06 March 2012

Exterior Color: Waking up the Neighborhood

Apartment building with color design by Lynne Rutter
Here is a color project from last year, a large building in San Francisco with condominiums and an office on the ground floor. Inside are lovely flats, all quite spacious and nicely finished.  The owners called me wanting the exterior of their building to look more like a nice residence, full of stylish people, like it is on the inside.
Before: Apartment block D
Before: the front door of despair.

Now look at the "before" picture. It looked more like a correctional facility than a nice place to live. Grey stucco and white vinyl windows and no personality whatsoever.  Could  you imagine coming home to this every day? 
The entrances were particularly  sad. You could not  see the addresses, the garage doors were unfinished metal and starting to rust. It was so indifferent as to be downright depressing.  
Because of the scale of the work to be done, the budget was of course an issue, so a lot of things I might suggest to embellish or personalize this facade we could not do here.   So, it all came down to color.  Talk about personal--- color can be so subjective, and people react emotionally to it.  Can you please everyone?  Of course not.  But if you go out of your way to avoid color you can end up with a desolate, if inoffensive, look.  When faced with a choice between "not for everyone"  and "not for anyone"   I choose color!   Can just color make this building look more like home?  Yes!

Entrance to posh homes

White vinyl windows are a curse for a colorist like me.  I think they really cheapen the look of a building and make it really hard to use deep or committed colors. They seem to be a standard in a lot of new construction so I have learned to deal with them.  In this case, with white as a mandatory part of the palette, I countered it by including some black, used on anything made of metal- railings, beams, etc. 
There is no question in my mind that the Homeowners Association putting work into the exterior of the building would not only improve the lives of the residents but improve the value of the building and the potential sale price of every condo inside it.

I was delighted to work with the HOA of this building because  everyone was so willing to try what looked like such a daring color. This took commitment, trust, and teamwork to accomplish.   After seeing the palette sampled on the building, one homeowner remarked "well this ought to wake up the neighborhood!"    The deep curry gold really glows in the sun and is full of life at night.  Accents of green/grey, sage, and mahogany brown call out the entrances which now have a welcoming quality to them. 

Color Consulting by Lynne Rutter 415-282-8820
Paint colors by Sherwin-Williams
Painting by Winning Colors

all photos in this post by Lynne Rutter
click on images to view larger


  1. What a transformation. The "deep, curry gold" sums up the bay area for me....warm and inviting. You were clever to use the sage accents. they really make it pop!

    1. Thanks, Theresa! it's a decidedly un-trendy paint color but I think it will hold its own for many years.

  2. Hi, Lynne - This is a really smashing transformation. I particularly like the sage indents, and I notice that they seem to pick up the color of the steps. I'm not sure I would have thought of the black accents, but they are the perfect choice! Sounds like you were working with an enlightened HOA.

  3. Is that all? Just another color? Where are the ornamental decorations? I thought this was a ornamentalist blog?

    1. "Because of the scale of the work to be done, the budget was of course an issue, so a lot of things I might suggest to embellish or personalize this facade we could not do here. So, it all came down to color. "

    2. Ok I understand. Sorry about the whining, I really love your blog, especially the ornaments.


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