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You are NOT going to want to miss this one!!!
This year, we finally… finally… FINALLY… finished painting the house. I say finished rather than just painted the house because as many of you long-time readers know, I already tried painting the house once before. I got a family friend to do the spray work (which was… ok… a bit messy and got on the windows and stuff, but I was glad to have it done) and then I was supposed to do all of the trim. Which became a back-burner project as soon as all of the areas on the front of the house could be reached. I worked on it off and on between other projects, grad school, changing to work on the UDH full-time, etc. convinced I could tackle it myself. But it was a LOT of trim!
As a result, it left a LOT of the house without properly painted contrast trim for years. And then it just sort of… stayed that way. And I had to admit to myself that despite the way I seem to tackle other projects just fine (sometimes taking a long time when they are huge or relatively dull, but not a decade long), this one just wasn’t getting done. It was never a priority, never something I could muster the energy to do. Eventually, I started putting money aside to hire a pro, which led to even more procrastination.
Asking for help is hard. I think that some of you DIYers may relate to this because this wasn’t just about getting a project done. It was also about feeling capable of doing it myself — knowing that with the time and motivation, I wasn’t incapable of getting it finished. I found myself thinking, “Paint is kicking my ass… really, Sarah???” I also didn’t want to spend the money on something I knew I could do myself. But it has been long past time to make it happen, and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is take something off our plate, even if that nagging voice is telling us to DIY. If anything, perhaps motherhood tipped the scales for me being willing to call in reinforcements.
Once I admitted it to myself and started saving up, things sort of shifted mentally. I was able to start thinking of the additional possibilities of what the house could look like, free of the burden of being responsible for repainting. I started brainstorming. I found lots of different color possibilities, rethought the accents of the front porch entirely, mocked up new landscaping, and so on. The floodgates opened and I became inspired again. Perhaps that was another part of it — I had made a decision a long time ago to lighten the original color of the house only slightly as I’d found that easiest for the sake of DIY. But after all this time, the house would have to be pressure washed, repaired, caulked, and repainted anyway… so why not try on a few new looks if I’m spending all that money on paint and labor?
So, I started testing new colors. First in Photoshop, and then in reality. I thought I’d settled on a color that would work with the warm brown roof: a nice, neutral gray. The more I tested colors, the more I realized that the “gray” color I needed was actually a cool brown to work with the roof. And sure, I could also paint the roof, but I’d been reading up on it and was concerned about how it would perform on a house that gets the kind of sun we do here in the south. I got a few quotes and after a recommendation from my neighbor, selected the painter we would have to do the prep work, repairs, and paint.
For the trim, I wanted to stick with the same color I’d chosen before. It was a warm white, but when paired with other warm colors outdoors, it appeared crisp in the sun. I knew the painter would be choosing Sherwin-Williams as the brand, so I found a close-enough color match in their paint family to make things easy. Choosing the house color was a little harder, as I went back and forth between a darker gray and a lighter one. Would we be happy if we went dark? Our neighbor on the other side of use was also dark gray (with red trim… not my favorite look). Would they be too similar or would the trim make it distinctive enough? I kept waffling, sure that I’d chosen then color, and then overthink it again. Until my gut spoke up.
Have you ever tried to decide on something for so long that it becomes impossible? If that ever happens, consider that perhaps the options you’re trying to choose from aren’t what you really want at all. It happened to me. Because on a whim, I painted the trim color on the front of the house where the siding color would go, and stepped back… and that was it. I did a quick search on my favorite paint color app to see if the LRV (explained below) was in the right range, and told the painter to just go with it. Without testing any other samples of similar colors, I just pulled the trigger. The whole house was painted the same color and the same flat sheen (the painter wasn’t sure about this at first because you normally paint a higher sheen on the trim, but I wanted to see how it looked before we did that… I was right!). And it was PERFECT. Are you ready to see it?
Sherwin-Williams Shoji White Exterior (Before and After)
Here is the before…
And here is the AFTER!!!!!! I love it! I LOVE IT!
Again, the before…
And the after!
