Thomas J. Story

Serious color mavens share their tips on how to develop a perfect indoor-outdoor palette for your home

Samantha Schoech,  – March 26, 2008

Listen to Janie Lowe and Virginia Young as they passionately debate hue, value, and tone, and it’s clear that they were destined to start a paint business. Yolo Colorhouse, their three-year-old, fast-growing, environmentally responsible nontoxic paint company, is known for organically inspired palettes that reflect their love of the outdoors.

“We were always very focused on the West,” Young says, describing how she and Lowe met in New York nearly 18 years ago and decided to make the move. “We had no jobs – we were going for quality of life.”

The 1888 Portland farmhouse they’ve shared for the past 10 years reflects that same willingness to go bold. While the interior palette is all about mood, exuding comfort and intimacy, the exterior hues make the home’s architectural features pop.

Not that Lowe and Young consider themselves done with the process of transformation. “Paint is the quickest and cheapest way to change the design of your house,” Young says. “Our home is always evolving – that’s what makes it exciting.”

COLOR INDOORS: Create a cocoon

“When choosing a palette, the first thing to think about is the feeling you want to convey,” Lowe says. The saturated reds, oranges, and yellows in their home are intended to welcome. The dining room walls inspire lively, rowdy meals with good conversation. The golden entryway invites people into the house. “It’s like walking in and getting a big, warm hug from the space,” Lowe says.

INFO: Dining room wall color is similar to Clay .03, trim is Leaf .02, and ceiling is Clay .01 and .03 from Yolo Colorhouse. Cherner chairs in walnut ($659 without arms; $999 with arms) from Design Within Reach; 800/944-2233. Manzanita candle chandelier ($196) from Capers, Seattle (206/932-0371).

COLOR OUTDOORS: Consider the setting

An exterior palette should play off a home’s surroundings and architectural details. “The general rule is three colors: body, trim, and an accent,” Lowe says. “But Victorians can have many more, and houses with simple, clean lines might have just two.” Lowe and Young’s Victorian has four: The gray on the upper body calls out the wave details on the peak of the roof, while the red looks crisp against the green landscaping. “We wanted the house to stand out a little,” Young explains.


Janie Lowe and Virginia Young developed Yolo Colorhouse’s spectrum of hues to reflect those found in nature, from flower petals to grain.

What do you have against white? Nothing! It has its place for modern or minimalist spaces, but it’s a little stark and sterile. Color makes you feel more comfortable.

What’s the first step in deciding on a new color for a room? Look at three things: the room’s dimensions, the light coming in through the windows, and how you want the space to feel. The lighter the color on the walls, the more it takes on reflected color from outside. To offset this effect, go darker. Neutral colors – tans, browns, and grays – tend to stay truer.

What’s your advice for painting an exterior? Always go darker and browner than what you think you want, because full sunlight blows out color. Paint a 3- by 3-foot square directly on each side of your house to get a sense of how it will look on your building material and how it works with different light. Aside from choosing low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, any good eco tips? Be careful about the amount of paint you buy so you aren’t wasting. Never pour it down the drain – it will end up in the water, and even zero-VOC paint has latex. For proper disposal techniques, contact your local garbage-collection service or hardware store.

INFO  Yolo Colorhouse; 877/493-8275.

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