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From neutral to notable: elevate a home exterior by painting it black

06 March 2023

Black is increasingly being used as a prominent colour choice for home exteriors, adding a bold and striking aesthetic that creates a sense of luxury and drama. With its contrasting tones, it enhances the natural beauty of surrounding foliage and makes any house stand out from others in the street.

Similar to white and grey, black is a neutral colour. It contrasts well with other materials, hues and textures, requiring very little effort to dress it up. It is a colour that works with most architectural styles and landscapes, in particular modern renovations or builds. Black painted façades serve as a backdrop for showcasing a home’s architectural features, the lines and angles are crisper, and architectural details more visible.

Television personality and style afficionado, Neale Whitaker’s recent guest house build on the south-coast of New South Wales, perfectly showcases how stunning a black façade can be.

Neale says: “We knew black was the colour for our barn-style guest house from the beginning. Black buildings tend to disappear into the greater landscape, yet with our own farmhouse being white, we loved the idea of a contrast. The black is quite sensorial and depending on the day it throws incredible light and shadows that creates interest.”

Neale chose Stria Cladding by James Hardie for the exterior of the guest house. Being a fibre cement product, Stria Cladding is durable and adheres to Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) requirements which is essential with the property being surrounded by bushland. Neale was looking to achieve a specific aesthetic in the choice of cladding, the shiplap panels of Stria Cladding provide the horizontal lines expected of a barn-style build. Stria Cladding panels come primed, are able to withstand harsh weather conditions and are resistant to warping even when painted in dark colours.

“There is no such thing as a uniform black colour. There are many shades of black and each has subtle nuances that will influence the end result. Finding the right black shade for a home’s exterior cladding is all about considering the undertones and light,” advises Katherine Champion, colour consultant for Wattyl.

Katherine suggests becoming familiar with the undertones in the paint colour being considered and getting comfortable with identifying them will help a homeowner make the right choice for their home. It’s easy to identify a paint colour’s mass tone as it’s the first colour typically seen when looking at a paint swatch, yet the undertone is the underlying or hint of colour that peeks through and can vary from red, brown, blue, purple and green.

With black being neutral, it can work with nearly all building types. Cooler hues of black work best on homes in environments surrounded by natural bush landscapes, while saturated black is better suited to modern architecture in urban settings.

“Considering the colour palette surrounding a black façade is a key step in achieving the right look for your home,” says Neale, “Knowing that black can be a harsh colour on its own, we introduced a mix of warmer browns and greens to the palette through the use of brick, timber and foliage, to soften the look of our guest house.”

Incorporated into the exterior landscape design of Neale’s property is a mix of raw materials including herringbone laid worn brick pavers in a warm brown tone, olive trees in planters that contrast well against the Stria Cladding painted in Colorbond steel Nightsky.

"As an alternative to black, dark greys and charcoals suit many different styles from Hamptons through to contemporary, they give grounding and offer tonal depth and contrast, a softer look and feel. They also provide the perfect backdrop for greenery," says Neale.

Landing on the right colour within the black and grey spectrum requires patience and a good deal of testing. It’s important to consider all the fixed materials around the exterior cladding to be painted, as well as the surrounding landscape and lighting and light can make all the difference.

Finding the perfect paint finish is a key step for homeowners undertaking an exterior renovation or new build. James Hardie recommends using low sheen paints on exteriors as they are the most durable finish and offer the best coverage for large surface areas. Low sheen is the ideal option for cladding or render walls due to the low-reflective finish which hides imperfections and is easy to clean.

“We love the clean lines and pared-back aesthetic of the Stria Cladding, and how Wattyl Solagard’s low sheen black makes it the perfect backdrop for our outdoor living areas,” says Neale.

Black can be used to highlight other colours making them appear more luminous in comparison. It can be used to define specific areas of a home as it can recede or create voids and in contrast create accents, the right finish can also be used to emphasise texture, an ideal pairing for the smooth natural sand texture of Hardie exterior cladding products.

Black is a bold colour, however for homeowners looking to make a big impact and accentuate the best features of their home, a black exterior might be a design choice to strongly consider.

BUILD is the complete, trusted and independent online authority on building and renovation for Australians. BUILD aims to answer all of your questions about building and renovation – even those you didn’t know you should ask!

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