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10 Easy Pieces: California Architects’ Exterior Paint Picks

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10 Easy Pieces: California Architects’ Exterior Paint Picks

March 12, 2019

In the great state of California, aesthetics and attitudes vary wildly from one region to another—north to south, east to west, and bay to bay—but the common denominator is a certain California je ne sais quoi by way of indoor-outdoor living, bright neutral color, historic Spanish style, Arts & Crafts buildings, bungalows, and midcentury modern. If you’re looking for a color that says “California” (whether a resident or not), look to some of the state’s best residential architects who we polled on their favorite exterior paint colors (spoiler alert: a lot of them like a nice “sunny white”). Here’s the lineup.

For a Japanese-inflected master-suite addition to a midcentury house in Tiburon, San Francisco-based architect Cary Bernstein painted the bridge between the two buildings Benjamin Moore Orange Sky (\20\18-\10) to “complement the black siding, the landscape, and the blue water of the San Francisco Bay beyond,” she says. “The color  recalls the California poppy and the ochre plaster found on garden walls throughout Japan.”
Above: For a Japanese-inflected master-suite addition to a midcentury house in Tiburon, San Francisco-based architect Cary Bernstein painted the bridge between the two buildings Benjamin Moore Orange Sky (2018-10) to “complement the black siding, the landscape, and the blue water of the San Francisco Bay beyond,” she says. “The color [Orange Sky] recalls the California poppy and the ochre plaster found on garden walls throughout Japan.”
 “The colors Simply White (OC-\1\17) and Black Onyx (\2\133-\10), both by Benjamin Moore, is a client favorite—and mine, too,” says Bay Area designer Kriste Michelini. “When the siding is in white and the trim, gutters, and front door in deep, saturated black, the palette brings the architectural detail of a home to life.” A similar combination Michelini also uses often is Simply White (OC-\1\17) and Polo Blue (\206\2-\10), both by Benjamin Moore.
Above: “The colors Simply White (OC-117) and Black Onyx (2133-10), both by Benjamin Moore, is a client favorite—and mine, too,” says Bay Area designer Kriste Michelini. “When the siding is in white and the trim, gutters, and front door in deep, saturated black, the palette brings the architectural detail of a home to life.” A similar combination Michelini also uses often is Simply White (OC-117) and Polo Blue (2062-10), both by Benjamin Moore.
 “This is a color scheme I like to use for modern and midcentury homes,” says Los Angeles architect Kevin Oreck of colors Sierra Leone (45yy 33/\137) and Burmese Beige (40yy 5\1/084) both from Glidden. Oreck&#8\2\17;s tip: “When a house doesn’t have trim that I want to call attention to, I often make the trim color only subtly different than the wall color,” he says.
Above: “This is a color scheme I like to use for modern and midcentury homes,” says Los Angeles architect Kevin Oreck of colors Sierra Leone (45yy 33/137) and Burmese Beige (40yy 51/084) both from Glidden. Oreck’s tip: “When a house doesn’t have trim that I want to call attention to, I often make the trim color only subtly different than the wall color,” he says.
 “We love using Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal (HC-\166),” says Ana Williamson Architect in Menlo Park, California. “In terms of color, it has the right intensity—and it plays well with a lot of modern materials.” Photo by Paul Dyer for Ana Williamson Architect.
Above: “We love using Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal (HC-166),” says Ana Williamson Architect in Menlo Park, California. “In terms of color, it has the right intensity—and it plays well with a lot of modern materials.” Photo by Paul Dyer for Ana Williamson Architect.
“We like using the color white on our custom-designed houses,” says architect Barbara Chambers of Mill Valley firm Chambers and Chambers. “It’s timeless. A white house is both classical and right for an updated modern aesthetic, and it’s beautiful in both bright or–typical to Northern California–overcast conditions. Light, cheerful, and always stylish.” Chambers&#8\2\17;s white of choice is Benjamin Moore China White (PM-\20) as seen here.
Above: “We like using the color white on our custom-designed houses,” says architect Barbara Chambers of Mill Valley firm Chambers and Chambers. “It’s timeless. A white house is both classical and right for an updated modern aesthetic, and it’s beautiful in both bright or–typical to Northern California–overcast conditions. Light, cheerful, and always stylish.” Chambers’s white of choice is Benjamin Moore China White (PM-20) as seen here.
