The Best Window Colour For Stone and Brick

This post is coming to you today from Tricia Firmaniuk, my, so talented Virtual Design Assistant:

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We’re right in the middle of our busy exterior season, so if you haven’t tackled your exterior, and it needs updating, don’t worry! There is still time.

Interior Design Ideas

Lovely brick and greige exterior from Atlanta Homes via the Home Bunch

Recently, I updated the questionnaire for the exterior eDesign consultations to resolve an issue that kept popping up. The questionnaire originally asked the client to describe any fixed elements on their exterior that would not be changing. While sorting through all the submitted photos and information to package up for Maria, I noticed the same thing happening over and over. Clients would go into great detail about their brick, stone, roof or cladding, but they rarely ever let us know what colour and material their windows were. Huh, weird.

So, obviously, I had to add a  specific question about the colour and material of their windows. Are they white? Cream? Other? Are they vinyl or anodized aluminum? Or paintable?

And I noticed, now that we offer an all inclusive exterior add on package with our popular new build bundle, that even when people are starting from scratch with new construction, they often jump to things like stone selection and paint, and don’t give the windows a moments thought.

Which is a big problem, because unless they’re paintable, the colour of your windows is one of the most limiting fixed elements on your exterior and you need to choose wisely or work with what you’ve got.

We recently had a client who had left this critical decision to her contractor, either unaware there were options, or assuming as the professional, he would just know. While she went about designing her dream home in fresh whites and grays, he had gone ahead and ordered the standard creamy almond window he had been installing in all the earthy Tuscan new builds in the area for years.

When the windows arrived, she realized with horror that they were a dirty YELLOW and called us in a panic to see if they could somehow be made to work. Yikes!

Wholesale Vinyl Windows, Vinyl vs. Aluminum vs. Wood vs. Fiberglass - LightHouseShoppe.com

almond vinyl windows look creamy with an earthy colour scheme

Of course we told her that she would need a much earthier colour scheme than she was planning like this one above, and ultimately, that she should hold her contractor accountable for poor communication. Which she did, and she had a happy ending with white windows, phew.

Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams. Exterior Colors. The shingles are stained in an acrylic, Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams. #ReposeGraySherwinWilliams #exteriorpaintcolor #homeExterior Interiors by Courtney Dickey of TS Adams Studio.

fresh colour scheme with white windows from Home Bunch

But clearly, it’s common for people to underestimate the importance of windows when creating or updating the look of their exterior. And they often don’t recognize their mistake until it’s too late ☹

Just as often, homeowners will default to standard white vinyl windows and then call us when they want to find the right brick and stone combination for their exterior. And we need to deliver the news that THE VAST MAJORITY OF BRICK AND STONE DOES NOT WORK WITH STANDARD WHITE WINDOWS and cross our fingers for them that the windows are not already ordered.

Often enough, they already are, and the whole design needs to be reworked, compromises made.

It boggles my mind how common it is for people to make a tens-of-thousands-of-dollars decision without consulting with a professional. And let’s be clear, the average builder/developer is not the most reliable source for the right advice. It’s shocking how little of the budget goes to professional design in the average development.

In my area, new developments go up everyday with earthy taupe and beige colour schemes and screaming white windows that aren’t repeated anywhere and were apparently completely ignored, as if they were invisible. I’m sure you’ve all seen this too right?

 

Image result for earthy exterior

a typical earthy exterior palette with way too white windows

If you install white vinyl windows, they are typically a slightly grey white or cool greige (that read true white in bright exterior light) and they are too cool and stark to work with the vast majority of brick and stone, or the still common warm and earthy colour schemes.

White vinyl windows belong with greige, white, grey, navy, fresh colours and black. You can sometimes compromise and get away with pale earthy colours, but you might need to cheat and bridge the true white vinyl with off white trim to soften the contrast.

