Drive-By Design–Exterior House Paint!

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I say when it comes to house paint, imitation is your best friend!

Blue side 2

Why? Picking a paint color for your house is a huge decision.  If you make the wrong choice, you’ll cringe every time you drive up.  Plus, it’s a costly project to change.  Picking paint colors from little paint chips is scary.  Maybe some people can visualize what the entire house will look like based on a small paint chip, but really?  For most of us that just doesn’t work.

Buying paint samples is a step in the right direction because you can see what the color looks like on your house at different times of the day…but still it’s hard to picture the entire house painted in the sample color.

Drive-By Design is your best bet.  What’s Drive-By Design? Just what it sounds like–imitating paint or other design elements based on what you like while driving around a neighborhood.  Drive-By Design can help take you out of your comfort zone, limiting risk and maximizing curb appeal!

Blue contemporary green door

Whenever I’m looking for any exterior inspiration, I drive around and look at different houses.  This is definitely the easiest way to see which exterior paint colors are appealing and to get a feel for what different colors look like on an entire house.

What exterior paint colors are popular right now?  Traditionally, it depends where you live–from the soft shades of the coastal shores to the sun-baked colors of the desert Southwest. Based on my Drive-By Design windshield (in the Midwest, Minneapolis area) navy blue is HOT now.  For years, it seemed like only a few daring people ventured in a dark blue hue on their homes.

Blue side

Now, every day I drive past another house being painted navy blue.  Why not?  It looks great on nearly every style of house.  I think navy is the new grey when it comes to exterior paint.

Blue old house

From a small 1920s craftsman style house…

Blue with white picket fence

…to a new Prairie Style home.  Navy looks fresh and sharp.

Blue Prairie Style

Dark colors like navy tend to make a house seem smaller, but more substantial.

Blue with wood garage door

Navy looks great with white and off-white trim and takes on a completely different look with black trim and natural wood accents.

Blue contemporary

One note of caution when using Drive-By Design. No matter how much you love a paint color–be sure to consider the color of your shingles and the other elements on your house that can’t change–like stone or brickwork.  If you have green shingles, that blue paint you love might not look as good as it did on a house with neutral shingles.

Once you find the color that you like, most paint companies have their own color matching apps.  I’ve had good luck with Behr’s ColorSmart.  You just take a photo of the house and use their photo-match tool to determine the color.  Some sites allow you to upload a photo of your house and then use their paint tool to color your picture  It’s sort of fun, but I feel more like I’m using a color crayon rather than actually getting an idea of when my paint will look like.

If you’re not the shy type, the best way to get the exact paint color is to knock on the door and ask the homeowner.  We’ve actually had a few people ring our doorbell to ask about our paint color.  One guy had a had a paint fan deck and asked if he could hold it up to our house to match the color.  I said, “How about if I just tell you exactly what it is?”  He was pleasantly surprised that I knew–it’s Cabot Granite. (Yes, boring gray!)

White house on hill

If navy is the new gray in exterior house paint–then white is the new beige. For years, it seemed like every other new house was painted some shade of beige–with white trim. Now, new classic white houses are popping up everywhere.  White paint will make the house feel bigger, but the lot seem smaller.  It’s simple, but never boring.

White one story

White w:flag

Black windows are also on trend. Against, white they look dramatic.

White house black windows

White house close up black windows

I love this red house.  It’s bold and distinctive.  Full disclosure, it’s my sister’s house. She saw this exact color combination in a magazine about 13 years ago.  She contacted the publisher and was able to get the paint colors.  It was an uncommon choice at the time, but now red is everywhere.  You know it’s popular when it’s available in vinyl and pre-painted siding products.  Paired with a deep green window trim that’s almost black, and off white accents, it still looks amazing after 13 years.

Red house

Red house close up

Yellow is a cheery color for exterior paint.  It just says sunshine. Whether it’s a big house…

Yellow two story

or small, it’s a welcoming color.

Yellow shakes

Here’s a color that’s out of the norm…chartreuse.  I’d never pick this off a paint swatch but think it looks fabulous on this two-story stucco home.


This purple is a surprisingly cool house color.  It stands out–in a good way.  Every time I walk past it, I just say wow.  One more reason to look past the paint swatches and into the neighborhoods.

Purple House

If you want to up your home’s game–and love driving up to it every day–maybe it’s time to swap out the paint.  Just head out the door and drive around, I guarantee you’ll find a color and fall in love–who knows, maybe you’ll go for a look that features no paint at all.

Natural stain






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