Exterior Colors & Home Styles

Every era has had ‘hot’ colors and design trends, including the years your home was built.  How do you pick historical colors from times when you weren’t even born?  Here’s some hints for popular exterior paint colors that can help you choose colors for your home’s style.


If you’re home was built in the late 19th Century, you have a Victorian – but there are several Victorian styles – Queen Anne, Gothic and Eastlake – so this is the most difficult style to choose paint for.  For these homes, I suggest you go back through records to find the original exterior colors for the home, but I am a purist when it comes to antique homes.  Some Victorians may be in a Historic District which can be governed by a committee to keep homes looking historically accurate, and they may have restrictions on colors.  So for Victorians, you’ll need to do some research on your own.


Homes built in the early 20th Century were termed bungalows, and feature simple architecture typical of the Arts and Crafts period with many built in features in the interior of the home.  Natural colors tend to look best for the exterior of bungalows, such as brick, tan and beige.

Cape Cods

Cape Cod homes are low, broad and boxy shapes with large sloped roofs.  Interesting to note that these styles are that shape for a reason – to withstand the winds coming from the seaside Cape where this style originated.  Popular palettes for Cape Cods are natural colors that reflect their seaside roots, such as browns and creams and burgundy to punch it up.


Ranchers are known for their sprawling, open, one floor design and became popular in the mid 20th Century in California.  While a range of palettes are suitable for ranchers, their styles tend to be more casual, given their California roots, so colors that aren’t fussy and complicated are best for painting ranch style homes.

Split Levels

Split level homes usually have a living room and kitchen on the main floor, that split up the upper and lower levels of the home that are found on the other end of the house.  Split level homes usually look best with richer exterior colors, such as deep browns and navy blues paired with lighter grays, beiges or creams.


Tudor homes are inspired by English architecture and feature decorative timbers, steep roofs and overlapping gables.  The style is so bold that they deserve bold exterior colors such as rich reds and deep greens against browns and tans.

As for the more modern homes of the 21st Century, there hasn’t been any particular style definition identified as yet, if it had to be defined, I would term it Modern Colonialism, as it takes the classic styles and updates them into large, suburban sprawling homes.  As most of these homes are located in suburban communities, many  have Homeowner Associations which may regulate exterior colors.  Exterior colors tend to be paler basic colors with the bolder colors on doorways.

For choosing exterior paint color, the best rule is, “when in doubt, look about” – you don’t want your home standing out like a store thumb, choose colors to complement the surroundings and neighbors.