Choosing External Paint Colours

It struck me that the majority of my posts have been concerned with colours for interiors but of course external colour selection is something I spend a lot of time considering.

I really enjoy selecting colours for commercial shop fronts as studies have shown that certain colours can actually drive more customers through a door. Being able to evaluate the effect of a colour with statistics is a really different way of looking at colour choice and obviously an important one for a business owner.

Position of colour on a building also plays a pivotal role. It is usually more pleasing to have “heavier”(darker) colours closer to the ground and lighter colours above as it helps to “ground” a building and in turn feels easier on the eye. This is normally referred to as “architectural order”. Reverse this and you have “typographical order” – like newspapers which use heavier colours at the top of a page in order to create a banner.

However, you will see some shops displaying typographical order as they may want to create a brand “banner” above the entrance.

And then of course you must look at colour association. It’s no coincidence that many fine wine shop fronts are painted red,

red wine colour

travel agents azure blue,

sea and sky blue

organic food shops green,

environmentally aware green

 spas violet,

purple, regal and spiritual

and this delicate bridal shop,

shell pink oozing femininity

However, a recent client, a farmer, commissioned Shepherd Huts to be hand built by Plankbridge ,a wonderful artisan company based in Dorset. The idea is that she will disperse the huts throughout a forested piece of land on her farm and will rent them out to holiday makers. She was really keen to choose colours for her shepherd huts that would meld into the natural environment – not to be camouflaged as the huts are beautiful but they had to related to the natural colours in the trees around them. On occasions like this, the best way to start is to analyse the existing colours in the immediate surroundings. I am always amazed how often violet grey pops up – a fantastically useful subtle and delicate colour in decoration and one which pairs so well with many other colours.

silver birch bark - Scotland

palm tree bark - Lisbon

plane tree bark - France

So next time you find yourself out shopping or taking a holiday in a Shepherds Hut (!) take a moment to look at the colours – there is often an interesting process behind the selection.

12 thoughts on “Choosing External Paint Colours

  1. Very interesting post, Niki. Now I will be looking more at shopfronts & whether their colours make me more or less likely to cross the threshold. You are bang on about the violetty grey. And surprising howuch ochre too.


  2. You folks over in the UK have so much fun with your store fronts! Of course, color can be used to entice ingress, but it also dictates who will step in, demographically speaking.

    I’m so glad to have a kindred spirit who sees color everywhere she goes, I’m a tree bark junkie myself. Thank you, Niki.


  3. I’ve painted our front door soooo many times! Our whole house exterior is white brick, so the only spot I can play with colour is on the front door. It started out white, and since then it’s been two different shades of purple, dark brown, dark blue, and now turquoise 🙂

    I love birch trees – their silvery white bark is so pretty. And the plane tree bark is really cool! I think I saw a tree similar to that in Budapest.


    • ha! that’s brilliant changing your front door colour so much – when you love colour, you just have to keep updating don’t you!

      Yes, I love birch trees too, especially birch forests with a dusting of snow……

      I’ve not been to Budapest but would love to – its on my list. 🙂


  4. Very interesting post as usual, and a real coincidence as we are just about to have a new front door and have got to decide what colour to paint it !! I am assuming there are different rules for choosing the colour of your front door, or maybe no rules at all just choose the colour you like. Love the silver birch pictures. 🙂


  5. Absolutely, no one can dictate colours, especially to an artist! Just remember the colour will change depending on whether you use a gloss or a matt finish. Matt of course will absorb more light but gloss can intensify the colour even although it reflects more.


  6. Very interesting. I am updating the colour scheme of my pharmacy, (for which I need planning consent here!). Was thinking traditional blue and green, Now am thinking turquoise with black at ground level & door and a few gold highlights on some barley twists etc (quite an old and elegant structure). Any suggestions and what colours would entice clients over my threshold in preference to a multiple competitor (who uses green & blue!)? Also thought a combination of blue and mauve/purple….


  7. Hi Stephen, thanks for dropping by. What a great project you have and it sounds like you have excellent ideas already. Yes, blues, especially aqua blue-greens are great choices for pharmacies to promote an instant feeling of calm, well being, mineral fresh, water, holidays, you name it but as you say other pharmacies also know this. There are so many factors to take into account e.g colour of neighbouring shop fronts, aspect, local stone etc but these are my initial thoughts.
    It’s a good idea to ‘ground’ the shop front with a darker base but I normally veer away from pure black as that can be a bit heavy, morbid or austere. How about a dark charcoal grey at the base pared with a soft aqua elsewhere? Or a deepish taupe (or a grey-brown) with aqua is a lovely natural combo (earth and sky) – its what we see around us so we feel comfortable with it. The British skincare range Liz Earle are very good at colours for their product range – all calming colours and they look natural i.e they don’t look like highly synthetic hues.
    Mauve is a tricky one to get right as the balance of red/blue in it is critical. Too much red and it can look rather brash/violent and too much blue could clash with your other blues. The best violets are the ones closest to the violet-grey stones you can find on beaches. Very often I will literally go for a walk and pick up a rock or something natural and ask my local paint store to colour match it – nature doesn’t get it wrong!
    Also, keep it simple as you want your window displays to do the speaking. Don’t get too ‘busy’ with patterns etc as it will inevitably fight with products colours/designs in your window display. In short, I would say, 1. simple, 2. natural and 3. not overly coloured will give you a calm, classy feel to give your customers a good sense of trust and calm.
    Hope that’s of some help, although it sounds like you have a good head for colours anyway.


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