ISSUE 47  |  Homegrown Holiday

Curb Appeal: A Perfect Paint Palette for a Dark Facade

November 27, 2015 12:00 PM

BY Stephanie Dorfman

The other day Michelle emailed me a photo of a house with an unusual color palette. The dark gray painted-brick facade was accented by both black and white painted trim. “It looks like it’s wearing a tuxedo,” she said. “And yet fantastic. Why?”

As an interior designer, I’m happy to answer color questions–hers and yours. Are you wondering what color to paint your front door, or why the trim on your house looks dingy, or if your fence would look better stained dark? If so, let me know in the comments section below (a photo would be great). Your paint dilemma could be chosen as the topic of our next Curb Appeal post.

Now, back to Michelle’s question about the dark gray house. A house dressed in a tuxedo (actually I think it looks more like a morning coat) shouldn’t look good. Too many colors and too much contrast usually add up to chaos. But this particular house has great curb appeal. Read on to find out why–and for the paint colors you need to recreate the look.

Photography by Clementine Quittner for Gardenista, except where noted.

Above: Photograph via Oscar V.

Belgium-based builders and designers Paul Vanrunxt and Kurt Geens of Oscar V are responsible for this Flemish facade near Keerbergen. With its steeply pitched roof, large windows, and symmetrical facade, this is a house that could have great curb appeal painted any number of colors. 

But this color scheme looks especially good. One reason is all the greenery that frames the house. Green shrubs–and an absence of other colors in the plantings–create a nice foil for the intensity of this moody, dark paint palette.


Above: The paint colors that will recreate the look are, from top to bottom, Iron Mountain, Mascarpone, and Black Beauty. All are Benjamin Moore colors.

While I was searching for the right paint colors to recreate the look, I realized that the gray paint color has very strong brown undertones. Iron Mountain is a warm gray (rather than a cool one) and ties the color to the natural landscape surrounding the house.

The gray was the trickiest of the three colors to choose. The warmth of the gray is really important; it needs to have an earthiness to it.

Above: Above: But the real key to making this palette work is the white. You need it for contrast.

Above: Without the white? This would be a very sad color combination. For this palette to work, the black color must never touch the gray.

Above: Photograph via Oscar V.

The divided pane windows have a lot of trim pieces to paint. A wide, flat piece of trim surrounds the windows and doors, enabling the white to function like a  picture frame.

Above: Do you want to recreate this look on your own house? Here’s a checklist.

Make sure:

  • A medium-sized trim uniformly surrounds the windows and doors, enabling the white to function like a picture frame.
  • The windows themselves have enough paintable surface for the black to show.
  • Your roof’s color belongs to the gray, black, or white families. (You do not want to introduce yet another contrasting color.)
  • Your facade has symmetrical elements you can emphasize. Symmetry will unify the look; asymmetry could make the contrasting colors look like chunky blocks.

Thinking of painting your kitchen cabinets a dark color? See the palette Stephanie chose for Kitchen Rehab: Michelle’s Mill Valley Remodel.

Looking for the perfect Gray, Black, or White exterior paint color? Our favorites are in our Paints & Palettes archives.