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Accentuate the positive
But keep it low-key when choosing paint colors for your homeís exterior



Want your home to make a lasting first impression? Update the exterior paint color. Paint is an easy way to add instant curb appeal, and if you choose wisely, exterior color schemes can draw attention to your homeís best features and minimize flaws.

Brandon Preiss, branch manager of Sherwin Williams in Waukesha, says there arenít any hard-and-fast rules for picking exterior paint colors, but did offer some helpful guidelines for getting started.

"Start with the colors you canít change," he says. Shingles, brick and stone facing are things that canít be altered, so your color scheme has to work with them. "Look for paint shades that match or harmonize with these elements," Preiss suggests.

Neighboring homes are another consideration. You may want your house to stand out, but it shouldnít be out of character with the rest of the street. Walk around your subdivision to see what colors your neighbors have chosen for the exterior of their homes. "You want to choose a palette that blends with the neighborhood or stands out in a subtle way," says Mark Kowald of Hallman Lindsay in Mequon.

If you live in a subdivision governed by a homeowners association, be sure to check their guidelines before you paint. The associationís bylaws may stipulate specific colors you can use.

Exterior paint color schemes are typically made up of three parts ó body color, trim color and accent color. If your home has interesting architectural details, Kowald suggests adding a second accent color to call attention to intricate moldings or ornate cornices. "One architectural style may lend itself better to some colors than others," Kowald says.

Body Color

When shopping for exterior paint, pick your body color first. It should either contrast with the roof color or be a variation of it. Kevin Molloy, store manager of Metro Paint & Dťcor in Milwaukee, recommends using a light to medium shade, particularly if your house has large expanses of siding. He also suggests buying a few trial quarts and painting a section of your house, then observing how the colors look at different times of day before making a final commitment. "Paint is affected by sunlight," Molloy says.

Trim color

Trim color is typically applied to areas like fascias, soffits, window frames and sashes, door frames and porch railings. To downplay a part of a house that is flawed, itís best to paint soffits with your body paint color.

Accent color

Accent colors are meant to highlight special features of your house like the entryway or shutters. "Accent colors are most effective when used sparingly," Kowald says. For example, a warm, inviting color like crimson red can make the entrance of a house an attractive focal point. "Your front door is a great place to add bold color and lend character to your home," Preiss says.

When choosing exterior paint colors, Molloy cautions homeowners against making common mistakes like accenting unappealing elements such as gutters, downspouts or the garage door. "Be cautious with accent colors. You want to accentuate the positive," he says.