And really, the only stone that can be made to work with white vinyl windows is the palest classic green grey limestone, because it is cool and fresh enough to work with generous amounts of white trim like this.

Exterior Lighting. porch Lantern. Porch lantern exterior lighting. Porch Lighting. The exterior light fixture is Pottery Barn Case Oversized Pendant #porchLantern #porchlighting #exteriorlighting Beautiful Homes of Instagram @nc_homedesign via Home Bunch

white and grey palette with limestone from Home Bunch

You can find pretty white farmhouse trend houses on Pinterest like this one below with earthier stone on their foundations or chimneys, but these are carefully balanced with bronze or brown roofs, or tied in with landscaping or wood stained doors, and generally, they are done in creamier whites (which tend to look whiter in bright exterior light and photography).

386 Likes, 12 Comments - Michael Abraham (@michael_abraham_architecture) on Instagram: “Traditional charm meets modern-day elegance at our 4th & Washington project.”

Via Micheal Abraham Architecture on Instagram

You can see the windows are whiter than the creamy greige body colour here. There are ways for sure, but for the typical new build, white vinyl windows belong only with the freshest finishes.

So if you’re required by your HOA or builder to include stone and/or brick on your façade, what are the best window colour options?

If your supplier or builder offers them, off white windows will give you more options, but the finishes still need to be very fresh to work with lots of off white. They will still look too stark with most stone and brick.

If you have classic orange brick, your windows should be green beige (light green beige for cream and deeper for more of a stony look) or green gray.

New Pedimented Door-Surround - Menzer McClure Architects More

orange brick with green beige windows and trim Via Pinterest

When your stone or brick has taupe undertones (as the majority of the cooler, non-orange brick options do), it gets a little tricky because so many of the lighter window colour options are too yellow or pink to work perfectly, so sometimes, it’s best to go with bronze.

Architectural Bronze Casements doors and windows

orange beige stone with bronze windows from Period Living

Unfortunately, just as with interior finishes, there are way too many PINK beige window colour options in both vinyl and aluminum windows. To be fair, there is a heck of a lot of cultured stone on the market with pink undertones to work with them, but unless you are already stuck with pink stone you need to work with (and there’s nothing wrong with that), it wouldn’t be the most classic choice if you’re spending the money 😉

greige: interior design ideas and inspiration for the transitional home : Dark trimmed windows and doors...

black windows and pink stone via Pinterest

So if you have warmer stone or brick don’t just default to a “beige” window either without getting samples and being sure of the undertone. “Almond” is often too yellow, and many of the rest are hot-dog-wiener-pink, ack! Green beige is your best bet and it’s often just better to go with bronze or black. However, the overall balance of contrast of your design needs to be carefully considered when deciding between a dark or light window colour. If you have a very dark stone or brick with few paintable elements, you might end up with a very heavy look.

Getting colour right on exteriors is extra tricky because you need to achieve balance with relatively few fixed elements and you can’t rely as much on decorating for that. Good landscaping can do wonders, but if your house looks like a dark and brooding fortress, or your windows are poke-you-in-the-eye stark, it’s going to take more than some well positioned bushes to make it pretty. So beyond coordinating or matching elements you need to be able to visualize placement and contrast to get it right.

Kensingnton, London #wisteria

pretty landscaping and black windows from The Cool Hunter

Dark windows can be a good option for fresh exterior colour palettes too because they provide some contrast and can relate to a darker roof for a pulled together look. Just make sure your windows are reasonably symmetrical, well proportioned and generally attractive if you’re going to highlight them with a high contrast black or bronze window.

Tomorrow is the day! We'll be sharing part 1 of our #windsongproject tour. Our team worked with @stevetiek for more than a year to create every detail of this remodeled beauty. I can NOT wait to share it. :@kateosborne

From Studio McGee

Paintable wood windows are the most versatile from a design point of view, but they are higher maintenance and not appropriate for wetter climates where they are susceptible to rot and mold.

