Podcast 34: Exterior Color Concepts

With Our Guest Lori Sawaya

Porch Ideas Network Podcast Logo Land of Color logo Color is a mystery to many of us, Dave and I included. You know, figuring what goes with what and what colors to paint the walls or the accessories.

Today we welcome Lori Sawaya to our porch. Lori is both a color expert and color strategist and the proprietor of the Land of Color.

Lori clears up a few misconceptions we have about color and helps to explain how you can use the colors in your permanent fixed elements on your home to match accessories.

You might be a little surprised at what Lori says and you might not ever think of a neutral color in the same way again. Do you know what color that Ben Moore calls their color of the year for 2016?

It's a surprise - at least to us. But it makes so much sense.

Listen to Our Audio Program: 00:28:11

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Podcast Highlights: Exterior Color Concepts

Mary: Dave and I are really excited to welcome you to our podcast today because our topic is going to be color.

Dave: Which I know little about

Mary: Oh, Dave you don't give yourself enough credit. But we do get a lot of questions from our site visitors about color.

Dave: We once got a question from a site visitor about what color to paint her porch.

Mary: Please welcome to our porch today Color Expert and Color Strategist, Lori Sawaya. Lori is the proprietor of LandOfColor.com. We welcome you to our porch today, Lori!

Lori: Thank you for inviting me!

Dave: I need all the help I can get. This is great. This is great.

Mary: So Lori, let's start out by explaining to our listeners just exactly what is a color strategist.

Lori: A color strategist is knowledgeable about both the art and science of color.

And we strategize to purposefully use color to enhance design and solve problems. And what that means for a homeowner specifically on exteriors is in regards to paint.

Paint and colors are intrinsically tied and there are certain strategies for paint products and using them in tandem with color collections that can do various things for your exteriors - from enhancing the design and curb appeal to more functional things like making the paint last as long as possible.

Mary: Awesome! It sounds like there's more of a science to color than most of us realize. We are surrounded by color all of our lives yet most of us know very little about it and how it works. Most of us have problems deciding upon colors and what colors work together.

Dave: Picking paint and picking furniture are two things I don't like to do because I'm not very good at it.

Lori: Both can be a lot of work.

Mary: I can't tell you how many times that Dave and I have painted our walls only to choose a color of paint thinking it's going to be perfect and put it on our walls and it's more yellow or more pink or something like that.

So why do you think people have such a hard time choosing colors and knowing what goes together?

Lori: Well I think a lot has to do with how the big companies organize their colors and their displays. They are usually arranged by spectrum and they often pull out the softer colors, the more muted colors instead of the vivid colors.

I think that is a huge mistake because those softer colors, those pastel colors have more hue pairing and it is harder to detect which colors are in them like grays - especially if you take them out of the context of their hue family.

It is very hard to detect what color that is. It's hard to detect the yellow. It's hard to detect the pink.

And I was really happy to see here in a press release from Sherwin-Williams Paint Company that they launched a new in-store display where they are now displaying their colors by hue family.

Most people are familiar with Sherwin Williams - they are prevalent in United States.

So I think this is a huge step forward for consumers for making their color choices correct the first time. And even though we have a brand that is displaying by hue family,

I should mention within the display if you want green for your exterior it's clear to see where the greens are and within the green family there's a big range from very vivid to almost gray green in there.

And they are arranged by saturation, too, not just by hue family. But even though we have this new tool and a new way of looking at color, it's still always important to buy a sample and take it home and test it.

There's no getting around it. Testing is where you're going to make your final color decision.

Dave: Yes I think that's a really good point because you're paying for a lot for the paint to begin with and a lot of people will say I don't want to pay more for a sample. But really in reality you're probably saving a lot of money in the long run.

Lori: You do. And with this new consciousness of thinking of color by hue family it guides people to the right color factor so they're buying fewer samples than before. I'm very optimistic about this new way of arranging colors and stores.

Mary: That's awesome, Lori. Our son is selling their home and they had a professional stager dress up their home and their porches. Once it was done, it's so easy to see how things go well together because it was done so well.

It is really hard for the average person like Dave and I to start out with a blank slate and to know how to make something pop on our porch.

Dave: That's a big one because a lot of people want to dress up their porch and it really comes back to color.

Mary: It does. It does.

So can you give us some hints if we are just starting out and let's say we have a lot of neutral colors on our porch, how can we bring out some color in there?

Lori: Right. Well, there really is no such thing as a neutral color. Neutral literally means a pure white color, neutral gray or a neutral black.

So every color that is on the exterior belongs to a hue family. So what you have to do is determine what colors those are that are permanent on those elements of your house that you have to work with. That's where you have to start because that's not going to change.

Mary: So for example if your house is brick, let's say a wall of your porch is brick and there are colors in those bricks that might be orange or red, gold or gray.

So are you saying you have to figure that out and pull those colors out?

Lori: Yes, you first have to identify the color of your permanent fixed elements and that is going to give you the clue going forward for choosing coordinating colors to create your curb appeal scheme.

Dave: That's really good because Mary will say that color has some orange in it. And I will say orange? I don't see any orange. That's my problem. I don't see any inner colors when I look at things.

Lori: Right, right. Well the easiest way to figure out those colors is to compare it to vivid color swatches. So find a chip that looks pure primary red and the same with orange and the same with green.

And take those chips out next to the element. Light attracts light. If you have brick that belongs to the red orange hue family, you're going to be able to compare it to a red chip and an orange chip and figure out whether it's more red or more orange. When comparing like that it just pops out and you can figure it out.

Dave: Wow!

Mary: That is an awesome tip! Now Dave and I have an autumn porch. I just happen to have a piece of fabric in my stash of fabrics that I was going to use for the porch cushions.

And when I took it out to the porch I was kind of flabbergasted because that fabric looks really awesome on our porch! I think now when I go back and look at it I'm going to see that it's because I am pulling out the colors of the shakes and the shutters.

Dave: The other thing that we've seen is that people have been complementing us on our yellow mums and how it makes things pop on our porch.

On our blue porch, the yellow really pops out - it is harmonious with blue
When we added yellow accessories to our blue porch, we got many compliments

Mary: For a long time, we had been focusing on pinks and reds on our porch. But for autumn, I painted a sunflower wall art that goes between the blue shutters on our porch.

And I also painted some yellow sunflower pillow toppers and we've had some people say they love the yellow with the blue on our porch.

Lori: You have a real harmonious relationship between your accessories and the permanent elements on your house.

Mary: Yes, it does make a huge difference. What kind of trends are you seeing in color now, Lori?

I know that you said there are not really such a thing as neutral colors but from a layman's perspective we still refer to grays, tans and brown as neutral colors.

Neutral colors seem prevalent as shown on these pinterest images
Neutral tones are popular on Pinterest for decorating

I'm seeing a lot of that on Facebook and Pinterest where people are decorating almost completely with whites, grays, browns, tans, and then just a pop of color here and there with a pillow or a picture. Is that what you are also seeing in the color trends?

Lori: Yes, there are a couple of things about that.

First of all you can use the word neutral where it's a broad all-encompassing word that says we have a lot of range of flexibility to work with here with color. It's fine to use the word like that.

But when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you're trying to find the right paint color to go with your brick you kind of have to let go of that meaning of the word neutral.

So it is important to differentiate the use of that word.

On Pinterest, the brown, the tans, the gray, and the taupes are always going to be popular for exteriors. And green. In most regions you can find a black gray green and your block may be all beige. Green is usually a safe color to reach for.

But Ben Moore just announced the color of the year for 2016 which is "Simply White" (OC-117).

On my Facebook page for probably the last six months or so I've been posting a lot of white exteriors slightly because that is my latest color crush using white on exteriors. So here at the Land of Color, our color trend for exteriors has been using white.

Dave: That's funny.

Lori: Yes with a very skinny trim and not a lot of other color details on the structure. I painted my last house all white and it's sold quickly by the way.

The all-white color brings all of the elements together in a way that you see more of the detail and you can appreciate the architecture more because it's not interrupted by the contrast. It just depends on the house. You can't do that with every house.

So limiting contrast, using skinny trim instead of big chunky trim and using a lot of light I think I are the three top color trends for exteriors this year.

Mary: Being that it's white for exteriors, are you seeing any trend for front door colors?

Lori: That is what is so great about white. Every white belongs to a hue family too. There is no such thing as just white when you are choosing paint colors so just as you did with your yellow mums want to be sure that you strike the right color harmony to go with the exterior white that you are using but you have full range on a white house.

Nothing is more classic than a white house and a glossy red door. But you can also go with navy blue or a black that's not really black like maybe a very dark green. The options that are afforded to you with the white exterior are almost limitless.

Red doors pop out on a white house indeed
A classic and stunning combination: red door on a white house

Dave: Carrying that through with a white front porch, if you had that combination like you suggested a white exterior and one of those colors on your front door, then what can people do with either their furniture or the cushions on the front porch?

Lori: From the standpoint of curb appeal when I'm thinking of exteriors I usually try to imagine if I was standing from the curb and viewing the house - a little bit of a distance instead of standing right on top of it. For your accessories you really want to strike a contrast so they can be seen.

With white that's really easy to do because it's such a light value. Medium blues and pinks you are going to be able to see from the curb against the white exterior. So again with the light value of white you have a big range to find some color contrast with a lot of color.

Mary: To carry that question a little further, Dave and I are constantly changing out our porch to make it look nice for the season because you know we like changing things up. But it does become a lot of work because we like to feature it on our site and of course we are all about porches.

But how can you have beautiful curb appealing furniture and cushions on your porch but easily make a few changes that just fit the change of the seasons. You know, like going from summer to autumn for example.

Lori: Are you changing out the furniture too?

Mary and Dave: No, I wouldn't think the furniture. It would just be the cushions and the amenities.

Lori: I think if you've done a good job of selecting your furniture so that it harmonizes with the permanent elements of your house, I think you can kind of cut loose and have some fun! Your porch is a good place to follow the color tones.

Places like Target in particular have seasonal color palettes were you don't have to sweat the details so much but just go with it and try it out and have fun with it for a single summer. There's always next summer, right?

Mary and Dave: That's for sure. We hope!

Mary: Lori, maybe you could talk for a few moments about the effects certain colors have. I know that red is often chosen because it's an exciting color. Restaurants often choose red for the inside of their places and blue is often thought to be tranquil and peaceful. Can you tell us a couple other colors and the mood that they set?

Color Secrets Unlocked - book cover shared by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com Lori: Sure, I actually wrote a book called Color Secrets Unlocked and it's a book of 25 infographics. There are not a lot of words in it. In fact there are exactly 300 words and it addresses what colors say, their mood and meaning.

And when you're talking about what colors mean you have to take into account two things.

You have to take into account the color saturation, is it vivid or dull. And you have to take into account context. So you can have a bright vivid red that is a very energize pop of color from the color on your house.

When it's used on your house - say the white house with the red front door example - it's very energizing.

But that same red's energy set against a brown house is different. I like a red door on a brown house.

I love red and brown together it looks fabulous. The context of red with brown changes because the brown isn't such a stark contrast as with the white. Brown and red are closer in value than white and red.

So red doors are always going to make a statement from the curb but they're going to make a bigger statement on the white house then on a brown house.

So it's hard to assign a single color meaning because you do have to take into account the color saturation, is a vivid or dull, and where is it going to be used. So blues are always a good safe solid choice for exterior doors and shutters because it's classic.

It's not too far off the color grid for most people's taste. Same with dark greens and forest green. Something a little more out-of-the-box that might have more of an individual appeal would be colors of purple like an eggplant front door.

One of my favorite shutter colors is from Sherwin-Williams and it's called Black Bean and it belongs to the purple hue family. In certain lights you can see the purple in that brown.

It just depends on your own personal taste and when it comes to color psychology there's a lot of personal experience that influences how you see that color and what it means to you. Once you get past all of that, the saturation and the color, it really comes down to what do you think it means and how does it look to you.

Mary: That is awesome and way more than I expected you were going to say about color. So cool, the perspective that you bring to it.

Color Secrets Unlocked - book cover shared by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com

The red and browns complement each other nicely in our living room.

And when you said red and brown I got to thinking about it and actually our living room has a red ceiling and a lot of brown tones in the fireplace. We have a wall with barnwood and our furniture has tones of browns and tans. It looks really beautiful together but I didn't know why.

