Ask designers what drives exterior home color trends and the answers include a combination of things: a home’s architectural style, its existing materials, locale, and of course the homeowner’s desires. Right now, says Amy Wax, an architectural color expert in Montclair, N.J., homeowners are feeling “confident and secure about their homes and are willing to take traditional colors and push them a step further.” The most requested color? Gray.

Versatile Hue

Across the United States, “We’re seeing a lot of gray for the overall house,” says Samantha Thorpe, editor of Better Homes and Gardens’ special interest publication, Premier Home. “It’s the new beige. You have a lot of play with gray. It can be cool or warm. It can be [used for] traditional or modern homes.”

Gray’s basic palette is a good springboard, its various shades ranging from light and medium tones to those with a green or blue tint to highly-saturated, darker charcoals, nearly black. “People love going dark,” says Elizabeth Brown, principal of EB Color Consultants, who’s seeing darker grays, and even dark navy, particularly among her younger clientele in Seattle.

Regardless of color choice, says Victoria Heydari, an interior designer with Mitchell Construction Group in Medfield, Mass., “people want something that offers lower maintenance” and are choosing pre-finished siding. No surprise that even in that arena, clients are choosing “more natural tones, and a lot have [chosen] blue-grey,” adds Heydari’s MCG colleague, architect Peter Grover.

One-two Punch

A home’s main body color also has to work with its architectural style and other design elements. “For Tudors you’re keeping it kind of earthy. Craftsman homes tend to be earthy browns and greens. You won’t do a suburban trophy house in a funky color,” Brown says. “But many suburban homes that were non-descript beige are graying up and darkening, yet still keeping that safe, neutral body color.” Gray’s neutrality makes it easy to draw in hues from existing stone or brick siding and the roof.

Yet despite taking this seemingly middle-of-the-road position, homeowners still want homes with great curb appeal that are different from their neighbors’, Thorpe says. Gray then, especially a darker shade, “becomes the perfect backdrop for gardens, planters, doors, lighting,” Wax says. Its very grayness begs for contrast, and that’s where homeowners are taking exterior color to the next level.

Trim colors like white and off-white “look stunning” when paired with dark gray and dark navy, Brown says. Then there are the accent colors for the “front door, the shutters, garage doors,” Heydari says. She’s specifying more “black and dark, almost black green” for those areas. “Very classic, clean and simple.” (A note about shutters: Many of the designers interviewed say that homeowners are removing them. “It doesn’t work for every home style, but it allows [viewers] to focus on the house itself,” as Thorpe puts it.)

There’s movement for “adding colors in unique places,” Wax says. “People aren’t afraid to use wooden garage doors again and add copper lighting and details. They’re using colorful planters and landscaping.” But the big color pop is left for the entry. “Before, people would have done punch colors in red or a shiny black, but now they’re doing oranges and bright blues,” Wax says. Brown agrees, noting that her market’s Craftsman-style homes lend themselves to “funky front doors” and she sees them in “orange, daffodil yellow, even purple.”

“It’s really up to how brave the homeowner is,” Thorpe says. “Do they want something to pop or something just a little more refreshed? If they’re really brave, they’ll do a bright green door that doesn’t match the color of their shutters and get a little more of a pop.”

With their home’s color, people are “making a statement about who they are,” Wax says.