Stunning Paint Colors That Will Make Your Brick Exterior Beautiful


Need Some Design Inspiration For Your Brick Exterior?

Are you ready to breathe some new life into the outside of your home?  I’m guessing the exterior of your house is feeling a little tired but you’re not sure how to repaint to make the best of the brick you already have going on.  Getting some guidance from a professional designer is the right next step!  There are a few basic design theories and practices that can take a brick exterior from boring to knockout and I’m going to walk you through them.  There are a few things to think about when choosing paint colors for the facade of your home if you have brick to work with so that you can make a good plan and take action in the right direction.  Let’s get started - it’s going to be amazing when you’re finished!


1. Exteriors Look Great With a 3 Color Combination

A general design rule of thumb is that exteriors look best with a combination of 3 colors.  This gives a good balance between, one, the main overall background colors and, two, something that can be a bit bolder without overwhelming the house.  For most people, the goal is for it to be cohesive and gorgeous with just a bit of ‘oh, that’s stunning!’ wow factor.


Main Color

The main color is what would normally be the central siding or stucco color.  This is sometimes called a field color.  This would be a nice, rich tone that you can live with for a long time or that is neutral enough for resale down the road.  This color tends to be the biggest financial investment as well, so it makes good sense to go with something that can serve as a nice background for years to come.   You can dramatically change the look of a good neutral main color by changing up the ‘quick and easy’ accent color in places like the front door or shutters, so choose wisely here.  This is the time to consider the architecture of your home and of your neighborhood and to take a good look at heritage colors.  These tend to be mature colors that have stood the test of time and are not likely to go out of fashion anytime soon.    You also want to think about whether you want to have your home color be cohesive with the rest of the houses in your neighborhood (mostly, the answer is yes!)  You don’t want to be ‘that family’, right?   Unless you do want to be, then go for it – whatever makes you happy!


Secondary Color (Or Secondary Grouping)

The secondary color is often seen in stonework on the front facade, like field stone, slate or the brick we are talking about today.   The secondary color might also be the trim of the house – fascia, gutters, window trim, railings, etc.  If there is not a lot of stone, I tend to let that sit as a ‘near-neutral’, a ‘secondary-secondary’ color because you kind of do need and want a separate trim color in a lot of cases.  Some houses will use a paint color for the trim that matches the stone and that can work as a ‘secondary team’ also.  This grouping of secondary colors should not take up a huge amount of the area of the house facade because you don’t want your stone and trim to compete with the main color of the house but you want to have more of this neutral color than your accent color.  This color is great to break up the facade of the house visually, highlight architecture (like windows, gables, flower planters and porches), and give some depth or balance to what can sometimes otherwise be a large, flat rectangle.  You wants lots of contrast between the secondary and main colors in most cases.


The Accent Color

A bright, bold or eye-catching color might be perfect for the front door but would be a bit crazy on the entire house, which is where that third color, the accent color, comes in.  This is the place to go a bit bolder and choose something that will make a statement if you like.  It can also be the place to, finally, show some personality in the exterior colors or to just use color to evoke some feeling.  The accent color doesn’t need to be a bright red door that announces your style to everyone who passes by, it can also be a deep charcoal paint on the shutters or a soft butter yellow on the porch floor.  This is the place to create some style.


2. The Perfect Ratio For Exterior Paint Schemes

There is a design theory of the perfect ratio for these 3 colors:  60:30:10.  This provides the main color, a secondary color and an accent color.  Use this ratio, it is your friend!

So, to use this information with a brick exterior, you need to use the brick as one of your three colors.  Depending on the amount of brick, this will likely be the main or secondary color (in combination with another secondary color... I think I should trademark ‘secondary-secondary’ - it's catchy, don't you think?)


3. Determine the Tone of the Brick on Your House

You also need to take your own brick’s tone into consideration before starting to look at other colors.  There are likely variations in the colors on the entire area, as well as within each brick, but the overall brick can be red, coral, orange, pale peach, grey, or even purple toned.  Taking a digital picture and looking at it from far away can help figure this out if it’s not obvious right away.  It can also help to have a photo when looking at colors.  And make sure to hold your samples up to your brick and take pictures of the whole grouping together to get a different perspective of how the colors will look together.


