Color Makes Its Mark on Modern House Exteriors

Contemporary architecture and its architects have been seen as being fearful of color. An individual can trace the dearth of color to the famous 1932 International Style exhibition and book from the Museum of Modern Art; buildings with whitewashed walls were preferred over the others, along with the black and white photographs meant that any color that did exist wasn’t expressed.

Le Corbusier’s oft-quoted stating that “architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light,” was likewise translated to mean that white forms and airplanes were best suited to the sun’s light and shadows. Richard Meier is 1 architect obviously affected by Le Corbusier’s purist stage (white buildings such as Villa Savoye), and he said in his acceptance speech for its 1984 Pritzker Prize which “the whiteness of white isn’t just white; it’s practically always changed by light and that which is shifting.”

But the white structures are only 1 strand of contemporary architecture; even Villa Savoye has green outside walls on the ground floor. Architects like Luis Barragán along with the Eameses went so far as to saturate their own buildings color to impact the occupants’ moods. Another strand of contemporary architecture — in which white light is divided into its rainbow of colors — has found influence these decades later, as cladding materials (metals, fiber cement, resins) are providing architects a huge array of colors to choose from beyond the natural colors of brick, stone and other materials. This ideabook takes a trip through the ROYGBIV rainbow, watching how color might enliven the exteriors of modern homes. An identical ideabook on contemporary interiors will follow.

A.GRUPPO Architects – Dallas

If one color stands out the most amongst grass and trees, it’s red. This three-bedroom addition to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Texas is covered in cement board panels from Ferrari red.

Urban Improvement Company

The preceding home stands out from the landscape; this one does something similar on its block from St. Louis, through variations in crimson.

Princeton Architectural Press

Color helps give a contemporary house its own identity among other contemporary homes, such as these green-built homes in Syracuse, New York.

Cablik Enterprises

The orange outside of the overlook outside Atlanta is just another illustration of standing out among the trees. With its balance of indoor (left) and outside (right) space, the orange overlook frames the green trees all around.

Kevin Daly Architects

Los Angeles is definitely 1 locale that is more receptive to color than many. Stucco gives a blank canvas for applying color, as this sculptural orange home reveals.

Intexure Architects

Shade doesn’t have to cover each surface. This home in Houston is different shades of gray, upon which an orange band was inserted over the garage; the little area creates a large impact.

Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects

Selective color, and its connection to a background color, has a large influence in this Seattle home. Window frames, spandrel panels and doors have been painted orange against gray stucco.

MGS Architecture

Color can be used to create identity within one building, like this two-family building in Los Angeles with one unit in light crimson and one in orange. Be aware that the corrugated metal is oriented vertically on the left and vertically on the right for additional distinction.

GMK Architecture Inc

The earthy tones of this wood and stone in this home in Wisconsin are heightened from the dark yellow walls on both sides of the entrance.

Mohler + Ghillino Architects

This renovated house in Seattle has layers of stone, yellow plywood panels and beige siding. The plywood extends inside to give the house some heat.

OKB Architecture

We started this ideabook with reddish and, unsurprisingly, with green the result differs. This addition appears to rise from the ground (not set itself apart from it), moving from dark green in the base to light green over.

Bushman Dreyfus Architects

This “abstracted farmhouse” outside Washington, D.C., gains a number of its abstraction in the stucco outside and its pastel green color. The home manages to stand out in the landscape with no tactic of comparison.

Robert Nebolon Architects

And what might be more appropriate for the color of a houseboat than blue?


Color can be used to heighten the feeling of thickness, as darker colors recede. As an instance in point, the green front enriches the push of the house in San Diego toward the sidewalk, while the purple recedes.

Castanes Architects PS

But why pay for a couple of colors? As Charles and Ray Eames, Luis Barragán, Gerrit Rietveld and others have revealed, selective use of color can do a lot. This ocean escape in the Pacific Northwest features splashes of yellow, blue and red against a mostly gray exterior. The gray makes the other colors appear much more powerful, turning the escape into a three-dimensional abstract painting.

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