Concept Board

A Visual Guide to Selecting Your Exterior Color Scheme

Ben and I are in the process of renovating our house in New Orleans, and I can’t help but think about the exterior color scheme. Everywhere you look in this eccentric city, there are colorful buildings and homes painted with bright hues, pastel monochromatics, and neutral shades. The color palette of the architecture here creates unique city blocks that are backdrops for urban photoshoots, and takes us on a colorful, rhythmic ride. With so many examples to look at, why am I having such a hard time making this selection??

The color palette of the architecture here creates unique city blocks that are backdrops for urban photoshoots, and takes us on a colorful, rhythmic ride.

I love color. I have a whole Pinterest Board dedicated to it. I give as much importance to color and materiality as I do to architecture because thoughtful color adds so much. It demonstrates values. It expresses ideas and emotions. Color enriches our perception of space, the same way light and form do. I will touch lightly on the basics of color theory and then jump right into how I put together my exterior color scheme.

Color Basics

Who here has heard of the Color Wheel? I hope you ALL raised your hand. The color wheel represents the presence of light waves in color, each with a unique wavelength, as evidenced by the most magical example, the rainbow.

The Primary, Second and Tertiary colors might be the first box of crayons you ever received, making you an expert in the color wheel! But what about tint and shade? What are those?


  • Tint: The act of lightening a color by adding white to it.

  • Shade: The act of darkening a color by adding black.

  • Tone: Slightly darkening a color by adding gray.

  • Saturation: The highest level of pigmentation, no change with black, white or gray.

  • Value: Variation in light and dark.

Color Combinations

Color combinations, or as a designer may say, color palettes or color schemes, are any combination of colors. These combinations can change the mood or tone of anything you are trying to represent from logo design to architecture.

  • Combinations with less contrast create a mood of restraint, subtlety, discreetness and understatement.

  • Combinations with more contrast create a mood of drama, excitement and conflict.

In planning a color scheme, contrast is not just created by changing the entire color, but by using the same or similar colors with different values and saturations.

Color Palette Selection

Some of my favorite color palettes are created by I found the below images on Pinterest by just searching for the term ‘color palettes.’ Here you can get palettes already generated for you, but if you are interested in exploring your own combinations of color, read more below.

Guide to an Exterior Color Scheme (New Orleans Edition):

I would stick to selecting 3 to 4 colors at most. Proper proportions are important. One color must be the dominant color, there must be a subordinate color and then an accent color or two. Think 50%, 30%, 15%, <5% ratio.

Below are some of my favorite examples of colorful New Orleans houses:

Top Row: Monochromatic, colors of varying tones, tints and shades
2nd Row: Complementary colors
3rd Row: Neutrals
Bottom Row: Vibrant, Bold colors

I would stick to selecting 3 to 4 colors at most!

What I know works:

  • For larger color combinations, select colors with varying levels of shades or tints. Your accent colors can be complementary colors. This helps your eyes find a place to rest.

  • When going with darker or deeper shades for siding, use white or vibrant colors to offset the dark color.

  • More than 4 colors almost always feels too busy. But hey, these are just my guidelines, not rules! The 4th color, the brightest/boldest color, should always be used sparingly, <5%. See: Front Door Colors above.

  • In Monochromatic schemes, use the darkest tone to emphasize detail for example, the shutters, doors and quoins, while the siding should be painted the lightest or most neutral of hues.

Color Combo Renderings

Below is a quick color study for our favorite residential project, our own house! We tried on a few of these principles - monochromatic with shifting values, neutrals with a vibrant color on important elements, and never more than 4 different colors. Check out our Instagram story to vote on your favorite scheme!

gray and tourq.jpg

content source: The Complete Color Harmony, Pantone Edition by Leatrice Eiseman

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Renovating Without Plans? What DIY-ers Should Know!

Renovating Without Plans? What DIY-ers Should Know!

Design intent can be tough to convey; it is comprised of any number of ideas and goals, and all of the implications of achieving them successfully.  It can be tough for owners to express what your intent is if you’re not fluent in the language of building - and why should they be?  I can’t speak the language of medicine, or astronomy, and no one is expecting me to.

Read More

The Flexessory House

The Flexessory House is a personal and professional response to how we think about urban infill development in New Orleans.

What makes New Orleans’ neighborhoods among the richest in character and memory in the world, a tourist attraction in and of itself?  Its HOUSING STOCK.

What's so great about it?  Two things – its ability to adapt to its surroundings and its ability to adapt to the needs of the people.  So, really, one thing:  resilience.

Houses here grow, adapt – they FLEX.  Sometimes literally with the moisture content in the air.  And they are still standing through hurricanes, design fads, and shifting demographics.

So what do we mean by FLEXESSORY?

FLEX-ing Skin

We took inspiration from the traditional Japanese ‘engawa’ space, a light-footed raised wood structure the building’s perimeter.  This zone serves as a linear adaptation of the classic NOLA porch, providing shade, communal space, privacy and debris protection.  Wood screens attached to this can flex open or closed to provide varying degrees of protection.


engawa (縁側 or 掾側)

is a typically wooden strip of flooring immediately before windows and storm shutters inside traditional Japanese rooms. Recently this term has also come to mean the veranda outside the room as well, which was traditionally referred to as a nure'en


Shutters & Engawa Spaces


FLEX-ing Occupancy

Houses here have long, varied histories because they never ceased to be useful, even if just enough to not demolish.  A house may have started as a stately four-bedroom home for a large upper-class family, and may have later been split up into a upstairs and downstairs unit, after which it might have converted a carriage house into a rear apartment.  Later, after central air was added and the plumbing easily changed out since the floor is raised, it might find new life as a bed and breakfast, a law firm office, or might again serve as a large home for a well-to-do family.  Or maybe it stays a four-plex with a carriage apartment, long after zoning laws have made such an arrangement unrepeatable.

About those zoning laws – across the country, zoning laws have historically attempted to pin down a property to a very specific and isolated use.  Often, a single-family house is allowed an ACCESSORY use – often with many caveats and rules in place to keep that other use from becoming another dwelling.  But demand for accessory dwellings lives on, often in bending or ‘hacking’ zoning rules and grandfathering, and for good reason.  It allows for additional homestead income, while easing housing stock shortages for small families, college students or the elderly, and adding to the overall neighborhood value and tax base - wins all around.

Flex + Accessory (Dwelling) = Flexessory

The FLEXESSORY house is a contemporary approach to the traditional shotgun plan, offering more flexibility to a family living, growing and shrinking in the house; or for different kinds of families to subsequently inhabit the house.  Within the footprint of a typical two-family zoned lot, the house offers several easily reconfigured plans to allow for various sized units for an elderly family member, a college student, a small family, a vacation rental. 

And though it could be a single-family home, it makes too much sense not to use it in a way that helps put more families back in New Orleans, creating more value, and reinforcing the historic use patterns that can continue the centuries-long reputation of New Orleans neighborhoods as the best in the country.

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