Laurel Street Blog

Choosing an exterior house paint color? Call in a pro.

Posted on: January 19, 2009

When we bought the house, the paint color was really a… non-color. The previous owners left us a note that it had been a custom blend, but frankly I couldn’t see the point. It was the color of dust, with a touch of purple dashed in. It was mouse-y and oxidized with chalky white trim. After the new roof and gutters went up in 2006, this was our ‘major project’ of 2007 (in between countless minor projects in-between).

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The house's original color. I think I was overcompensating with rather exuberant gardening at that time to distract folks from the rough paint job.

Richard and talked about color choices and did some research. We hopped on our bikes and rode all through the New Orleans Garden District to our north, across Louisiana Boulevard. I was thinking ‘Dove Gray’ but we saw some pinks and greens we liked as well. I took a few photos and we went to various paint stores to collect a variety of small sample paints. We applied about 8 different colors to a scrap of wood and waited expectantly while they dried. We didn’t like any of them and we disagreed on all the basics.  I mentioned my dilemma in passing to my boss (who has wonderful taste and lives in a Garden District house worthy of the pages of Southern Accents magazine). Sandy turned the whole project around for me in an instant.

“Call Louis Aubert! He designs paint colors for Benjamin Moore and he’s always helped my pick my colors. Let’s call him right now!”

Louis Aubert is a designer right here in New Orleans who will consult with you and give a complete painting plan so you have every detail in writing, waiting for the painters. Louis is a charming story teller, plus having an objective third party made agreeing on the final colors much easier.  

Louis met with me, took a tour of the house, then sat down and asked a hundred questions, then whipped out three main options from his sample books in an instant and trim colors as well. His instructions were to have quarts mixed up of each, and go and paint two coats of each on the front porch, then call him back to make revisions. 

I’ve said it before, I’m a creative director in real life and I make color decisions in graphic design on a daily basis. But that doesn’t translate to paint and I didn’t want to make an expensive mistake. Louis as a mediator and a guide was a godsend. 

The house exterior with test colors applied: yellow, sage and pink. Louis also picked coordinating shutter colors and trim colors at the same time.

The house exterior with test colors applied: yellow, sage and pink. Louis also picked coordinating shutter colors and trim colors at the same time.

 

Louis returned, helped us make some tweaks, pointed specific paint treatments for the historical details (such as the corner quoins), then picked out an enamel color for the iron fence (if we should we paint it later), a color for the understory of the front porch (currently whitewashed), a color for the staining the wooden fence in the back yard, and made some completely spot on and objective observations about other details of the house that could be improves with paint. Richard and I were both so glad to have an expert on the case. We received a lot of added value from working with a pro. 

The house on Laurel Street, fresh with yellow paint and cream trim.

The house on Laurel Street, fresh with yellow paint and cream trim.

 
A few things he suggested: on the back of the house, paint the ‘birdcage’ of pressure treated lumber and the steel doors to the storage room (accessed from the deck, finished in a factory white) the same basecoat yellow as the rest of the house. The steel doors will disappear and the ‘birdcage’ will feel more part of the house. Louis was right on. These things would’ve never occurred to me alone. 

I even mentioned that I was looking for a natural covering for the ‘birdcage.’ I had seen in a magazine some brise-soleil made from reed or bamboo, but was having trouble sourcing them. Louis found me a local source on the spot. 

The 'birdcage' on the back of the house. Formerly old gray wood, it looked tacked on. Painting it the yellow base color of the house helped to unify it. I added the natural reed brise-soleil after the painters had cleared out. I've also added a weatherproof ceiling fan to cool the chairs below since then. We spend time out here every night in the summer now.

The 'birdcage' on the back of the house. Formerly old gray wood, it looked tacked on. Painting it the yellow base color of the house helped to unify it. I added the natural reed brise-soleil after the painters had cleared out. I've also added a weatherproof ceiling fan to cool the chairs below since then. We spend time out here every night in the summer now.

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Laurel Street Blog

Nate and Louis

Well, hey there. I'm Nathan and this is the Laurel Street Blog. It's a place for talking about design, decor and DIY (with small amounts of snarkery snuck in). I'm a pretty restless guy who loves house projects and lives in a 150+ year old cottage on Laurel Street in New Orleans. Since the house always has something going on with it (or falling off of it) I'm subsequently blessed with a never-ending supply of Web content to share. Oh - and you can drop me a line anytime LaurelStreetNola@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Can I get a tweet up in here? Follow along @LaurelStreet

The Laurel Street Cottage

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