Green-gray exterior paint colors are often the best choice for homes with natural stone or brick accents. Here’s a case study that illustrates why!
In our blog on picking exterior paint colors, we talk about how any unpainted brick or stone areas on your home must be factored in when you’re selecting colors for the rest of the exterior. Since your stucco or wood siding will be seen side-by-side with any stone or brick accents, its paint color needs to coordinate, or your house will look like a patchy mess.
Since there are so many undertones to choose from when picking any neutral paint color, seeing a real-life example is always helpful. Let’s take a look at a recent project of ours in San Antonio, Texas. This home has both natural stone and brick accents, so it’s a perfect case study for why green-gray exterior paint colors in particular work so well here. We painted the stucco in HGSW3447 “Sackcloth”, which is a color from the HGTV Home Collection for Sherwin Williams. Here’s the paint chip, and also Sherwin Williams 9172 ‘Shiitake”, which is almost identical.
The first step in picking an exterior paint color is to identify the undertones of your stone or brick accents.
Here’s the house seen from the street, after we painted it. Remember, sunlight makes exterior paint colors look cooler, which is why the home looks greener than the paint chip.
This lovely home has a stonework feature around the front door, and brick accents around the windows. Before selecting “Sackcloth” as the paint color for the stucco, you would need to know the undertones of the stone and brick. (We go into detail about how to determine the undertones here.)
Wait . . . what is an “undertone?”
Nationally known color consultant Maria Killam has written extensively about undertones, but here’s our quick-and-dirty summary. In the world of color, we’re all familiar with the terms “warm” and “cool” (orange is warm, blue is usually cool, etc.). But color temperature alone won’t tell you which colors will harmonize in an exterior color palette. And what if you’re looking at a variety of neutral color options, such as beige or gray, where your choices might all be really similar, and the temperature isn’t so obvious? Here’s where undertones come in. By “undertone”, we just mean the underlying color that the neutral leans toward the most. It can be hard to spot the undertone in a neutral, catch-all color category like “beige” (is it a yellow-beige? pink-beige? green-beige?). But not all undertones play well together, so this is an important step. For a harmonious color palette, find the undertones of the elements you won’t be painting (your stone or brick accents) and then pick a siding color with an undertone that coordinates.
So on our house, the Texas limestone has a yellow-beige undertone:
And the brick, although it’s in various shades, is mostly pink-beige:
Picking undertones in not an exact science, and you won’t get perfect matches every time. The pink-beige above exists in the brick, but the stronger colors like ruddy reds and chalky whites confuse matters. All you need to do is pick the best choice of undertone overall. Don’t aim for perfection, just come close.
Now even though both pink-beige and yellow-beige exist on this house, they don’t usually work well together. A yellow-beige neutral such as cream will usually be stronger, more intense than a pink-beige color. Think about how much brighter beach sand is than pink travertine stone. Yellow-beiges usually make pink-beige colors look somewhat dirty or muddled (which is why you should never paint your walls yellow-beige if you have a pink travertine floor). But both yellow-beige and pink-beige are often found in natural materials like the limestone and brick here. Thankfully, both these undertones go very well with either green-beige or green gray, which makes a green-gray like “Sackcloth” or “Shiitake” the perfect color for this house.
Here’s another view of the house, with all three undertones shown:
(Notice that the driveway is also a pink-beige.)
What other exterior paint colors would’ve worked well here?
Any neutral color that leans toward green, such as green-beige and green-gray, will go with both yellow and pink undertones. However, if you wanted your home to be a cooler gray, you’d run into trouble with that yellowy limestone around your front door. Here we photoshopped the house to look as if we’d painted it in Benjamin Moore’s HC-169, “Coventry Gray”, a blue-gray:
In real life, the home would look even bluer, since daylight skews exterior colors to look more blue than they do indoors (where you usually evaluate your paint chips). But even with this quick mock-up, you can see that the yellow limestone stands out and doesn’t really settle in nicely against the blue-gray. You can get away with “Coventry Gray” against the brick, but not really against the stone. But if this home didn’t have the stone or brick accents? “Coventry Gray” would look lovely! (But paint a large sample board, at least one square foot, and evaluate it outside before you do any real painting! Never go by just an online image when picking your color. We tell you why here.)
Remember: If you have stone or brick accents on your home, be careful with any cool, gray or blue tones, which will probably clash. Green gray exterior paint colors (or a green-beige) are usually your best choice!