Orange Front Door. Orange Front Door. Beach house with off white siding, light gray trim and garage door. Front door is painted in an orange color. #orange #frontdoor Matt Morris Development

with paintable windows you have limitless options like this pretty green gray to relate to the stone from Home Bunch

So please, don’t be passive about your window colour choice, they are an important part of the design. If you are building new, check with your builder right away to find out what options they provide. And always get physical samples to test with your colours and finishes to make sure they are perfect. Online representations of product colours can be wildly inaccurate, so insist on a sample in hand.

And if you’re planning to refresh your exterior, don’t ignore the colour of your windows. You will have a much better look if you accept whatever limitations they dictate and work within those parameters than if you ignore them.

Finally, don’t leave the complex decisions that together create the look and feel of your exterior to your builder or your best guess, exterior colour mistakes are among the most expensive to fix.

If you would like help creating a beautiful and classic exterior, see our eDesign packages here.

When you think about it, to choose finishes for the interior or exterior of your house with no training at all makes no sense. Most people would not make a $300,000 or million dollar purchase decision on a single item without consulting a professional. However, people do it with their homes every day.

If you’d like to learn how to choose (or specify) Exterior Colours with Confidence, download my webinar training here. All the above information and so much more is included.

Related posts:

10 Tips to Transform Your Exterior

The Best Exterior Trim Colour with Brick; NOT Cloud White

10 Best Front Door Colours For Your House

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  1. So, what if you gave already chosen white and can’t turn back? You showed examples of everything but white. When can you use white windows with brick? I purchased your exteriors webinar hoping it would address this for me and it didn’t. Our new build will be a brick front and skirt with the rest vinyl. Is there a brick that will work? I am looking at samples from the Columbus Brick Co that have lots of “whitewashing” on them. Is that the direction to go? Help!

    • White looks stark with earthy brick. Yes, whitewashed brick, greys, light yellow beige. . . you’re looking for lighter colours. Maria

  2. Wow, great post! Awesome…So much usable info here.
    Now if I can only figure out the color and undertone of my concrete roof tiles, on my shingled house in the pacific northwest, which is not a common roofing material up here in the rainy NW, I’ll be happy. Could you do a post on roofing colors combined with exterior colors too?

    • Oooh, that pretty purple vine is a wisteria? I was wondering. Thanks. (we don’t have them where I live, so I had no idea. I live in a desert.)

  3. Great post. I couldn’t agree more about the value of selecting the right windows for a home! I am shocked at how often they are overlooked. We just replaced our tired-out wood windows after I mulled over window choices for about a year! Our traditional red/orange brick house already has cream trim (gutters, soffits, vinyl siding on dormer windows, etc.) and the warmer creamy white looks “right” with the warm brick. However, when I set out to find a cream vinyl window, I was disappointed to find the suppliers in my area only offered BRIGHT WHITE or a TOO DARK BEIGE and nothing in between! Window installers who gave me bids kept insisting that white would look fine, and that everyone else is fine with white. Ugh. Finally, I had to look beyond vinyl to find the soft creamy white I desired. I ended up purchasing aluminum-clad wood windows. They are a higher-end product (and much more expensive than vinyl I might add!) but I am sooo pleased with how everything turned out. The windows and trim are a consistent creamy white, and the color is harmonious with my warm brick. Yay! (However, I still don’t understand why more vinyl window companies don’t offer softer whites!)

  4. I’m learning how important it is to get the colours right and not just rely on the builder, as they are not colour professionals. A good and very informative post which I loved reading, as always.

  5. Very enlightening…I agree this is an important element re: exterior design whether a new build or attemping to improve upon existing structure. Also, what about the choices for visible downspouts and gutters etc ?. I find that element to be distracting too, more often than not.