4. The Architecture of Your House Needs to Work With the New Paint Colors

Consider the color of other architectural features.  If they are permanent or you just don’t want to change them right now, they need to work well with the colors you are choosing for the facade.  Look objectively at these areas:  the roof, window trim & mullions, railings, stucco, vinyl siding, flower bed or planter building material.  Some of these things you might want to paint your main or secondary color, but some are just going to soldier on as-is, so you are going to have to work with them.  You should always be able to work around things that can’t be changed and it’s sometimes surprising just how different things can look with the right paint colors around them... so, yes, there’s even aesthetic hope for that ugly roof you’re saving up to replace!


5. Make Sure Your Landscaping Will Also Look Great With the New Facade Colors

Landscaping plays an important role as well.  The colors of dominant shrubs, flowers, planters, and trees near the front of the house should also be looked at objectively.  If you have, especially, some mass plantings of bold colored flowers along the house front, you are going to want to ensure that either your paint enhances or harmonizes with these or that you are willing to transplant them elsewhere and replant something that will be gorgeous with the colors you have chosen.


Free Resources to Help You Make a Great Exterior Color Scheme Plan!

I’ve created a little free printable for you to test paint samples with – it’s available for instant download in my free Design Resource Library along with a saveable, printable version of the tips outlined in this article.  Check them out - hopefully they help make your paint-choosing process a little easier!


Grey Matter: How to Choose the Perfect Grey Paint

Neutrals are the quiet backdrop to a vibrant life and over the last few years, grey has been launched to the top of the style list.  Beige has been steadily nudged off the palettes of interior designers and what a rich transformation it has been!

Grey was once thought to be harsh, dreary and often ugly, but now the paint world has been flooded with a gorgeous, rich grey palette with so many great choices.  Paint manufacturers are really bringing their A-game to the park when it comes to greys and I couldn’t be happier about that – there are some amazing grey tones out there right now!

Grey has steadily developed a reputation for being sleek, stylish and sophisticated and it is well deserved.   With undertones of brown, blue, purple or green there is an outstanding amount of gorgeous paint colors to sample and coordinate with.   I’m pretty convinced there is a perfect shade of grey for every room.

Here are a few fabulous greys I’ve been loving lately!

Pale greys in any undertone

These colors are a sleek, updated alternative to white or beige.  They make a room feel airy and open without being stark.

Light greys with a blue undertone

These paints can look like they are almost a softly reflective silver in a room flooded with natural light.  Very bright, fresh and clean feeling.

Mid-tone greys with a warm undertone

Choosing a grey with a brown undertone can create a stylish, mature warm space.  The warmer shades of grey maintain their sleek style without being at all cold or harsh.  These tones are my first pick for northern hemisphere homes where the natural light appears blue when bouncing off snow.  During all those months of a snow blanketed world, we need a little warmth inside!  Be careful not to steer too far into the brown undertones if you are wanting a grey rather than a taupe.

Mid-tone greys with a purple undertone

This tends to be a softer, more feminine color and often makes a space feel more casual and warm.  Greys with purple undertones tend to be much less formal than a classic stark grey with black undertones.  This color can bring some maturity to a space without being harsh.

Rich greys with a blue undertone

These greys are very bold and cool and lean the most toward classic grey with black undertones.  This color is perfect for a heavy, masculine, calm space or a room that needs to be visually cooled down.  It can provide much needed balance from things like lots of south-facing windows or warm finishes (wood flooring or warm-colored stone).  It can balance and ground things really nicely.

Dark toned charcoal greys

This is a bold range of paint colors but these gorgeous, rich colors are so rewarding.  A deep, rich color on the walls with pure neutral undertones can be striking, sexy and enveloping.  You will feel grounded and calm in a space painted the right dark shade of charcoal grey.  I am a huge fan of this color range for bedrooms – these colors tend to be just right for a restful sleep and a quiet mind at bedtime.



Plunge In: My Top 5 Paint Colors for Deep, Moody Walls

Color is a metamorphosis of a space; it is absolutely a complete game changer!  There is nothing you can do to your space that will have more impact than simply painting it.

A great color can influence a person at the deepest level.  It can be calming, inspiring, energizing, comforting, revitalizing.  There are so many reasons to just go for it – plus, it’s the best use of money you will spend on your room transformation (and it doesn’t take much money, either!)

