A Yellow House

What is it about a yellow house which makes it a universal favorite? It has to be the symbolism involved which is undeniable. Yellow = sun = happiness!

We are all creatures of the sun. It provides us with warmth, light, energy, and food...it is our friend. We deeply associate all good things with the sun, and as such, the color yellow is a happy one. 

Here's the Real Truth about
a Yellow House

Yellow is a diva. She stands alone at the top of the peak. Her brilliance radiates above all other colors. She is primary, she is complete as created...there are no other colors you can mix to make a yellow. She also cannot be told what to do because if you treat her like other colors. she will surprise you with her shenanigans.

You can't add more than just a bit of color to yellow because then it will cease to be yellow! This is because yellow is inherently light and adding colors together naturally makes them darker and darker. In light, the effect is the opposite but in pigments, adding anything other than white is going to make your color darker.

Add blue to yellow and you get green, add red and you get orange, add violet and you get brown, add black and you get olive green (surprise!)

The reality being is that there are very few things you can do to yellow to temper its naturally powerful appearance.. Case in point, these yellow house homeowners who chose to disobey the rules of working with yellow.

yellow_farmhouse

This demure little farmhouse is overwhelmed by this shocking yellow treatment. If you could see the neighboring houses, you'd recognize just how out of place this is...it's way too much.

Try to ignore the neglect and overall lack of curb appeal of this once lovely antique colonial home. In fact, it wont be hard to do that because the only thing you register is the very acidic yellow paint job. Screaming yellow zonkers!

antique_yellow_colonial

Paint Color 911

Out of all the "paint emergencies" I am called upon to fix, it's usually a yellow disaster. Tied for second place is a beige or a gray...but by far, 98% of the problems are with some sort of yellow. Why is this?

It has to do with several factors, one of them being that yellow is a primary color and as such, is pure...it's powerful even though it's light. 

But the biggest surprise my color clients encounter is the issue of scale. Scale is somewhat of an abstract notion but basically, scale is defined as the proportional relationship of one object to another.

Scale isn't just about design:

  • The reason ants are tiny is because they have an exoskeleton. If they were big, the weight of the exoskeleton would crush them
  • Cake recipes are usually not scalable past a certain point. You couldn't take a recipe for an 8" layer cake and scale it up for a large wedding cake, it would collapse upon itself.
  • Lastly, yellow becomes very powerful when applied to a large field like the side of a house. Its brilliance seems to grow exponentially with the size of the surface you are covering


That cute, sunny, and cheery yellow paint chip from the store sample rack turns out to be a monster with fangs. There is an expression which says, "appearances can be deceiving"...it is very true for any sort of yellow.

Quite a few years back, I consulted with a client who wanted a yellow house. It was a contemporary colonial and had two stories. It also rambled on a bit with extensions and wings...in short, a good sized house.

I had a disagreement with the painter who wanted me to change my mind about the color I had specified. He came into the store to purchase the paint and said to me, "darlin', that's not yellow". I said to him that I was absolutely sure that it was and that my client had signed off on it.

I don't mind telling you that I got a little nervous about that because after all, a house color error is a big thing. I stood my ground and told the client about our encounter. Luckily she trusted me and my expertise and away we went onto the paint job.

But I knew something that the painter didn't know. I knew that the color which looked like a warm wheat-ish, almost beige tone would morph into a soft yellow when scaled up. I had the basis of color theory knowledge behind me along with the practical experience to understand how this color would perform on that house, and that particular setting.

How then do we get to a yellow which is workable and won't offend the neighbors?

Going lighter by adding white alone is not the answer because you will end up with a lighter version of the same powerful yellow. Yellow doesn't have much room to move between what it is and white. So the impact of any white added won't be enough to mellow it.

You would have to temper it with another color or two or three. Look for lighter tints but also colors which may look like wheat or warm beige tones, ivories, and creams. The magic comes also with the trim you choose.

No color stands alone, all color is relative. That means that the color adjacent to your body color will change it by what trim or accents you use to define it. For instance...

any white trim paint which is bright white or a cooler white will wind up looking gray next to any yellow...examples are Ben Moore White or Decorator's White...they both have a cool undertone which winds up getting ashy next to a yellow

yellow_ochre_colonial

The house above is a beautiful example of how to handle a yellow body color. It is successful because the body choice is a good one, but also that the shutters, trim, and front door support it well. The body color is close to being a yellow ochre (a kind of earth pigment), trim is a very creamy off-white. If you saw the trim in isolation, you would say it is definitely not white but applied against the body color, reads authentically like a white. The shutters are a green, not too dark, with a good deal of yellow in the mix. The front door is red but muted at the same level as the shutters. It is masterfully done.

Front Door Color Ebook

My newly revised ebook for getting you your perfect front door color is here!

It's chock full of insights from the pros who will show you just how easy it is to get a fabulous front door entry. 

Benjamin Moore Classic Fan-this is my "go-to"

Benjamin Moore Off-Whites Fan-Indispensable

Pro Color Wheel

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