Help Christa choose an exterior paint color for her 1961 house

what color should christa paint her 1961 houseSince moving into her midcentury modest house a year ago, Christa has been having a ball updating the inside to reflect its 1961 architectural roots. Now, she’s ready to paint the outside — and has asked for ideas. Note in particular the rock wall — how to work it in?  Read on for more background… then share your ideas about what paint colors she should use to freshen up the exterior of this adorable 1961 home.

Christa writes:

Hello Pam,

I’m a long time reader and admirer of Retro Renovation. When we moved in to our 1961 Vancouver Island house last April, your site provided oodles of inspiration for me!

Christa says: My husband Garrett and 5-year-old son, Emmit. Here's one from an evening last Summer, when Emmit set up his toys so that he could put on a show for them 🙂

Since moving in, I have painted almost all of the interior, save for the staircase, and completed many small projects to rejuvenate our home with a bit of colourful 1960s flair.

It’s been a ton of fun, and now that we’re cruising toward Summer, I’m anticipating painting the house’s exterior so that the outside will match the inside in pizazz. I have been browsing your paint inspiration collections, Flickr, and my own collections of vintage house magazines, and I’ve got nothing- I need your help!

1961 house vancouver island

I’m inclined to incorporate some aqua or seafoam, and/or mustard, burnt orange, pink, even black — really I’m all over the map and coming to a place of confusion in regards to what will actually suit the house. What will help it ‘pop’?

And what do I do with the rock wall? Does one paint any part of it, or just leave it? I feel lost. Any guidance you, or your readers could provide would be SO appreciated.

Yours in thrifty mid century modest-ness,


Christa, you have a lovely house, it just seems so idyllic. And, Vancouver Island: One of my favorite places in the world!

what color should christa paint her 1961 house

Readers, what do you think? 
What paint color(s) should Christa use to add curb appeal to her 1961 house?
And, how should she deal with the rock wall facade? 

  1. Christa says:

    Interesting- I’m going to have to play around with the colour viewer some more, and try out some different trim colours! (Though the trim is the hardest to view at all realistically on there- it always looks kind of chunky and not quite right.)

    I’ve already removed the plant box from under the kitchen window. It was made by the previous owners, from scraps of wood, and was a bit of an eyesore.

    I was thinking that about the garage- going at least a couple of shades darker on the door to tone it down. Like you, I would love to replace the doors (or build a whole new garage/carport!) but yes, we are doing everything decidedly on the cheap! I did this sketch months ago with an idea for the garage door, though my thought was to tie it in with the window box, wonder if it would draw too much attention to the *ugly* garage, or look silly? http://www.flickr.com/photos/christaface/5617653052/lightbox/

    Also- YES, I’m definitely buying some little $5 paint samples! I’ve already made the mistake- in our last house- of painting the living room before sampling or even putting swatches on the wall, and within the year I was moving furniture and repainting- what a hassle! In this house, I stared at paint samples in every room at every time of day to get an idea of how they would all read, and how they’d coordinate together, and so far *knock on wood* all of my picks have worked out really well!

    Thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate it 🙂

  2. natschultz says:

    Ooh, I really like your sketch! I think the diamond trim is a great idea on a 1960’s house! And it’s really easy to accomplish too (as long as you have a mitre saw). I love the large vertical diamond on each garage door and the two smaller horizonal diamonds on a plaque below the kitchen window. However, I would not get a front door with square windows – three small vertical diamond windows would look great, but I don’t know if they still make those 🙁

    I’d definitely go darker on the garage doors and the plaque / window boxes under the windows. Looking at the pics of your house again, I notice that the deep eaves cast a long shadow over your windows. I would take advantage of this and paint the window trim a really dark (almost black, but not quite) charcoal gray and the garage doors / window box / plaque a medium charcoal grey. Then the stucco siding the Wythe Blue and the shingled side eaves a medium charcoal gray. I’d paint the steps a really dark charcoal gray too, but I’d paint the tops and sides the same color – not the two-tone that currently exists. I’d also get some of those rubber stair rugs (they look like iron railings) and put them on each tread so that the paint won’t wear out too fast. I’d then find a funky colorful outdoor rug for the porch floor and pull a color from that and paint the front door to match. I’d also get a new screen / storm door – a full glass one that doesn’t block the view of the front door; it’s more modern, but totally worth it if you get a cool front door. Lowes sells a nice one for approx. $100 in lots of colors so you don’t have to paint it (it’s powder coated metal so it won’t chip). I’m sure they have a dark gray one; we got the “cranberry” color and had our burgundy trim paint perfectly matched to it.