A rich color just turns up the volume on all of those great things; it makes a statement.  A soft color whispers , which is just fine in most spaces but sometimes you need a little bit of energy!   Plus, a pale, non-committal color can be a little... boring.  Even an ugly, sad beige says something to you daily, whether you like it or not (and, sadly, what it usually says is something along the lines of a tired, drawn out whine... and you deserve better than that!) 

Going dark and turning up the intensity is a bold move so you want to get it right.  You need to avoid just being loud and obnoxious - you want the right amount of pigment with the right amount of depth.  Without some maturity, your colors sway drunkenly into ‘fast food joint’ or ‘college girl bedroom’ faster than you can snap the lid back on your paint can.  Let’s stay on the luxurious, amazing side of bold color, okay?

If you have the cajones and are ready to plunge into some real color, here are my top picks for bold, inspiring paint colors that say something great:

Should You Be Painting Your Cabinets White?

This week brought this fabulous question to my email inbox!

Hi Tara,

We live in a bi-level with the old style kitchen and separate dining room. We want to knock out a wall and make a larger kitchen and eliminate the dining room. We are having a tough time deciding between white or dark cabinets (current ones are honey oak). Are either timeless? Also, we want to add some built in cabinets in the living room, should they be the same color as the kitchen cabinets?


Hi there!

So, this is a very common question with a very complex answer and I’m so glad you asked it!  The answer requires a bit of a design thinking in a few other areas:  balance and details.   When both of these areas are addressed, the cabinet finish question really becomes less of ‘which is right’ and more of ‘how can I make either of these look right’, because the truth is, either can look amazing. 

How can that be?  Well, as I’m sure you’ve already seen in the endless research you’ve likely been doing on Houzz, Pinterest or Google Images, either dark or white cabinets can look so, so good.  And, either white or dark cabinets can be timeless (more on that in a minute).  So, how do you narrow it down for your space when there seems to be no easy right answer?  I’ll lead you through a few things to consider for each finish because in the end, it all comes down to whatever is the most appealing to you, what makes you the most comfortable.   There is no right answer because both are right.


White cabinet considerations:

White cabinets have a clean, airy, fresh feel. 

They open up a space visually and make a room feel much bigger and brighter.

There are so many shades of white cabinets right now and so many detailed finishes that can all really change the look (from stark white to warm antique white, from a solid finish to a gel stain glazed into the corners).  White cabinetry is not always just plain white.

White tends to give you so much more flexibility with the other finishes in the space – you have practically no limit to the flooring, backsplash and wall options, when it comes to either color or pattern.  This is a huge, huge advantage over trying to work with a wood tone.

Yes, lighter cabinets show dirt and dust build up faster than darker finishes.  I would argue, however that in sunlight, dark cabinets often show build up more while adding on much more visible water marks from wiping cabinets.  Besides, sometimes knowing when your cabinets need a wipe and being able to have them actually look clean when you do it is a nice thing.


Dark cabinet considerations:

Dark cabinets have a rich, warm, solid, inviting feel.

They can make a space feel cozy and luxurious.

 In a mainly-winter climate (hello Northern Hemisphere people), it’s important to remember that sunlight bouncing off snow is very blue or grey.  It makes all other colors look bluish or greyish – imagine wearing faintly blue-tinted glasses and looking around your room.  To counter this, a warm toned room feels really good.  No soul on a snow-covered tundra in February wants their home to feel more icy and cold.

There are a lot of shades of dark wood stains available – from warmer reddish browns to stark, almost grey-black tones, so it’s possible to get a variety of looks in darker wood.

Having said that, it can be difficult to match or coordinate the wood tone of the cabinets with other wood tones in the house, either more permanent elements (flooring, baseboards, doors) or the more flexible items (furniture, accessories).  This is the classic problem with a kitchen renovation where you don’t have (or want to create) a blank slate in the rest of the house.

Cabinets can be stained with a rub-in semi-transparent stain which shows the grain or sprayed with a solid stain – both have very different looks, so there are a lot of options here as well.

A wood tone with visible grain adds a visual texture to the room – this can be a great natural element but it can also make it difficult to choose other finishes for the space, especially a patterned backsplash that can often compete visually and make things very ‘loud’.

