Beauty on the Outside: Roof Shingles and Other Exterior Home Accessories!

I often get asked this ‘simple’ question – “What color shingles should we use?” Sometimes, it’s actually a simple answer, but sometimes more details need consideration to enhance the overall aesthetic.


When it Comes to Your Home, Exterior Beauty Matters!

What color should be the new roof shingles of my house? asked a good friend of mine last weekend. To answer this, always look at the rest of the house first. Turn the focus from large to small elements of an exterior – the color of the brick, the color of the siding, then to the garage and entrance doors. Then consider the smaller elements: shutters, window color, trim and any decorative elements. And don’t forget the gutters and downspouts! They might seem insignificant at first, but the gutters are your frame or the dividing line between surfaces, and downspouts can enhance the pattern on the façade. It all matters!

Performance, proper installation and warranty details are extremely important considerations when selecting a roof material. There are abundant options on the market and good research and evaluation is a worthy effort. Defining the color of the roof is also a significant decision because this is a long term material and not easy or economical to replace.

If you are planning to just replace the roof, and leave the rest of your home the same, the task is slightly easier because you are working with defined parameters and the combinations and options are less.

In the current situation, my friend is planning to address all windows, siding of the entire home, all gutters and downspouts. The work would be spread into several years, but in order to achieve a cohesive final result, some key decisions have to be made upfront.


Professional Help or DIY for Color Selection?

How to begin? Of course, hiring a professional designer who will guide you through the process is always a good idea. The alternative approach – doing more research on your own – looking online for examples of home exteriors, driving around the neighborhood and noticing exterior combinations that are fitting for your home style, size and proportions. Also, there are several product manufacturers who offer a simple and quick online tool with a pre-selected library of home exteriors. There you can change the colors of some of the major elements and define an idea for tonality, contrast and maybe color scheme. These tools have strong limitations because the examples of homes you can view and modify might not exactly fit your own home. Choosing products for a historic home needs extra special attention; the process always includes in-depth research to determine the original color schemes and materials used.

Ask the question: When looking at my home, what are the sizable elements that stand out? Do you see a lot of the roof? Do you see more siding and the roof is just a hint of presence? Would I want to bring attention to the windows or blend them?

For a large project like my friend’s home,the sequence is another very important aspect. They asked me “What would you do if it was your house?” Let’s say the materials and the color concept are determined. I would approach this similar to a new home construction. Windows would be the first thing to be replaced along with the trim around them. This way, the windows will be properly flashed and sealed to the sheathing. Then comes the siding and any decorative accessories on the vertical plane. The soffits should be installed before the roof, fascia, gutters and downspouts are addressed. Understandably, the siding is already painted the selected colors, so the downspouts are applied over the finished wall. Shutters, window boxes and other elements could be added as a last step.


Examples of Successful Exterior Color Selections

Here are a few exterior color and texture vignettes with a brief explanation of each project:

The ‘Red Barn’ New Custom House

Custom new home in rural St Charles, Iowa designed and built by Silent Rivers of Des Moines is styled to look like a barn with a cupola Custom new home by Silent Rivers of Des Moines is a barn style home in rural St. Charles, Iowa with scenic views of trees, open land and pastures

We painted the exterior of this custom new home an active red barn color, white windows, and entrance doors and garage doors are enhanced with simple white trim. The roof is a subtle color to leave the focus on the barn breadboard. See all photos of this new custom home »


A Simple, But Charming, Garden Shed


This little shed was inspired by the colors of the main house. Notice how the walls and the vertical and horizontal trim pieces are painted the same color, thus only the shadow line between the elements speak for their presence. The columns and fascia of the roof are painted in soft crème, playing with the light grills of the clay colored door. More about how we approached this and other outdoor projects »


Sherman Hills Historic Home Renovation

exterior of Sherman Hill bungalow historic renovation and historic preservation effort by Silent Rivers in Des Moines, Iowa

Winner of National Association of Home Builders ‘Best of American Living’ Award and winner of 2014 Iowa Preservation Award

For this historic renovation the color palette was a significant part of the exterior scheme. The careful selection of multiple tones and nuances was important. We were working with several strong elements: the front porch with the ornate columns, the tall double-hung windows and the gable roofs. The windows, buildings’ corners and the front door are gently framed with a different colored trim. If you notice, in this example, the roof shingles are present but not dominating, and the eye is drawn to the accent color on the roof fascia and front porch. More about the historic renovation of this Sherman Hill bungalow »


Balancing New Outdoor Space with Existing Elements

Distinctive deck design with curved pergola and cable railing designed and built by Silent Rivers, Des Moines, Iowa golf course

This facade has several elements in almost equal presence. The stone cladding is on forward plane, but the cedar pergola balances the composition perfectly. The siding and roof of this home are subtle, thus playing with the neutrality of the window trim. Read more in What a View! A New Deck for Bigger & Better Gatherings »


This Zen Water Feature and Entryway Features a Roof of Rock!

A series of rings intersect for pathways in this front courtyard with sculpture and water feature in Johnston, Iowa by Silent Rivers

This example showcases a low slope build up gravel roof and linear lines of rest of the home. A standing person perceives just a small amount of the rock texture, but just enough to connect with the landscaping pebbles below. The colored concrete arches are very well harmonized with the tan brick and the horizontal siding above. A gentle rhythm is created by the vertical wood columns and then repeated by the organized stepping stones in the water feature. Read more in Photo Essay: Modern Zen Water Feature with Summer Foliage »


For more examples of how we weave together elements to create a beautiful aesthetic, check out our Whole House and Custom Homes projects in our Project Gallery.


Top 6 considerations for successful landscape & outdoor design

Top 6 considerations for successful landscape & outdoor design


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