How to Choose the Right Exterior Palette, According to the Experts

Homeowners and local paint connoisseurs help us overcome chromaphobia for a façade that pops.

Detail Oriented

The Joseph G. Birch House in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood has details worth flaunting: patterned shingles, clapboard, decorative gable accents. However, a series of unfortunate events — including a misguided pink, off-white and beige paint job and a 2016 foreclosure — were concealing its grandeur. In 2016, the Providence Revolving Fund (PRF) stepped in to give this blighted beauty a second chance at glory.

One of PRF’s rehabilitation priorities was to honor the home’s original nineteenth-century palette. “The director of the Providence Revolving Fund did some paint scrapings to get to the oldest layer,” says Harry Adler, owner of Adler’s Design Center and Hardware on the East Side of Providence, who consulted on the project. Based on the scrapings, Adler identified modern colors that mirrored the historic shades.

“Architectural details can be brought forward with sheen and color,” Adler says. Glossier finishes should be used pointedly — think high-quality trim and small details — particularly on older homes. “The higher the sheen, the more defects will show.”

Historically inspired color choices helped restore this elegant Queen Anne to its original splendor. Photography by Tony Luong.