Inspired Moments

by Michael Buck
3/15/2021

Inspired Moments

Expert Advice on the Basics of a Dark Exterior Design

by Michael Buck
3/15/2021

Shown is a single story house with very dark gray, but not quite all black, siding. Windows have glowing light, which sets it apart from the evening sky.

Choosing a color for the outside of your house can be an important and personal decision. Many homeowners search for one that’s distinctive and striking, while also being timeless and classic. 

Using dark siding colors is one way that you can stand out and still fit in. There is growing interest in siding colors ranging from darker grays to almost pure black, and more homeowners are opting for this bolder option. In fact, you can expect to see more all black exteriors in 2021

If you’re thinking of choosing a dark siding color for your home’s exterior, here’s what you need to know, and some bonus expert design tips.

Dark Gray or All Black Houses Aren't a Fad

While dark or black exteriors are certainly gaining traction in North America, it might be easy to think of it as a passing trend. But, this color palette has a long and rich history in other parts of the world.

In Japan, Shou Sugi Ban is the centuries-old practice of preserving wood (typically red cedar) through charring and finishing it with a natural oil to weatherproof it. The result is a dark, and sometimes black, finish. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive and time-consuming process (depending on the process and supplier).

Builders in Scandinavia have been treating home exteriors with a black-colored pine tar since the Viking era. 

Both regions are now known for the minimalist home styles that have inspired modern house design.

“There are deep architectural traditions related to using black exterior cladding. Many began with practical needs for weatherproofing or fireproofing. But those efforts have led to visually striking buildings that have inspired architects around the world.” says Jason Taylor, principal at Taylor-Viazzo Architects in New Rochelle, New York. “With so many high-performance cladding materials available, today's modern architects have new ways to interpret those traditions to create the buildings of the future.”

Taylor has specified dark siding on some of his designs, using the Iron Gray ColorPlus® Technology finish color on several recent projects. He said he has also considered using even darker shades. Taylor is the architect behind the home shown above, and is also the photographer who took the photo.

Black Siding is a Neutral Color

You’ve heard the expression “black goes with everything.” That’s because black is a neutral color, just like white, gray, beige, and brown. Neutral colors aren’t represented on the color wheel of warm and cool colors, and they can be viewed as not having color at all. 

This absence of color gives neutrals broad versatility and the ability to pair well with many other colors. It also gives them a reputation for being a classic choice for virtually any home design. 

But “safe” doesn’t equal “boring,” especially when it comes to black or near-black gray siding colors.

“Dark siding can be unique, more bold, and a little more crisp,” Taylor says.

Consider the Entirety of Your Property

Dark siding colors also present opportunities for high contrast, which can accentuate your home’s architectural features and landscaping.

“We consider landscape design with every project we do,” says Taylor. “The green of plants can  really pop in front of classic white siding. But, that contrast is just as strong, if not more powerful in front of really dark siding.”

With dark siding the contrast with nature can remain strong while allowing the home to simultaneously blend into its surroundings. This approach creates balance for the property and prevents your home from sticking out in an unintentional way.

Taylor says there’s an easy way to see if your landscape and home are making effective use of light and dark. Simply take a photo with your phone and change the filter to black and white. This will allow you to uncover the defining features of your house and landscaping.  

Use Dark Trim for a Monochrome Look

White or light trim is a popular choice for many homeowners because of its simplicity. While it can work well with dark or black siding for a high-contrast effect, it’s not the only option.

In fact, Taylor has minimized the appearance of trim in some of his designs that use dark siding. One way is to use a matching dark trim that leads to a monochrome look. The result makes the house look as though it is simply wrapped in a linear texture.

"This allows the shapes of the architecture to stand out without the heavy trim, which frames or outlines everything as opposed to letting the massing of the architecture read on its own,” Taylor said. “There's nothing wrong with dark siding and white trim.” 

Use a High-Quality Siding Material

A dark exterior is most successfully done with a high-quality cladding material, such as fiber cement siding. This material also has the benefit of being relatively low maintenance. In the past, homeowners who wanted a darker exterior were mostly limited to wood siding, which requires more frequent upkeep to maintain its appearance.

“The nice thing about James Hardie products is they'll probably still look great in 30 years with very little maintenance,” Taylor said. “That makes it even more important to not over-style your design or make it trendy. If a building material is going to last a long time, then it's even more critical that the design lasts just as long or longer.”  

Dark James Hardie Siding Colors to Consider

James Hardie® siding products come in a range of dark colors, including deep grays, rich browns, and even near black. Here are four to consider, although there are many more available as Dream Collection™ products.

• Iron Gray – A deep gray siding color with cooler undertones.
• Night Gray – A little lighter shade than Iron Gray and with fewer cooler undertones.
• Jet Black – One of the darker colors in the Dream Collection. This is a neutral (not quiet) black.
• Black Ash – This is a very dark gray color that’s akin to a dark charcoal. It’s a bit lighter than Jet Black and Anchor Black.

If you’re ready to see some of these colors for yourself, you can request Statement Collection™ product samples, or order Dream Collection™ product samples.