  6. great post (as always)! As a husband/wife builder & designer…(if you’re building new) I think this is why people make mistakes (in my opinion after working with clients & my husband the contractor) They spend all their time working on a plan and bids, then the customer gets so excited to get a hole in the ground, they just sit back and let the builder take over. The windows are one of the first things that have to be ordered and the builder just wants to keep the project flowing, the customer hasn’t even thought of the outside decisions, so they let the builder make the decision. ( I worked with a client of another builder not too long ago, I asked her why her family room windows didn’t open- she said “Oh my builder said it would save me money, so he didn’t even ask me b/c he knew I was tired of making decisions” WHAT? WINDOWS NOT OPENING IN FAMILY ROOM???) I would HIGHLY suggest that this is discussed during the bidding stage when people are a little fresher and can start thinking about it-looking at other homes in the area or on line that you like/don’t like.

  7. Great information. I love black and bronze windows so it was interesting to see how they can work with exterior colors. I feel sorry for the cars that get behind me now as I drive through a neighborhood not only checking out the undertones but also seeing how the windows work, or not. I’ve lived in the same place for 30+ years and can’t believe all I was missing.

  8. That ‘Studio McGee’ picture could have been taken from my neighborhood. Black and bronze windows in a contemporary farmhouse/craftsman build have become the ‘in thing’. We were offered the option but they don’t feel classic or timeless to me. Literally every house built in the last 8 months has this gothic farmhouse vibe using black casings and no shutters.

    I’ve posted before but your books and blog helped me tremendously during our build. Thank you for another great informative post.

  9. Such a terrific and informative post plus thank you for validating my thoughts when I often see beautiful homes that have windows who scream ‘look at me, look at me, look at only me’ as their colour IMHO is so wrong when comparing them to the rest of the house. -Brenda-

  10. What a great post with tons of useful information! Like someone else mentioned, how about a post with info about gutters and downspouts? How to integrate those into the overall exterior scheme would be super helpful.

  11. A house on the market has a dark grey exterior and bright white vinyl windows which don’t relate to anything. I called Benjamin Paint and asked if the vinyl windows could be painted and he said “yes.” Is this accurate?

    • I asked my contractor if painting my windows frames was a possibility (they are fiberglass clad) and he said “we’re not supposed to do that” – meaning it probably doesn’t have longevity.

  12. Does this mean rain gutters and downspouts should be the same as window trim?

    I really enjoy reading your blog!

  13. I JUST had this terrible realization that I must change all of my windows and doors. 🙁 I have a yellow beige brick house and all the windows and doors are TAUPE. I considered painting the house instead, but if the price is going to be the same either way, then I have to go with the roof color.

    I hated this house the moment I saw it, from a color standpoint, I knew that it was going to be expensive to fix this. People don’t pay attention to the color of the windows when they are building homes, you are right about that!

  14. This is a great blog and I’ll be sure to share it on my page! Such a timely post with our busy exterior season. I personally love black windows (as long as they are done right). I often will help clients (especially when it comes to the option of black) by relating it to eye liner. Based on the design of the house and the fixed elements, can your windows handle colour (like black) or should they blend in.

  15. Thank you for this article! In my area, I’ve been seeing a lot of homes with earthy exteriors and bright white replacement windows. They look terrible, but now that I’ve been shopping for replacement windows for my own earthy-exterior home, I can see the dilemma.

    Affordable vinyl replacement windows only come in white or one beige, and are the same color on the inside. Beige (even if it miraculously has the correct undertone for the exterior) looks terrible with the whiter trim favored inside. So we have a choice of ugly on the inside, or ugly on the outside… or we can spend a bit more and have beige (again, only the one choice) on the outside and white (only one choice) on the inside. What’s a would-be color expert to do, now that we know about the undertones in neutrals and that white is complicated?

    I looked at your exterior design packages, but didn’t find anything that addressed choosing windows. Maybe the trim package? I’d gladly spend $300, but I suspect following expert color advice will require upgrading to paintable windows inside and out. Or does the “beige” offered differ between manufacturers, and you could direct us to the one that had the right color for a particular exterior?