For another architect&#8\2\17;s house in Sausalito house, San Francisco architect Jennifer Weiss opted for stains, not paints. “We wanted to express the grain of the wood—the visual and physical natural texture added to the richness and depth of the façade, tying it more closely with the surrounding landscape.” The stains used are from Benjamin Moore ArborCoat in semi-solid White on the upper half of the house and semi-transparent Stonehenge on the lower half. After expanding the size of the house, Weiss was looking to minimize its mass. “We stained the lower half gray so that it reads as a base of the house on which the white portion sits. The gray reads as heavier, more solid, and visual recedes into the landscape while the white pops forward becoming the more prominent visual component.” Photograph by Bruce Damonte for Jennifer Weiss Architecture.
Above: For another architect’s house in Sausalito house, San Francisco architect Jennifer Weiss opted for stains, not paints. “We wanted to express the grain of the wood—the visual and physical natural texture added to the richness and depth of the façade, tying it more closely with the surrounding landscape.” The stains used are from Benjamin Moore ArborCoat in semi-solid White on the upper half of the house and semi-transparent Stonehenge on the lower half. After expanding the size of the house, Weiss was looking to minimize its mass. “We stained the lower half gray so that it reads as a base of the house on which the white portion sits. The gray reads as heavier, more solid, and visual recedes into the landscape while the white pops forward becoming the more prominent visual component.” Photograph by Bruce Damonte for Jennifer Weiss Architecture.
 For the renovation of their own house situated on a steep cliff in Silver Lake, LA-based architects Cleo and McShane Murnane of Project M Plus painted the lower half of the exterior siding with Benjamin Moore Cracked Pepper (\2\130-40).
Above: For the renovation of their own house situated on a steep cliff in Silver Lake, LA-based architects Cleo and McShane Murnane of Project M Plus painted the lower half of the exterior siding with Benjamin Moore Cracked Pepper (2130-40).
San Francisco-based architect Ken Linsteadt is also a fan of white on Bay Area exteriors. His white of choice? Benjamin Moore White Dove (OC-\17). “The color is fresh and crisp, yet soft enough to complement the surrounding gardens.” Photograph by Paul Dyer for Ken Linsteadt Architects; landscape architect Denler Hobart Gardens.
Above: San Francisco-based architect Ken Linsteadt is also a fan of white on Bay Area exteriors. His white of choice? Benjamin Moore White Dove (OC-17). “The color is fresh and crisp, yet soft enough to complement the surrounding gardens.” Photograph by Paul Dyer for Ken Linsteadt Architects; landscape architect Denler Hobart Gardens.
LA-based Design, Bitches opted for an electric tonal teal color scheme on the exterior of Counter Culture Coffee in Silver Lake, made up of Un-Teal We Meet Again (739) and for the highlights up top, Poolside Blue (\2048-40) both from Benjamin Moore. “The colors reflect the rich artistic life and history of the neighborhood,” the designers say. “The original building was a faded Art Deco gem and we brought it back in full color. We like to build on the existing character of a place and amp it up. It takes on a life of its own and acts as a beacon for the corner park where it sits.” The amped-up color option is characteristic to Southern California cityscapes. Photograph by Laure Joliet for Design, Bitches.
Above: LA-based Design, Bitches opted for an electric tonal teal color scheme on the exterior of Counter Culture Coffee in Silver Lake, made up of Un-Teal We Meet Again (739) and for the highlights up top, Poolside Blue (2048-40) both from Benjamin Moore. “The colors reflect the rich artistic life and history of the neighborhood,” the designers say. “The original building was a faded Art Deco gem and we brought it back in full color. We like to build on the existing character of a place and amp it up. It takes on a life of its own and acts as a beacon for the corner park where it sits.” The amped-up color option is characteristic to Southern California cityscapes. Photograph by Laure Joliet for Design, Bitches.
Los Angeles firm Standard Architecture likes Benjamin Moore Super White (OC-\15\2). “It’s neutral and slightly on the warm side. It reflects light, brings out the landscape, and works well in combination with natural finishes like concrete, zinc, and wood.” Seen here at a renovation in Beverly Hills, there is a secondary color—a custom gray the firm calls “Arden Graphite Gray” for the windows and doors because “dark mullions on windows tend to disappear more when looking from inside out.” While the exact color isn’t replicable, the idea certainly is. Photograph by Benny Chan for Standard Architecture.
Above: Los Angeles firm Standard Architecture likes Benjamin Moore Super White (OC-152). “It’s neutral and slightly on the warm side. It reflects light, brings out the landscape, and works well in combination with natural finishes like concrete, zinc, and wood.” Seen here at a renovation in Beverly Hills, there is a secondary color—a custom gray the firm calls “Arden Graphite Gray” for the windows and doors because “dark mullions on windows tend to disappear more when looking from inside out.” While the exact color isn’t replicable, the idea certainly is. Photograph by Benny Chan for Standard Architecture.

For more exterior color favorites see our posts:

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