This post is coming to you today from Tricia Firmaniuk, my, so talented Virtual Design Assistant:
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.