Time to paint the trim, porch, door or parts of the field, or siding, of your brick mansion, and you need to narrow the choices. Check with your neighbors to see what flies on your block -- and read the local housing ordinances or preservation district guidelines to prevent a costly mistake and a boatload of ill-feeling. Consider your style -- are you in need of some cheerful curb appeal or is your demeanor more conservative? You have an entire palette of paints to choose from, but some colors will flatter your home more than others.
Brick and Soot
Red brick is made for shadowy trim. Shiny licorice-black front doors are sharp against the textured red, even if the brick color is more orange than true barn red. But black trim might be too dark overall, or just too predictable. Try charcoal for the same crisp effect without the color cliche. Any darker shade of gray -- gunmetal, pewter, charcoal, lead -- is urban-sophisticated and not too showy. On a tree-lined block of graceful brick homes, softer gray blends with the landscaping. Dove gray, a blue-gray or even pale gray around window frames, eaves and on the front door is more relaxed, but still low-key and dignified.
Not Quite White
The other end of the color-free spectrum for trim is white, but stark white against brick is probably a mistake. Brick is a mixed color, so it usually shows a strong undertone in the warm or cool spectrum. Figure that out before you head for the paint store. A warmer, orangey brick responds favorably to a creamy white or an antique white -- white with some yellow or brown in it. A cooler brick with faint blue undertones needs an arctic white or a cloud white with a hint of rain -- barely a touch of gray in the white paint. Faded brick will still favor either warm or cool tones -- that washed-out pinkish brick will look too confectionery with pure white trim. Instead, add the merest swipe of red to the white for a color that's indefinably warm, like blush, but still identifiably white. Or be daring and juxtapose red's color complement, with minty white trim for old red or old pink brick.
If you had a Victorian painted lady, you'd be all over that with multicolored house paint. But your crib is brick, so settle down. Don't cave to convention, just moderate your enthusiasm with real color to offset the brick and make your personal statement without screaming. Aubergine or deep violet trim is spectacular against brick and not the least gaudy. Sage and evergreen contrast with the brick but, as color complements to red, they are dynamic, not clashing. Tan works for trim when it's edged with touches of a more defined color such as black; try a honey-gold-tan on window frames, eaves and architectural detail with black on window muntins and the front door. Blue is tricky -- navy keeps wanting to be black; pale blue is a fail, and tertiary colors like teal can be too circusy, and might annoy your neighbors.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .