By Danielle Pope
Expert tips for using colour to give your home exterior a facelift in all seasons, no matter what the weather.
Jenn Lepinski has, at times, been called a marriage counsellor. In that tense moment when paint chips are sprawled across the counter and two people keep pointing at different squares, she’s been forced to mix up her own solution.
“Let’s say she likes a neutral taupe and he likes a muted green; there are ways to match the two,” she says. “You just have to adjust the shades. You could go a little lighter on the taupe then darker on the green and have it as a trim, or vice versa. Or, you could just give him the inside of the house.”
Lepinski is a colour consultant at Pacific Paint, the Island’s locally owned Benjamin Moore paint retailer. She knows a lot more goes into selecting colour than simply finding the perfect match. Factors like lighting, environment, neighbourhood — and sometimes getting your spouse on board — all contribute.
Painting the exterior of your home is one of the best ways to protect your investment, however. The average house on Vancouver Island should be repainted every five to 20 years, depending on location and materials. Good advice aside, giving your nest a fresh shade will brighten your outlook on the old homestead, and it’s the simplest way to “renovate” your property.
Now is the perfect time to make those tough colour selections. With Victoria’s short painting season spanning from June to September in good years, it’s best to get the choices settled before prime painting time has come and gone.
Victoria, with its wet climate, dynamic scenery and generous grey days, poses more challenges than you might expect when it comes to picking the perfect colour for your home.
A house nestled in the Cordova Bay woods would disappear with a Sherwood Green. On Beach Drive, many colours would compete with the glorious ocean; blues will look brighter, oranges will turn muddy. Shift the time of day or season and the palette will change again.
“The best thing you can do is drive around and take note of anything that catches your eye,” says Lepinski. “Take your time. Find your samples, then test out the colours at different times of day, even different seasons. People typically make colour choices in summer, but winter will change the look entirely.”
While you shouldn’t rely only on trends for choosing your colours, looking at what’s new can help guide you in finding appealing colour schemes. Guilford Green is Benjamin Moore’s colour of the year for 2015. Creative director Ellen O’Neill can be found on their website describing Guilford as “A neutral that’s natural. A silvery green that works with, well, everything. No worries. No second thoughts. Just a brush, dipped in a can, whooshed on a wall, and a whole lot of happily ever after.”
It’s quite the proclamation.
Others that make the list for 2015 include Old Claret, a deep raspberry mixture; Soft Sand, a muted rose cream; and Blue Hydrangea, a quieted shade of cerulean.
While all of these shades can be mixed as exterior paints, Lepinski says Victorians are more likely to gravitate towards Portland Gray — a colour literally inspired by Portland’s climate. If we’re comparing notes, Lepinski believes Victoria could probably come up with its own exotic shade.
“I’m amazed by how popular grey has become in this city,” she says. “It’s our biggest seller. You would think, with the number of grey days we see here, that people would be inspired to go a bit brighter, but no. Kendall Charcoal is our most popular dark grey, and Revere Pewter is one of our top-selling lighter greys.”
Bob Fuchs, president of White Knight Painting Ltd., has been painting houses for over 30 years, so he’s seen a lot of colour trends. But even he is surprised by the trend into grey. While the region used to stick to conservative taupes and earth tones, even the typical-Victorian white stucco house is making the grey shift, he says.
Not all of the city’s hues are expected, however. Funkier tones can be found throughout Fairfield and Fernwood, and Lepinski says one home at Fisherman’s Wharf uses four shades of pink.
The Psychology of Repainting
While some of Fuchs’ clients repaint their homes simply for upkeep, the majority change colours as a symbolic way to meet transitions — and that can add weight to the importance of colour selection.
“People paint for many different reasons,” he says. “New homeowners repaint so they can call the home their own. People have a great change in life, like the last child leaving home, a recovery from a long illness, or the death of a loved one and they need to repaint as part of their new beginning.”
Every so often, Lepinski runs into people who are painting to rid themselves of an eyesore — but the solution is counterintuitive.
“There are a lot of people who come into the store and say, ‘You know, I’ve got this side of orange brick that I really hate, so I want to paint the total opposite of that.’ The sad news is, if you want to hate something even more, make it contrast to your environment as sharply as possible.”
Whether it’s a distracting outside wall or a cringe-worthy pink counter inside, short of renovating, the best way to remove the “ick factor” is to paint as closely as possible within its colour wheel. Then, Lepinski says, that nemesis really will disappear.
For long-term maintenance, light colours will last longer and are easier to touch up. Of course, you could forgo the paint altogether. Natural wood finish is another popular theme in Victoria’s collage, and wood grain never goes out of style. Natural finishes have the shortest life expectancy of any coating, however, warns Fuchs, so regular inspection and maintenance is doubly important.
Fuchs says scheduling in regular maintenance (with or without colour rotations) will go a long way in keeping your property fresh. Different parts of the home will weather at different rates, for example.
Exposed areas, like decks, may need repainting or staining every two years, while the weather-exposed side of a house may need painting every five years. Homes in protected areas could last 20 years or longer without a repaint. Many companies, like Fuchs’, offer annual inspections to assist with the renewal process.
“Just like a car benefits from routine maintenance, regular inspection and maintenance on your home can help you go many, many years before a full repaint is needed,” he says. “We’ve never had to fully repaint a house that’s been on the annual inspection program — although some people have decided to change the colour.”
Return On Investment
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about painting their homes is the return on that maintenance investment, says Brad McDonnell.
“Painting pays for itself. If you have an unappealing colour, or paint that looks damaged, that’s going to have a huge impact on your sale value,” McDonnell says. “A good paint job will get you back every nickel you put into it, and bring you in a lot more, too.”
McDonnell started his own company, Brad McDonnell Painting & Decorating, with a focus on restoring heritage homes. Heritage doesn’t have to mean predictable. Take Dashwood Manor Seaside Bed and Breakfast Inn, at Cook and Dallas. The Tudor mansion has been a Victoria icon, yet, with the help of McDonnell, shifted its shades from the classic cream and brown to an inverted grey, cream and brick palette.
“Heritage painting is a real niche here, and people have to be fairly conscientious,” he says. “There’s a lot you can do. Just don’t be in a rush to make a decision. Why spend thousands of dollars just to have to redo something?”
Lepinski has a few words of advice to offer people before they embark on their colour-seeking journey.
“People do a lot of research online nowadays, but, unfortunately, it really can be a waste of time,” Lepinski says. “The colour on your computer will never truly represent reality. Lighting will play a huge factor in whether or not your colour will work, and different backgrounds affect a shade. Your best bet is to go into a store, and go through that process with an expert. Nothing replaces the in-person experience.”
When it comes to memorable painting experiences, Fuchs has a story he likes to share. Each year, White Knight Painting donates a paint job to a local charity. Their first charity painting went to MacDonald House, a residence for people living with brain injuries. The house had seen a lot of wear over the years, and their common area was in a state of disrepair. Fuchs partnered with local designer Charlotte Geddes to redo the area in warm gold tones. The result was transformational — not only to the walls, but to the residents and staff.
“In the end, it’s not so much the effect the paint has on the walls,” says Fuchs. “It’s the effect it has on the people who live and work there. You can just see how different they feel about the whole place. That’s what makes this work so satisfying.”