What Color Should You Paint Your Exterior Trim?

When choosing your home’s exterior paint color, it can be easy to find your primary color, but painting your exterior trim can be more involved. Whether you prefer neutral colors and earthy tones or love the look of a bright red door, there’s a way to choose the right color to paint your exterior trim.

We’ve worked with many homeowners in San Rafael and throughout Marin County that are looking for a unique exterior for their home. With the right color palette, it’s possible to create your dream home.

There are a few different ways to look at color when choosing the color for your exterior trim:

  • High or low contrast
  • Monochromatic finish
  • Neutral tones or bold colors
  • Choice of style

(And they can be used together, as well!)

Choose High or Low Contrast for Your Exterior Trim

Your house’s trim can either blend in with your siding, or stand out and create an entirely different look. If you’re looking for a muted color that will have a low contrast with the rest of your exterior, look at colors that are within the same color family as your existing (or planned) exterior.

For example, if your home is a dark grey, using taupe for your trim can add some color without creating a strong contrast. This subtle difference between the walls and trim prevents it from falling flat without making the exterior trim very evident.

This home offers a low contrast exterior by using slightly different colors for the exterior and the trim. It’s not monochromatic, but also keeps the trim from contrasting too much with the rest of the home.

If you want to choose a high contrast color for your home’s exterior trim, think about opposing colors. If we continue with the dark grey exterior example, a stark white trim will contrast with the grey. This difference will give your home a crisp, fresh look and is a small change that can make a big difference in your home’s exterior.

With this Marin County home, we used three different colors to create a high contrast look with the exterior trim and door. The white windows, columns, and gutter stand out from the white, as do the black shutters. Then, we finished with a plum-colored door to add some color to the otherwise neutral exterior.

If you want to give your home a bit of drama, black is also a high contrast color for your trim. This bold choice is also a neutral, which mean it will go with just about any color. You could choose a grey and keep it all neutral, though a muted blue tone could create a stellar exterior look.

Use a Monochromatic Finish for Your Home’s Exterior Trim

A monochromatic color palette is considered different shades of one hue. So if you have a dark grey exterior with light grey exterior trim, that would be considered a monochromatic palette.

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You can also achieve a monochromatic exterior for your home with one color, but with different finishes. If the entire exterior is painted a matte grey, it could fall flat. Instead, reserve the matte finish for the siding or brick, and choose a glossy finish for the shutters and doors.

With this, you’ll be able to create a unique monochromatic exterior without it looking like an undefined grey structure.

Determine Neutral Tones or Bold Colors for Your Exterior Trim

One way to create a unique exterior for your home is painting your trim a color. You could choose either neutral tones or bold colors to complement the primary color for your exterior.

A neutral color is a great way to introduce color to your home’s exterior without a stark contrast. This could be a neutral like olive green that adds color without being too overwhelming, and can complement the rest of your home. Earthy tones are common in home exteriors, as they blend well and maintain a classic feel.

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Another way to add color without making it too distinct is to embrace lighter colors. A light aqua can bring some subtle color change to your door, complemented by white trim and dark grey brick.

If you want your home to stand out (in the right way), consider painting your exterior trim with a bold color. Red is a common color for doors, but there are many different possible shades, depending on your preference and the color of your siding, brick, or stucco.

In this San Rafael home, the owner wanted some high contrast with a bright color. By using this bright blue on the exterior trim, we were able to create a unique look for this home. 

Using Your Home’s Style to Find Your Colors

We’ve written about your home’s interior style when painting before, but you can also bring in your desired style when choosing your exterior paint color. If you’d like a classic look for your home, a tan or grey exterior with a red door is the perfect choice.

This Marin County home has the classic red door, but also has a lovely bright contrast with the white trim and subtle black details in the windows. These colors may be common, but with the right execution you can still have a home with unique touches. These crisp, clean details make the home look inviting.

If you love a vintage style or are looking for something unique, your home’s exterior trim can accomplish that. This home’s blue accents are reminiscent of the mid 1900s, and creates an exterior that gives your guests a peek of what’s inside.

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Make Your Home, Your Home

Your home is an extension of your personality. Painting your home’s exterior is more than ensuring a fresh coat of paint. Your home’s exterior is a blank canvas. It gives you an opportunity to create a cohesive exterior look for your home, using contrast, color theory, and your home’s overall style as a guide. What could your home become with a few coats of paint?