to Compliment Foundational Home Elements
This was another GREAT designer tip! Always remember to test your paint colour choices against more permanent, big ticket elements like flooring, cabinetry, countertops, tiles, and/or exterior brick/stone. Paint colours and foundational elements need to work together. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re going through the many phases of a new home build.
Our Colour Choices
We love having access to all these amazing online designer tips and it’s been a lot of fun doing the research.
We’ve already identified our home style in a previous blog post, The Vision for Our Little House, and with the classic architecture of our home we’ve decided to stick to a neutral colour palette. Since the front of our house has a north-facing exposure we are considering exterior paint colours with warm undertones to cozy up the cooler northern light. For interior home paint colours, we like the Scandinavian philosophy of light, simple and airy. We don’t get a lot of sun during our Canadian winters, so lighter colours with warmer undertones will warm up the “feel” of our house during Fall and Winter.
Are you ready to see the paint colours we’ll be testing for consideration?
Interior Wall & Cabinetry Paint Colours & Wallpaper
- Wall Colour in Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-017 (PM-19) w/ an LRV of 85.38 + Trim and Fireplace Brick in Benjamin Moore Simply White OC-117 (PM-2143-70 w/ an LRV of 91.7
- Wall (Flat) + Trim (Satin) Colours in Benjamin Moore Simply White OC-117 (PM-2143-70 w/ an LRV of 91.7
- Kitchen Island + Utility Room Cabinetry in Benjamin Moore Beach Glass 1564 w/ an LRV of 50.3
- Bedroom Feature Wall in Sherwin-Williams Waterloo SW9141 w/ an LRV of 13
- Garden Room Feature Wall in Chinoiserie Wallpaper: Peony Blossom Wall Mural Peel and Stick by Wallphy
Exterior Home Colours
- Siding Colour in Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray SW-7015 at 50% w/ an LRV of 58 + Trim in Sherwin-Williams Snowbound SW-7004 w/ an LRV of 83
- Siding Colour in Sherwin-Williams Alabaster SW-7008 w/ an LRV of 82 + Trim in Alabaster.
- Front Door in Benjamin Moore Van Courtland Blue HC-145 w/ an LRV of 30.42, OR Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black SW-6258 w/ an LRV of 3.
Keep checking back to our blog as our little house on the island project evolves. Find out which paint colours make the final cut. And when the project is complete, we’ll be sharing photos of our own home so you can see for yourself how it all came together.
More to come on lighting and plumbing fixtures, kitchen cabinets and hardware, bathroom tiles (we’ve got something very special planned for that), rugs, and landscaping. I hope you’re enjoying following along as we share our journey.
Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments below.