    So many questions! Thank you again.

  16. Great post with so many things to consider! Windows certainly are one of the most important elements of exterior design. I liked the comment that Sheri made about relating windows to your eye liner. It made a good visual and is so succinct! I have vynl windows and hate them. Over time they have cracked and yellowed. To replace them is so expensive so yes it is best to think about them before you choose the facade.

  17. In 2011 we purchased a beautiful home with pink brick and cast stone moldings but the windows, gutters and downspouts were all stark white. The stone always looked dirty. I repainted all the white trim in Sherwin Williams Worldly Grey to match the stone and switched out the gutters to bronze. People instantly notice that something is different, but can’t pinpoint what it is until I tell them.

  18. Is this reclaimed brick home (“Old Virginia” brick) considered an “orange” brick? I really like how this one looks with what appears to be white windows. But maybe the windows really aren’t white? Or it works because the “white” is liberally repeated? Or it’s just a classic house?
    http://tinypic.com/r/64dl6w/9

  19. Since I live in a townhouse with an HOA, we aren’t allowed to change anything on the exterior. But after reading this post, I now realize how important it is to get EVERYTHING right when you’re selecting finishes for your exterior.
    If I ever move into a single-family home I’ll certainly be contacting you for help.

  20. Very helpful post. I could have supplied you with photos of lots of odd looking colour combos from homes in my area!!! It always amazes me that contractors voice an opinion even when colour is not their area of expertise.

  21. …and then there are the back sides of drapes and window blinds. These could technically be considered “fixed” elements, especially in hot, sunny areas. Should we consider these as well? They appear as huge, stark-white rectangles taking up residence next to our beautifully planned window/brick combos.

  22. As for the recommendation for an orange brick house. what is darker than a green beige and when does a green gray become a grayed green?

  23. I get how black windows look great sometimes, but gee, EVERYBODY is doing it now. It’s getting so overdone that I can’t believe they aren’t going to look at that in 10 years and think it’s dated. I’m designing a modern home with white walls and lots of clean color accents and art. My outdoors is Aspen trees and a mountain of evergreens, or white snow. What do you think is more timeless for window color: white, wood, or black? I’m thinking a combination of white and wood.

  24. BTW I wanted to share that there are new wood windows that are impregnated with something that makes them impervious to rotting, cracking, etc. They say they will go something like 50 years and still look good.

  25. I do like the green gray better, and wonder if the brick and stone should just be painted too. Also there is so much going on on this house, how would it look if the trim on the gables were just painted the same green gray or a closer match rather than playing up all the gables with contrast? Builders and gables!!

    I have a friend with average looking brick in the bottom of her house and siding on top, and she and her husband were taken aback when I suggested painting the entire front one color including the brick. Why do people think all brick is precious? This brick wasn’t and even if it was…shouldn’t you just paint it if it will look better?

  26. My client has a home that mixes Frank Lloyd Wright, Mid-Century Modern and Mountain. The exterior utterly lacks charm with a dark grey featureless roof, loads of mid toned red to orange brick and dark muddy brown trim. We took a chance with Pella’s brick red windows and the result is beautiful. Rather than the drab bronzy brown they were before, the windows pop—but in a subtle way. The house suddenly has a charm and personality it completely lacked before. We’ll go further to replace the drab dark brown soffits with cream on the underside and a lovely mid tone gray/green on the outer portions. Exterior color is tricky, but a good color palette and subtle application helps!

  27. I am in love with my Marvin windows in Coconut cream. They look great, in my opinion, with my BORAL Salisbury Cumberland dark brown brick and TN fieldstone in tans and browns. The vinyl soffit color, linen, was a close match (a little light but close). We went with this because low maintenance was a priority for us. The oil rubbed bronze gutters and dark wood stained beams also provided a nice contrast against the cream color. We get LOTS of complements, and are so pleased with the outcome.