A kitchen with dark cabinets really looks best balanced with a lot of light – rooms with large windows are a prime candidate for gorgeous dark cabinets but even rooms with little natural light can look beautiful with carefully considered lighting (LED pot lights, lots of bright and airy pendants over an island, an oversized fixture hanging over the table).

Darker cabinets tend to have more visible sheen due to their finish and this can make people crazy trying to wipe off drips and smudges, and then polishing those wet cloth marks away.  Even though the general impression out there is that dark cabinets are easier to keep clean, dark finishes do show dust and smudges just as much as lighter cabinets with the added bonus of also showing water marks when they are wiped clean.  Is it possible to keep dark cabinets gorgeous, though?  Of course and for many people it’s worth it.


What do you love?

As you can see, there are benefits and challenges to either scenario and what I always end up recommending to my clients is that in the end, you just have to go with what you love and work out the details surrounding it.  Chances are, there is a dream kitchen in your mind and it has a certain look to it that you are in love with.  More often than not, it’s a look you return to over and over.  Maybe you are trying to convince yourself that something else is a better fit – I wouldn’t go down that road.  Go with what you know you love and it will be something you love.

Now for the rest of the picture...


Balance & Details

Once you’ve chosen a cabinet finish you need to balance it out.  What does that mean?  Well, whatever you do with that big, huge, dominating presence in your room (the cabinets), you are going to want to do the opposite for a lot of the other elements in the space. 

If you are going with dark cabinets, you are going to want to make sure you have lots of lighter elements in your room.  These can be things like actual light (windows and light fixtures), lighter and brighter ‘permanent’ elements (backsplash, countertop, flooring, appliances)  and visually lighter accessories (big, airy art pieces, a huge mirror, creamy white throws, a large light colored centerpiece on the table, lighter throw rugs, white furniture, etc).   

If you choose to go with white cabinets, you are going to want to balance things out with some darker elements to ground your space, warm it up and keep it from looking like a white cave or sterile operating room.  In this case, you would take that list above and consider those things in some nice dark, rich tones.

One last thing that really pulls together the look and feel of a space – it’s all framed by those details.  Regardless of the color or tone of your cabinetry, it's the style of the doors, the type of hardware, the light fixtures, the accessories, the art and the furniture that give a room it’s polish and it’s mood.  I’ve seen black cabinets that are at home in a rustic country kitchen and pure white cabinetry that is right at home in an ultra modern kitchen.  Take a close look at those small elements in some of the kitchen photos that you love – I bet you will find that many of them share a similar style.


To Match or Not To Match

And finally, to answer your question about matching cabinets and built-ins – this is something that can also go either way.  On one hand, if the flooring is the same throughout both spaces, I feel like giving the kitchen some division by having a different color works well.  The living room doesn’t want or need to feel like a part of the kitchen.  On the other hand, if you have different flooring in both rooms, another color for the trim, and possibly even more wood tones in the doors, furniture and bathroom cabinetry, it can add some cohesiveness to maintain the same cabinetry throughout a house.  I would aim to pull things together if they need it (keep it the same) or give some definition to the spaces if they don’t (do two different finishes).

The Best Wall Paint Colors To Go With Honey Oak

If you are surrounded by honey oak in your home, you are in the right place for design help!

Are you living in a home that is filled with outdated oak and it’s just not feeling like you?  Most of my clients that approach me with this problem are feeling a little stuck: they are awesome people that have great taste and style but for a whole bunch of reasons, they are having to create a beautiful home around the oak that exists there.  All they want is a house that makes them feel happy when they walk in the front door, oak and all, starting with the paint color.  Is that even possible?


I get it:  try searching online for ‘oak kitchen’ or ‘oak trim updates’ and the inspiration and advice is pretty dismal.  Standard advice is to either rip it out or paint over it.  This isn’t always practical or even what everyone wants.  The more a person searches, the worse you start to feel about your house.  Any photos you can find seem to be mostly really ugly and, well, depressing stock photos. All you want is a simple update, without a major renovation.  The good news is that yes, it is possible to do and I can show you how.  Paint is the easiest and least expensive things you can do in a home and the best part is that it is one of the biggest game changers.  Can you choose a gorgeous paint color that makes your home beautiful updated and lovely, without touching the oak?  Yes!


The Three Steps (and one bonus step!)