So speaking of red and brown, I have just been learning to paint and I've been getting a little bit of education on the color wheel. I can't believe that all these years I didn't realize that colors that are opposite each other on the color will go well together like blue and orange or red and green. I don't have the color wheel sitting in front of me but is that the case for red and brown, why they go together?

Dave: Yes, and if you could too, for folks listening please explain the color wheel and how you use that.

Lori: Well, that's a loaded question!

Mary and Dave laughing: Well not a lot of detail, just how people can use it.

Lori: You have to keep in mind that there are different color wheels so it depends upon what color wheel you are talking about. The color wheel that Mary is probably talking about is the color wheel for mixing colors.

Mary: Yes, actually I am because this color wheel I have tells you if you add this color to that color what the resulting color is.

Lori: I did a video not too long ago talking (see below) about color wheels and the different kinds of color wheels there are out there. Some color wheels are based on the primary colors of red blue and yellow. And other color wheels are based upon cyan, magenta, and yellow and you get different results.

Video: Learn from Lori About Color Wheels

Enjoy Lori's video about the color wheel

Lori: I think that's about a 20 minute video and it will answer just about every question that you have about how to derive color harmony by using a color wheel.

Mary: Well Lori before we wrap up, one question I wanted to be sure to ask you because you have a section on our site about haint blue porch paint. Just wanted to ask you a little bit about that. We have a blue porch ceiling on our front porch.

Dave: Yes, it's probably not authentic haint blue.

A haint blue porch ceiling is lovely and a southern tradition
There's southern folklore about why porch ceilings are painted blue

Mary: But it still is a pretty shade of blue. I really didn't know about haint blue porch ceilings until we moved to the south where you see it quite frequently. Could you tell our listeners about why porch ceilings are painted blue?

Lori: I don't know that anyone knows why exactly. One of the best explanations is the story of haints and haunts and using a particular color of blue that mimics the color of water is supposed to help keep those spirits, those ornery spirits, from entering your house and from attaching to you.

So that's the biggest most common and popular theory why people paint their trim, shutters, doors, porch ceilings a haint blue that mimics water. It fools the haints so they don't cross over into your house. A lot of people don't know that story. It's old Southern folklore that migrated further north. Actually all the way to Ohio.

Mary and Dave: That's our home state!

Lori: Me too, I'm from Columbus. Actually that's where I found my first sample of haint blue in the most haunted house of Ohio, it is in Dresden. And it's called Prospect Place. And it was actually on Ghost Hunters.

So many years ago I drove out there to Prospect Place and met George Adams and heard all about his great-great-grandfather George Adams who was an abolitionist. It was a stop along the Underground Railroad. The folks who lived on his property painted their rooms haint blue so they brought with them the tradition of the south when they migrated up there to Ohio. And I got a sample right from the wall.

Haint Blue dark - interpretation by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com Haint Blue light - interpretation by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com Haint Blue medium - interpretation by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com Haint Blue Ohio sample - interpretation by Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com
These are a few of the sample interpretations of haint blue by Land of Color

Mary and Dave: Oh my goodness, that is amazing. We definitely enjoy our blue porch ceiling. It adds a little bit of extra ambience and peacefulness to our front porch.

So Lori we want to thank you so very much for spending time with us on the porch today and we want to give you an opportunity to share with our listeners how they can reach you, about your website, a little bit about yourself and how to get access to your book.

Lori: Well everything is on the website. It's the LandOfColor.com. You can reach me at lori@thelandofcolor.com I do virtual exterior consultations. Actually exterior color is one of my very favorite things to do.

And I do have my book "Color Secrets Unlocked" book about what color says. You can find that there as well. As well as six or seven different colors of haint blue that you can buy samples of to see our interpretation of the authentic colors. That's what we do over here at the Land of Color.

Mary: That is great! So thank you so much for educating all of us little more about color. I know I learned a lot.

Dave: I did too. That was really great.

Lori Sawaya - LandOfColor.com Mary: We'd love to have you back sometime, Lori. So thanks so much for spending some time with us today on the porch.

Lori: Thank you, guys.

Mary: You're welcome.

Listen to Our Audio Program: 00:28:11

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