When you take a house as old as ours was into the 21st century, and you haven’t really grown up on farms, a question that is new to you arises: what color do you want your house to be? I found it a surprisingly hard question to answer.
In the first place, I’ve never had to decide on the outdoor color scheme of a house. My houses have always come to me in a color not of my choosing. My initial reaction was, “Not white!” But, I couldn’t have told you why, except it seemed so… ordinary.
As is my habit with decorating, I began to self educate by paying attention to the color schemes of others’ houses everywhere I went. I quickly found that I had to look at five key elements together:
- the roof color (you paint a metal roof about any color you want to)
- the body of the house
- the trim on the house
- the colors of shutters
- the colors of your doors
At first, I thought I would paint the house a beige or tan, and the roof green, with white trim, black shutters, and a red door. I had seen this color combination in several places, and thought it very classy. But, my daughter Christy had pretty strong negative thoughts about this scheme. She said that tan would just get lost in the landscape; that there needed to be some contrast between the house and its surroundings. “How about white?” she suggested.
That month, Scott and I drove to a speaking engagement that was two days’ travel from our home each way. I remember that I kept looking at all the farms that I could see from the road. Many of the houses were white. It seemed like a really common color for farmhouses. I began to wonder if my prejudice against white would make our house look like some city slicker’s home instead of fitting in with the local culture. Hmmm.
Another thing that you have to consider with house colors, I came to realize, is how they’ll look in various seasons. Of course, a white house never clashes with anything and looks terrific spring through fall, but in the winter, it all but disappears. Green houses disappear in the spring-summer months. Gray is sort of like white, only a little darker in the snow. Hmmm.
I think it was Christy who also first affirmed my new direction of yellow. After our long trip, I started to look around at other houses in the county where our farm was located. I saw that farmhouses there ranged from white (most prevalent) to gray to green to yellow. I began to seriously consider yellow. Yellow looks nice in all seasons. It is fairly neutral behind most plants when you go to landscape around it. (You don’t want to put yellow roses up against it, but generally speaking, you can find many plants that look terrific against yellow.) It’s a cheerful color, no matter what the season. Yes, yellow was fast gaining ground in my affections… but then, what color roof?
The paint on metal roofs can be tricky. I’ve seen lots of painted roofs around our county that are peeling off, and most of these are not the silver, metallic color of the original standing seam roofs. I was at first enamored of a pine green color with the yellow and white trim, I thought, but then my mom mentioned that it would be hotter in summer, absorbing the sun’s rays.
I began to ask the local tradesmen that I was meeting what color they thought would last best and apparently, the silver paint used on metal roofs is the most durable. Since it also reflects like white, I decided that silver and yellow would look pretty sharp, with white trim and red doors. (My farmhouse didn’t come with shutters, but if I ever upgraded to mount them, I was still sold on black.)
The next question was: which yellow to choose? I think yellow is a hard color to get right. There are pale yellows, sharp yellows, strong yellows, etc. Driving back and forth from our farm while deciding this, I found a house that had the perfect yellow! It was both warm and soft. It looked good in all kinds of light, every time I passed it. And, it had a silver roof and white trim, just like mine would. I snapped a picture of it with my iPhone, and decided to try to see if I could match that color paint exactly.
From here, the story gets more fun. The county that our new farm is located in has one small, main town, and everybody knows everybody. People have lived and worked here for generations. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I walked into the local hardware store (about 30 minutes from the house above) and started asking about paint prices and colors.
This wasn’t my first trip there; I’d been in for a bunch of things already. I had tried matching the color by getting a bunch of paint chips from the store and stopping by this house to hold them up. No luck. None of the chips was even close. So, on this trip, I asked the lady behind the counter–Judy was her name–about whether they could do color matching. She said they could. I told here that I had seen this house in the county and wanted to match the paint color as closely as I could. I had my iPhone handy, and whipped it out and showed her the above picture. She studied it for a moment, and then said, “I know that house!”
Sure enough, she did. She knew right where it was. Well, given the size of the population, I wasn’t too surprised, but she did surprise me with what came next, “As a matter of fact, my brother owns that house. And, “ she went on, “as a matter of fact, he’s up here right now from Florida (where he lives) doing some work on its interior.” Then she added, “I bet that I could get one of his leftover paint cans for you so that you could match the color exactly.”
And she did! I went over to her house that very night and got an old 5-gallon bucket from her. I took it to Home Depot 3.5 hours away near my home in MD, and they were able to not only match the color (discontinued since two years ago when it was bought, so I never would have found the chip color in any current displays) but–and this is scary–they could tell me how many gallons the owners of the above house had bought!
Here’s a picture of the formula: it’s Behr paint with primer mixed in (wonderful stuff!):
In the end, I chose white doors, not red ones. And we still don’t have shutters. But I think that the white trim and the silver roof and the yellow house look beautiful together, and it’s such a neat story as to how the Lord gave me just the exact color that I so admired!