I have helped clients to tackle this problem so many times and I can guide you through the process as well. There are 3 steps to navigating choosing the right paint color (and one bonus step), so let me help you to work through them!

1. Accept the great parts of the oak in your home (and there are some!)

2. Understand a bit about color theory

3. Take a look through all of these color suggestions and try a few out at home.

4. Bonus: I have an entire ebook on this topic, so consider buying the Living With Oak: 2019 Design & Style Guide to let me take you step-by-step through setting up a plan to updating more than just the paint in your home.

Step One: Why work with the oak?

There are some great things about oak in a home and though, yes, it can be painted over or replaced with MDF trim or a new white kitchen, there are a lot of reasons to leave it be and work with it!

Oak is a rock solid wood – it’s durable and practically bullet proof.

It’s warm – those warm tones are earthy and look great in a lot of spaces.

Oak is also ripe with wood grain that really stands out, even when painted, so it has a very natural, patterned look that never looks manufactured or ultra-modern.

Even if the only reason it’s staying put is because you don’t have the time, money or desire to replace it right now, it absolutely can look great in your home by surrounding it with a great wall color and surrounding it with things that are more in your taste – things like furniture, art, lighting, new hardware or updated counters will all help give a new look to the space and put all thoughts of ‘outdated oak’ right out of mind.

Step Two: Color Theory

When it comes to updating a house, you better believe the oak can absolutely be toned down & styled to look good with a fresh wall color.

There are two main ways of working with any existing element in a home: it can either be enhanced (used as a focal point) or downplayed (neutralized and camouflaged). What we are going to focus on is the idea that oak, which just boils down to an overwhelming amount of a yellow-orange color and lots of texture, needs the rest of the room to balance it out. It needs to be downplayed, neutralized and camouflaged.

To achieve this with paint, either we are going to create a harmonious palette that is similar to the oak, or we are going to create a contrasting palette that incorporates some opposite colors. Either way, we are going to pay attention to those subtle undertones so that the oak looks it’s best.

Here are the two directions to transform your honey oak trim, doors, or cabinets with wall color:

1. Neutralize it with a complimentary color

Oak can be neutralized a bit by using colors around it that are on the opposite side of the color wheel. So, for orange oaks, this means something with a purple or green tone. Does it have to be a loud, obvious purple or green? Nope! There are undertones to a lot of soft, neutral colors like warm greys and creams. Yes, the oak is going to stand out: it’s going to sit among a contrasting color like a piece of art sits in a mat and frame. That’s okay – let’s be honest, it exists, it is there and you can’t make it disappear, but you can trick the eye into feeling like what is there is a little less “loud oak” and a little more “neutral warm wood”. Think of a gorgeous redhead wearing a soft lavender top – beautiful. Redhead wearing a harsh yellow shirt? Not so flattering.

2. Blend and camouflage

If you surround the warm oak with another warm color, it’s going to blend in and look purposeful. A soft, warm neutral paint with orange or yellow undertones can make a space look harmonious and help the oak fade in a little. I would go with a natural, earthy color here, not anything too harsh. The look of warm oak is very natural and can sit very nicely with colors pulled from nature. Be careful not to choose anything too bland here as you do want your space to have some energy to it and avoid harsh black-greys as they generally just don’t work well.

Step Three: Color Suggestions for 2019

Color styles and trends are always evolving and while I believe that a foundation of good design is timeless, I still thought you would be inspired to see what I’m loving for pairing with oak in 2019.

For a printable version of this cheat sheet complete with all the paint codes, along with my oak paint finder tool and the original 2016 paint color cheat sheet, sign up for my free design resource library for instant downloads.

Step Four: Bonus step!

There is so much to unpack about updating oak in a home (and yes, it’s totally possible!) and paint is only one aspect. The problem with looking for design help online is that a lot of information is, well, a little sad. If you are looking for real, inspirational, down-to-earth design advice about taking your home from where it’s at now, to updated and stylish, maybe my ebook is just what you need to get started. Check it out below and see if it’s a good fit!


Free Printables!  Cheat Sheet & Paint Finder Tool

I've created a free printable cheat sheet to help you choose the right paint to go with your honey oak and a printable paint finder tool!  Please save them, print them off and take them to the store with you when choosing paint samples for your space!  They are both available for free, instant download in my Design Resource Library.