Allen Norwood

July 3, 2014

Break away from vanilla house paint

Be a little braver when choosing exterior color.

Among exterior paint colors, is Apple Brown Betty the new white? Ah, no. When it comes to choosing exterior color, most homeowners are still wimps.

Apple Brown Betty is the color of the Saussy Burbank model at Riverwalk in Rock Hill. It’s an eye-catching hue on a home by a company widely known for its colorful communities.

But experts say that 40 percent of painted homes across the country are white. And perhaps that many more are barely off-white. Throw in all the variations of beige, says Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute, and you get, well, plain vanilla instead of rainbow swirl.

You don’t have to be afraid of color, though. There are lots of colorful neighborhoods by Saussy Burbank and other companies that offer inspiration and build confidence. If you’d like to add color to the exterior of your home, just look around.

You wouldn’t go to Saussy Burbank looking for a white house. “I think I’ve only done one white house in this market, and that was custom,” said Charlotte design coordinator Karen Bumgarner. Instead, most buyers come in looking for blue, green or gray.

Or Apple Brown Betty, which is more apple than brown. “It’s what people gravitate toward, and what looks good,” she said.

These days, if you’re color shopping, you can tour your favorite new-home neighborhoods online.

Years ago when my wife and I picked exterior colors, we’d drive around until we saw a home with a combination that we liked. Once, in the Berkeley neighborhood off N.C. 51, we spotted a new house with colors that we loved. Dusty green siding, and blue-gray shutters.

I knocked on the door, explained that I wasn’t selling anything – honest – but loved the colors. The owner not only didn’t slam the door – she shared paint chips with color names and numbers.

Keep color scheme simple

Saussy Burbank offers an online portfolio at Some builders even include paint colors on their sites. Visit the sites of the top paint manufacturers. Or, start with Houzz ( – which has enough pictures to keep you busy for a long weekend.

Realtors often advise clients who’re selling that a house should have no more than three colors: siding, trim and an accent color on shutters and doors.

Bumgarner said that Saussy Burbank, despite its colorful reputation, typically sticks to three or four. “Many more than that and it starts to look busy.”

And that fourth color is used judiciously, when a particular feature makes it appropriate. A house might have horizontal siding over most of its exterior, for instance, with vertical board-and-batten siding on the peaked gable ends. That architectural detail up high might get a different color.

Fading, bricks complicate choice

At the paint store, you’ll find cards with families of complementary colors grouped together. That’s always a good place to start your search for combinations you like.

When you find a siding color you like, see if you also can find it on a house that’s, say, 5 years old.

Some colors have reputations for fading quickly. Modern paints, especially quality 100 percent acrylic, don’t fade as quickly as they used to, Zimmer said, but deep reds and blues still fade faster than other colors.

Bumgarner said Saussy Burbank colors are generally midtones, which hold up better than the strongest accent colors.

Be especially careful choosing a color if your home has much brick. You might not see that orange undertone in the brick – until you slap on a paint color that clashes.

Bumgarner points out that Saussy Burbank doesn’t use much brick, and that its popular blues, greens and grays complement the company’s stone accents.

If you’d like to experiment with exterior color, but aren’t ready just yet to paint the siding peach or plum, add some bolder color to the garage door trim or the front porch furniture. Americans are still “color-conflicted,” Zimmer said, but more of us are brave enough to use exterior colors that way.

Small splashes of color go well with white, I guess.

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