Quick, Year-Round Color in the Garden – with Paint!

Before and after in less than a week!

Taking me away from the horrors of my newsfeed this week has been transforming the look of my Greenbelt, Maryland rowhouse from its dull, 35-year-old grey vinyl to the fully restored International Style of its origins in the New Deal.

During my 8 years living in here, I felt resigned to the siding until I realized I had a very do-able option – paying to have the siding removed and the surface patched, then painted with my favorite of the colors my coop allows – what it calls Wedgewood Blue. COLOR, glorious color!

Front door of my color-loving friend.

In the words of my friend who created the most colorful house and garden in town, “Color therapy is for real. I say paint with bold colors that make you happy. The great thing about it is if you decide that it doesn’t work you can easily paint over it with a new color. The effort is SO worth the pleasure you derive from it on a daily basis. I find that vibrant colors stimulate the creative juices. And who couldn’t use a little stimulation? 😉 Life is too short for plain white!”

And plain white is what my house was originally, as are almost all International Style buildings. To the more extreme architectural purists I just repeat my friend’s sentiments – Life is too short!

What finally nudged me to make the change was taking a History of American Architecture course at the University of Maryland, which included quite a bit about International Style – a European import that inspired some prominent American buildings in the 1930s to 1950s.

Also, I’d gradually learned to appreciate the odd iconic features of my home – the affordable cinder block material, the flat roof, emphasis on the horizontal and the lack of ornamentation except for some horizontal “speed lines” alongside the windows. But as I wrote for my local blog, it was the course that really won me over to the restoration project.

More Color? Ideas Welcome!
My first target is to add an accent color around the doorway – on the pole, the house numbers and maybe also these grey pots. An approved color I’m going to sample first is a sage, officially called Lynchberg Green but my associations with that town and its name aren’t great, so I’m just going to call it sage.

The other permitted color I’m considering is called Sunbeam Yellow.Opposite the front door are these dull-looking pots that could be lots more fun.

And on the front patio there’s a little table and two shell-backed metal chairs that arrived on the market in 1939 – so just the right era for the house.

I posted these photos to Facebook, asking for color suggestions, and boy did people deliver, suggesting hot colors like purple, yellow, orange, red, and turquoise. A couple suggested leaving the weathered pots as they are but no one suggested using paint to tone down the whole look. On the contrary, almost everyone egged me on to make it even MORE colorful.

Here’s a wider view.


  1. I so agree about color therapy being real. Go for the sunbeam yellow! Paint the chairs colors that contrast with the Wedgewood Blue. The thing about that blue is that the green foliage of your plants won’t “pop” like it did against the white walls, so I wouldn’t be afraid to use color in your pots to provide contrast. Also, plants with white flowers ( which are generally more strongly scented) look nice against a dark background. Just a suggestion!

  2. I’m intrigued by International Style. I’m going to check it out. Your house looks great. I like your ideas if sage and yellow. How about turquoise for some of your pots and the chairs?

  3. Susan, when looking for other colors to complement your lovely new house color, look to the artists. Find a painting you love that has that Wedgewood Blue as a dominant color, and then see what other colors were used and in what quantity. While not all artists are colorists, so many are, and you can use their sensibility to bring depth, balance, and sparkle to your new color palette. Have fun, Caren.

  4. I really think coral — coral something — would really pop against the Wedgewood Blue. That, or think of that tomato/red color of a poppy.

  5. Your house looks great this way. Not just the color, but also the very stylish impact of the cinder block.
    Well done!

  6. If you study color theory, you might want to consider something in the orange to coral line (as noted above) — using a color on the opposite side of the color wheel is guaranteed to pop and please. And I would paint those pots, possibly in the same color or try that sage you were talking about. I’d match the chairs to the door so the entire look stays a bit more cohesive, and let smaller items like the pots provide more color variation.

  7. Yes, use as much color as you can get away with. I’d definitely add some of the yellow for a pop of color.

  8. What a beautiful transformation! I love the new color and can’t wait to see the rest of your house once it’s completed. Good call on removing the vinyl siding too. I like pots that look a bit weathered. I wonder how long paint will last on a pot outdoors before it starts fading and chipping away?

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