    I like the individual free-standing planters underneath the kitchen window too. We did the same thing under our front window – 2 (old) square concrete ones and then I found a nice long oval concrete planter at Lowes that was a nice brown / burgundy color for in between. I live in NY and concrete is the ONLY material that lasts (plastic and ceramic always cracks because it is very wet and it always freezes and thaws too much here).

    You can probably paint the soffits under the eaves as well. The Wythe Blue would probably look good – it will appear darker, maybe like a blue sky. But, if there are vent holes in the soffit you have to be careful not to fill them in with paint because it will prevent air circulation through the attic / roof.

    Good luck! I know the feeling of it taking FOREVER to finish a house! I started re-siding the front of my house in Board-and-Batt in Autumn 2008 (had to stop in December), finally finished in Spring 2009 and painted it that summer. Then we had an addition put on at the back and it was a DISASTER – I am still not finished re-framing everything on the inside (my advice to anyone considering an addition – just MOVE instead!). We added a portico on the front and I was hoping to finish trimming it out by this autumn, but I was busy working and installing the wood floors this summer, and when I finally started on the portico trim it ended up SNOWING in October! So, at best I’ll get the trim primed and installed by December and then will have to wait until spring to finally paint it. The front of my house has totally settled out of plumb / level, so every single board / batt and all the trim has had to be individually ripped / beveled / installed differently just so it “appears” level with the new level windows we had installed. Thank God I I know how to do woodwork – no sane carpenter would ever take the time to do it right (seriously, at least 4 different “professional” construction MEN have seen me working and told me point blank “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to do this work!”). The funny thing is that since we first re-painted the house in 2008 the EPA has seriously cracked down and apparently it is now illegal to use oil paint on anything other than metal. When I bought more paint a few months ago for the trim the paint guy said it was illegal to use it on wood or Azek and that I could technically be arrested! But, I had no choice – the acrylic in the same color just doesn’t match. My siding is acrylic stain, and if I was to start ALL OVER I’d probably go with all acrylic just because finding the semi-gloss BM oil paint is very hard (only two stores near me carry it). If you insist on oil then I suggest Fine Paints of Europe, but that is VERY EXPENSIVE. So, in your case go with the exterior BM acrylic – at least the samples will match the actual color as well!

  3. That’s a beautiful combination! I’m about to paint my 1954 dark brown shingle and am leaning green like what you mentioned or a bit lighter. love the suggestions – i should post a pic

  4. Fran says:

    I have EXACTLY the same problem…..I chose a color in the stone one oh the lighter shades…..mistake. I am now painting it the color of the grout YES…..frame it’s a grey beige. Make sure you match the grout perfectly. I then went to etsy and found some hanging house ornaments in burnt or ricotta orange and made an arrangement on then on stone side to brighten eye away from the stone. It looks good

  5. Carol says:

    Your house is so cute!! I agree with Gavin to paint the house dark grey. Do not paint the rock! Use Gavin’s idea of the window box. This will downplay the rock and make it more of an interesting feature. If you think the house would look “lopsided” colorwise, then paint the garage doors the same color as the rock. This will ground the house on both sides. Put trim on the garage doors. Definitely incorporate butter yellow and white. This combo is timeless. I’m thinking bright grass green for the front door. I don’t know why, it just sounds friendly and bright for a not so sunny climate. FYI, paint choices are sooooo hard when you do it outside. Take your time and go with what you love.

  6. Julia Lindsay says:

    Sweet house. The rock wall would be set off beautifully with a medium dark gray, white and black on all the window trim, and a rich burgundy front door. Make sure the colors have a blue undertone base. Enjoy painting.

  7. Christal Anderson says:

    Did you ever decide? Please update here with your choice if so. If not, having looked at your flicker page, I vote for the colors of the coffee mugs. The blue/teal for the house, add the green or rusty orange/brown as the pops for either trellis or window boxes, and use the 3rd color for seasonal accent items.

  8. Christa says:

    I did, actually, finally painting in Summer 2013, and have always meant to take a photo to post here, but of course have wanted to get the landscaping tidied, window boxes made, etc etc, and we had another baby, so of course none of it’s done and proper after photos haven’t happened! But, I’m super thrilled with our colour scheme and will tell you we went with Benjamin Moore Yorktowne Green for the house, Navajo Red for the door, and Navajo White for the trim. Here it is on another colour viewer pic on my Flickr. Doesn’t quite do it justice, of course 🙂 https://www.flickr.com/photos/christaface/9731020877/in/photolist-qB6x4Z-fPU2u2-fzm3Vq-9Vt1y7-9VoncJ-9VinsZ-4XUp98-4vUvqV-4vUw8n-4vYDfu-4vYDkw-4vUvxc-4vUvMa-4vUvFT-4vUvC4-4sYotz-4sYodP-4t3rK1

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