rom contemporary high-rises to Victorian townhouses and Baroque-inspired public buildings, the architectural landscape of the UK is as varied as it is impressive. The external appearance of individual structures plays a vital role in defining the look and feel of a local area, and whether a new-build or refurbishment project, choosing an appropriate colour scheme is essential. So what exactly should specifiers consider?
When choosing a colour palette for an exterior project, it’s important to understand how the building will fit in with the existing surroundings. Whether the design should contrast or complement will depend greatly on the form and function of the scheme.
For example, a building located in a rural area should take inspiration from its natural surroundings and incorporate colours that enhance rather than compete with the local environment. Similarly, many urban areas will have an existing design theme and planning constraints that help to create a sense of community and identity, and the appearance of the neighbouring buildings should be taken into account when choosing a colour scheme.
As well as meeting aesthetic requirements, it’s important that the specified exterior paint product also offers the appropriate levels of protection; and again, this is very much dependent on the local context of a scheme. Properties in coastal or exposed rural areas will require a product that has been specifically developed to protect against weathering and UV damage to prevent colourful facades fading and requiring repeated redecoration. Similarly, buildings located within a high traffic urban footprint will be exposed to greater levels of pollution from both traffic and industry, and this can cause facades to appear dirty quickly. The use of an anti-carbonation coating would, therefore, be recommended.
new-build schemes can offer greater design flexibility, the exterior decoration of period properties is often influenced by the need to conserve and complement a specific historical style. We are fortunate here in the UK that many of our towns and cities showcase an attractive mix of architectural designs from Medieval and Tudor properties right through to the Art Deco period and the influence of Post-War Modernism. Choosing a colour scheme appropriate to a specific style can be a challenge but fortunately through the detailed analysis of original paint samples, many manufacturers – such as Crown Paints – have been able to devise a comprehensive colour palette for period properties, allowing modern redecoration programmes to restore traditional buildings to their former glory.
Lessons in light
Perhaps the biggest challenge of exterior decoration projects is understanding how natural light affects our perception of colour and form. In the UK, the light that we receive is classed as cool northern light and, as such, bright colours tend to work best as a feature for doors and windows rather than main elevations. As natural light is more powerful than artificial light, colours on exterior surfaces also tend to appear lighter than they would in an interior setting, so it’s always worth going one or two shades darker to counteract this. It’s also important to remember that textured walls won’t reflect light as much as smooth surfaces so colours will appear darker as a result.
The careful consideration of colour shades is also an important factor in influencing a building’s sense of scale. For example, darker shades connote heaviness and lighter shades weightlessness, so choosing a lighter colour for a large structure such as a bridge can help it appear less oppressive. Similarly, the use of darker tones at the bottom of the facade can help ‘anchor’ the structure, with the use of lighter colours at the top helping it to blend in better with the skyline.
In more built-up areas, the use of colour can reduce the mass of a large structure and also add interest, with high-gloss finishes also helping to accentuate features by creating reflections.
Attention to detail at both the specification and application stages is an essential part of creating colour schemes that not only offer an attractive and appropriate solution but also make a positive contribution to the long-term maintenance of a building.
Here, collaboration between specifiers and paint manufacturers can be extremely beneficial, and there are many resources available to help. Working with a colour advisory team can help reduce the uncertainty of colour selection and choosing a range of products from the one supplier, such as masonry paint and coatings for exterior wood and metal, can streamline the specification process further and offer even better value. Early engagement with manufacturers can also provide specifiers with access to greater support on site, either by obtaining samples so that all colour options can be viewed in context or receiving a full survey of climatic, atmospheric and environmental conditions to ensure the most appropriate specification of products.
The use of colour on exterior facades can create a lasting impression, making a positive impact on both the users of the individual building and the local community as a whole. Whether inspired by existing architectural heritage or presented with an opportunity to make a unique design statement, colour is a powerful tool that, when used correctly and with confidence, can help specifiers and designers protect and enhance buildings and create a lasting legacy for future generations.