Meg has an adorable historic home and she writes,
“Ok Michael, here’s one for you:
I know you love old houses with character… we’ve just bought a new (old) house in Wortley Village in London, Ontario. It’s really pretty but needs a lot of work on the exterior (and interior, but that’s another matter). I’m talking paint, gardens and plantings – the whole deal.
The home is red brick with cedar shingles and peeling white trim. Right now it has a greenish roof that needs to be replaced and grey pavers for the driveway and walkway (those will stay). It has leaded glass bay windows and a pretty porch. The front door is green and I’m not a fan of the colour, although the door is lovely.“
Meg’s questions are:
What colour should we stain/paint the shingles?
What about the trim, soffits, decorative cornices, windows, etc?
I’m thinking charcoal for the roof…?
What colour should we paint the front door?
What kind of plantings would look good?
“As far as my decorating style goes, I like classic, calm and neutral with just a hint of colour. I would love it if I could use greys or blue-greys on the exterior but I don’t know if that would go with the brick. I would really appreciate your suggestions.”
Well Meg, congratulations on making me jealous – this is a beautiful and charming home and I love, love the combination of red brick and shingles. The gambrel roof line (barn-like) is one of my all-time favourites so you’ve done very well!
I think you’re on the right track going for a charcoal gray shingle on the roof – it will be handsome without being too stark. Gray is somehow a little more natural than black and will marry nicely with the brick and shingles. Gray will be nice on the wood work/shingles too, but I think you should veer away from blue-gray as you mention. Look for grays that have some brown in them and are warm so they’ll blend with the warm tones in the red brick. Putty is almost what I’m thinking. Use this in a stain for the shingles and you’ll be well on your way.
Now for the wood trim – you could go for a lighter version of the putty/gray on the shingles and this will be a more mellow, monochromatic and slightly more contemporary look. But what I would suggest is sticking to a fresher, cleaner colour. I love how the details in all of the wood work – particularly where it outlines the roof – stand out because of the light paint. There’s something crisp and tidy about it and it really highlights the architecture and detail on your home. Stay away from stark white and go for a muddied up, historical white – like one of the many HC shades from Benjamin Moore or anything from Farrow & Ball. Remember, you can get any paint colour matched so that you can use your favourite paint brand and stay on budget.
When it comes to the door, I think this is where you should really express your personality. If you want your home to be a little playful, go for a little more colour. If you want sober and classic, maybe try glossy black. It sounds like you’re somewhere in the middle and that your drawn to cool colours like blue. If that’s the case look for a mid-tone historic blue that has a fair amount of gray in it. When light shines on exterior paint it makes it look a lot lighter so keep this in mind and maybe tape the paint swatch on your door at mid day to see how it changes. Green would also be a lovely choice (but I think you’re over the green) and a nice mossy, gray-green would be perfect with the red brick and putty shingles.
For plantings, I think you want simple swaths of greenery, slightly architectural so as not to compete with the geometry of the house. I like the hedges going on already but only you can know what shape they’re in. Looks like you’ve got some yew hedges at present and you could continue with these and replace whatever it is going on under the bay window just for continuity. Yews are a great alternative to the classic boxwood and much more fool-proof. I’d also recommend adding some curves to the flower beds in front of the hedge. Maybe add a nice sweeping bed that connects the house and hedges to the walkway and drive. Plant cheerful tulips for spring and load it up with old time annuals in one colour for summer (like white geraniums, or all yellow marigolds). Also I might add a dwarf flowering crab apple tree or flowering cherry at the far side of your house a few feet out from the foundation to create a screen from your neighbour and add a vertical element.
Finally add a fresh sisal or coir door mat, a new mailbox and some terracotta pots full of ferns to the porch and steps and you’re golden!
Thanks for your question Meg!
(You can send questions to Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Decorator at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The paint colours are Pavillion Gray, White Tie and Borrowed Light from Farrow & Ball. You’ll have to try them out with real chips cause they’ll look different on the computer screen. But trust me, they’re lovely colours.