From Spotlight: When Your House Needs a Refresh…Paint!

9 Ways to Reboot Your Curb Appeal With Paint Colors

Paint your concrete porch, front door, and more for uber good looks from the street.

Colorfully painted front porch
Image: Laura Steffan

When it's time to amp up your curb appeal, it's easy to reach for your landscaper's business card while overlooking the most affordable design remedy on the planet: the humble bucket of paint.

A simple splash of color can transform your home's exterior and reboot your front yard, so rev up your imagination and try out one (or 9!) of these house color ideas:

#1 Turn Your Front Door Into a Work of Art

A gray stucco home with a pink and white stencil front door

Here's a front door painted by L.A. artist Allison Cosmos, giving the focal point of this entryway a delightful touch of whimsy. While not everyone has the careful hand (and creative mind) of an artist, you can buy stencils from various online outlets, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, for a similar effect.

And Frank isn't the only design genius to appreciate the stencil look. "I could see Martha Stewart doing something like this," says Julie O'Brien, director of trade services for Urban Country Designs in Bethesda, Md. "The door will definitely stand out from the street."

#2 Give Your Porch Swing a Pop of Color

So you're looking for a way to make your front facade pop. Could the key could be your humble porch swing? It's an unexpected spot to find a bold color, and can freshen up the look of your whole house with minimal effort.

Bright yellow porch swing on a brick front porch

"This yellow swing is a charmer," says Annie Elliott, the boss of Bossy Color in Washington, D.C. The key, she says, is preparation. Take the time to sand the piece well and apply the appropriate primer. Elliott recommends Farrow & Ball's outdoor paints and primer saying, "They last forever when applied correctly."

#3 Create the Illusion of a Carpet on Your Steps

Gray and black painted concrete stairs

Is that a carpet running up a flight of exterior steps? Why no, it's just painted to look that way using the clever application of concrete paint. "I think this is adorable," says O'Brien. "It makes the whole first impression more interesting by drawing your eye upwards towards the house."

Again, preparation is key to pulling off these color ideas for your house. Power-wash the steps and sand off any flaking paint before applying the concrete paint to ensure your work is long lasting. When using painter's tape to create stripes, it's best to remove it while the paint is still wet for the cleanest lines. And don't let the tape sit too long in the sun or you'll have gummy stripes left behind. Ick.

#4 Paint Your Porch Light

Green house siding with old silver porch light
Green house siding with new copper painted porch light

Image: Susan Penning

The before image shows a porch light in distress. The after depicts a work of crafty art rendered in copper. Or copper paint, at least. Using metallic paint to restore luster to an old porch light is a terrific idea for enhancing curb appeal. "I love how this homeowner used a coppery color, which looks terrific against the teal clapboard," says Elliott.

The vibrant, metallic fixture brightens up the entire entry, even when the light is off. For a project like this, Elliott recommends Modern Masters, a high-end brand that specializes in quality metallic paint.

#5 Jazz Up Your House Number

Black house numbers on a piece of yellow painted wood
Image: Josh Vick

Don't limit your house numbers to merely displaying your home's address; let them tell passersby a bit about who lives there. This creative homeowner used fun accent colors and creatively arranged wood to show some personality through an otherwise perfunctory part of a home's exterior.

The ways to inject color into your house numbers may be as numerable as the addresses in your city, but key to making the project work is proper placement. "With such a deep porch, this homeowner came up with a creative way to bring the house number front and center," says Elliott. Be sure to pick a spot for your colorful house numbers that serves their greater purpose: getting the pizza guy to your front door with minimal confusion.

If you have your house numbers on your mailbox -- or even if you don't -- consider painting the place where you get your "Bed, Bath & Beyond" coupons. Painting utilitarian objects that are seen and touched every day can change the way you feel about your home. Besides the mailbox, think about your doorknobs, handles, and hand railings.

#6 Stencil Your Concrete Porch Floor

Gray and white stenciled front porch with welcome mat

Wow, check out that chic new tile painted  on the porch floor. Your neighbors will never believe it's just paint until they step on it themselves. The homeowner who created this floor blogs as "Becky." Becky first painted the porch floor gray and then used stencils to paint the white pattern. She used painter's tape and a tape measure to keep the stencils straight and properly aligned. 

"This clean, geometric pattern looks like tile, and limiting the palette to two colors ensures that the floor doesn't appear too busy," says Elliott.

#7 Decorate Your Shutters

A white house with red painted shutters with rosemaling

Shutters can be functional or decorative. And if they're going to be decorative, why not make them seriously charming? These shutters feature Norwegian rosemaling, a decorative folk art. Fancy!

While uber-original shutters may not impress the Joneses in every middle-American subdivision, they can be the envy of the right neighborhood. If you live in a whimsical, colorful community, they could really turn the heads.

If your taste in shutter art runs more conservative, consider this bit of wisdom from Elliott: "A fresh coat of paint on faded shutters can be just the thing to brighten up the entire exterior of a house. I love deep blues and greens for shutters; they're timeless and go with almost any material including wood, brick, and stone."

#8 Go Bold With Accent Colors

Blue painted house with bright orange trim

If you have a "full light" exterior door, your door is mostly glass (now you know!). The fun thing about these doors is that the thin frame around the glass creates an opportunity to add a bold accent color without overpowering the whole front of the house. Cool, right? 

"It adds a little punch to the space," O'Brien says. Do the same thing with your window frames by adding thin lines of color in strategic locations of space, and you'll have a porch that says, "Didn't see that coming, did you?"

#9 Paint Your Garage Door

For many homeowners, it's not the actual front door that welcomes them home every day — it's the roaring, often drab-looking garage door. Why not put as much thought into where you park your ride as you do into where you welcome guests?

White house with bright red garage door

If your pad is mostly monochromatic like this one, include your garage doors among the elements that work together to make a bright accent color really pop — even if you're not going all the way to the fire engine-red end of the color spectrum. "I suggest painting garage doors the trim color of the house or even staining them," says Elliott. With a little colorful coordination, you can create a look that warmly welcomes you, regardless of whether you're stepping or driving through the threshold. 

Related: Cool Ideas for Colorful and Fun House Numbers

Scott Sowers headshot
Scott Sowers

Scott Sowers is a freelance writer and independent producer based in Washington, D.C. He writes and creates content about architecture, design, real estate, energy, technology, and the automotive industry. His work appears in "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," and "Home & Design Magazine."