Why LRV matters for white exteriors
I figured I may get a question or two specifically about this, but LRV sands for light reflection value and is a measurement of the amount of light reflected back when looking at the color. If you’ve ever been in a space with light walls and big windows, the light will bounce all around the room, reflecting the light coming in from outside. You might think that all white colors are relatively equal in this measurement, but they actually differ quite a bit! The more the light reflects, the brighter a paint color appears to be. Which, for a house’s exterior, can be too much of a good thing; something higher than an LRV rating of 85, and you’d need sunglasses to look at your house when the sun hits. Doing a little research, I found out that between 73 and 85 is a good LRV range for white exteriors. That’s why, when I looked up the trim color (Sherwin-Williams Shoji White) and saw it has an LRV of 74, I knew it would be a good fit for the house all over and went with my gut.
A good reminder about decision-making procrastination… there’s often a reason!
I still can’t believe after all these years, my house looks GOOD now. I’d gotten so used to having a brown, unevenly-painted house that I’d just sort of formed the habit of never really looking at it when I backed out of my driveway. I subconsciously avoided it! I’m still tripping over my eyeballs every time I round the corner of my street and see my house now.
For so many years, I couldn’t make a decision. Even when I thought I’d decided on a color, I kept changing my mind about this shade or that one. And then when inspiration struck, I was so fast to pull the trigger that I KNEW it was the right call. Zero regrets. Lesson learned: if you’re struggling with a design decision, perhaps the answer simply hasn’t presented itself yet. When the right answer comes along, it will be crystal clear.
A word about the house texture
One thing of note about my house and that of my neighbors: many of us still have the original rough cedar siding the houses were built with. In fact, it’s one of the things my painter recommended I keep as long as I could because, after almost forty years, the siding is still in good enough shape that only a few minor repairs were needed. Many of the pieces I was sure would need replacing were in fact solid, just rough-looking. The reason I’m mentioning it in this post is because I mentioned on Instagram as the paint got its second coat, and at least one person was glad to have seen it for their own house painting process. The rough texture adds a lot of shadows to the house, making some parts of the paint (particularly on the chimney) look uneven, when in fact it was fully coated. It only impacts certain angles and certain times of day.
We tried sanding a test spot and a special primer, but the effect was the same for us, so it wasn’t worth getting the painter to do anything else to it. However, the Instagram follower that reached out found success with sanding hers, and the paint in fact appears brighter. So, I wanted to offer that as a suggestion in case someone finds this post later on and is looking for advice about their cedar siding. It’s one of those things where we noticed it immediately because we were looking for it, but after a few weeks of being in awe of my new house color (walking past it daily on our walks with E), I don’t care at all and it’s not really a thing I feel draws attention. The reader who mentioned they sanded theirs said they worked on it for many days before they got professional painters to do the paint itself. So, just putting it out there! I am officially unbothered by it.
And the exterior maker isn’t over yet! The house paint was the biggest thing to change before we could start making other improvements (I didn’t want new plants to get trampled by ladders or risk having overspray on places we wanted to add new trim). Later this summer, we’re tackling the front porch, which as you can see, I’ve already started demo on.
And the garage door will be getting a makeover too (if you’ve been watching on Instagram, you have already seen some of this and the reveal is coming in less than two weeks!) I’m not even sure we can call this the end of Phase One (still a little more demo left), but the next round of projects will be all about adding accents to the front and I can’t wait! I hope you’ll join me this summer as I’ve already scheduled out the next few projects: the porch ceiling, porch columns, and garage door makeovers are the next big exterior improvements, and the gardens have been getting updates as well!
P.S. You may have noticed my hair in one of the photos is white blonde! It was a rather unfortunate accident, actually. The day my house got painted, I tried to find a new local hairstylist that would be closer to home (so I didn’t have to go across town to get my hair done, the goal of taking less time overall… which I’d been waiting to do for over a year since the whole “panini” started and before I even found out about my pregnancy!). To my shock, the stylist was 1) 45 minutes late for my appointment and 2) suuuuuper slow to cut and apply (it was like watching someone work in slow motion!). After being in the chair for more than six hours, I had to call it quits and go home with a totally different hair color. Despite the setback and getting back after dark, I was still in awe at the color change on the house (so I had to wait until the next day to see the full paint job!):
All in all, I’d much rather be unhappy with my hair than be unhappy with the house paint color (mainly because I can change the hair color for a lot cheaper!). I’m still experimenting with the final hair color, but I’m hoping it’s going to be a dark teal soon! You’ll see another post with my blonde look as part of a new reveal, but it didn’t actually stay long. K loved it.