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I Design, You Decide: The Mountain House Exterior



What a beautiful mountain house…that sadly is not ours (yet). For you see, the exterior of our mountain house is a hodgepodge of finishes and colors and now that we’ve ripped open all the walls to put in larger windows, it HAS to be redone regardless of the fact that we actually didn’t mind it. I had thought about going the cheapest route and just painting it all the same color to unify it, but there is that little annoying mini-me that sits on my shoulder, saying are you sure you aren’t missing an opportunity? Is that really what a designer would do? But the real question is who is going to pay for this? Because I know first hand how much it is to redo an exterior (remember our Glendale house?) and if you aren’t careful, it can get into the six digits REALLY FAST. What I said to my crew recently was “listen, I know we need to improve this, but we are not an ‘exterior house blog’.” My original goal is to make it look better where it counts (front and back) but save money on the sides or areas where it’s less visible while keeping it consistent, obviously, but then even that was so expensive. But per usual, I’ll walk you through the whole process so you can get fully inside this exterior.

Here is what she looks like, pre-renovation.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exertior Options Before With Copy 01

Here are the issues:

The roofline is wack, especially on the front. That double little peak is silly, although it might hide the addition in the back more. But we don’t care enough to spend the likely $7,500 it would take to fix it, and it might be more. If I were an architect or a general contractor who had to show my work to the world, that would be one thing, but we are prioritizing our money on making the interiors beautiful or the exterior more functional (like Brian’s precious hot tub corner).

There are five different materials/finishes making up the exterior of the house:

  1. Lap siding (which lives on the left side and front). I like a lap, sure, nothing is wrong with that. I don’t even mind it with the shingles, but it just seems like if the sides and back are all reverse board and batten then maybe the lap should go. This isn’t cheap plastic lap (nor expensive), by the way. Just common lap siding. This lap siding is also over the other two chimneys in the back and we don’t know what is underneath it right now.
  2. Shingles (on front exterior). Now, I don’t mind the shingles even though these aren’t real—they are the MDF version but still kind of charming and could be fine painted or mixed with one color.
  3. Brick. We have red brick OVER the lap on the front of the house and on the chimney, over the reverse board and batten on the sides and back, and all of that mixed with decking painted a dark orange (yay!!) and lattice (eek)…it’s A LOOK.
  4. Decking. This is painted a dark orangey-brown which, as you can imagine, is not my spirit color. It’s on the front, sides and on the back (although the ground floor deck is rotted so we have to replace that regardless).
  5. Lattice. Sexy, sexy, lattice painted in the same orange-brown of the deck.

On the back, we have the vertical board and batten, painted shingles, lap siding (on the chimney!) and dark wood decking.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exterior Siding Options Before 02

But see? The color of the back of the house is actually so sweet! Sure, a dark house could be pretty, but I think that the back, all in mostly one color, already works pretty well.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exterior Before With Copy 03 Final

We aren’t going to change it all, but we need to improve it. We just replaced all the old thin and damaged windows with gorgeous Marvin windows.

First things first: What color are we thinking?

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Exterior I Design You Decide For Blog Inspiration Images1
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Well, sadly there are some limitations. We don’t have every option available to us to choose from as the community prefers you to paint exteriors in “earth tones” which we were told means beige, brown or green and you get fined if you don’t. I get it…the colors of the mountains, and I definitely don’t want to be that hipster A-hole who comes up and paints her house black when no one else does. At the same time, there are a decent amount of deep blue houses up there so I’m like “the ocean is on the earth, right?” But we love the idea of a green house right now, so that is what we are thinking. I had the design team check with the association about the OPTION for blue, and they did say they would approve mid-tone to dark more muted blues—YAY. Also, if our house were set back from the road, surrounded by trees, I think we could have painted it super, super dark without standing out, but since it’s in a neighborhood full of beige, cream, brown and sage houses, we want it to work. The front is on a quiet street with many other houses and the rear backs up to the forest, so it needs to feel appropriate on both sides.

So let’s walk you through our inspiration:

Cabin Exterior Inspirations Dark Green
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Right now, we love a dark body color and only slightly contrasting trim, if at all.

An all-green house, like the below, seems appropriate and charming (and Brian really liked this).

A Frame Cabin Dark Exterior
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Going the dark route was a hard sell for Brian, at first. He kept saying “I don’t want a Halloween house,” but the more I showed him, the more that he agreed it was cool. A medium green could look great, but a dark green would give it a bit of an edge. The below house, despite how un-edgy it is, convinced him that we should do all one color.

Dark Green Cabin
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A Frame Cabin Dark Gray Exterior
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So at this point, he’s cool with something darker, but now we need to figure out what material do we eliminate? Despite being lazy and trying to save money, even I know that we probably shouldn’t have shingles, board and batten, lap, and brick all together (or should we?…keep reading).

Dark Cabin Exterior Colors
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One thing we are pretty into right now is having the trim color be the same as the body or only slightly different. The white on the dark below is pretty for a traditional home, but the monochromatic look is trending, folks.

Dark Blue House White Trim
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Below, you’ll find a mix of materials, board and batten, and siding (which is what we did in Portland and loved it, by the way).

White Siding Home Exterior
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White House Exterior With Porch
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Lastly, we are currently thinking about having a natural wood deck, although I could be convinced to paint it.

Brass House Numbers Dark Wood Cabin Siding
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Look how beautiful that bleached deck is. I’m sure that you need to seal it and that is probably one of those photos that contractors look at and laugh at, but I love how that looks and it obviously adds some warmth.

So Velinda cooked up a bunch of options for us.

I know that many of you are going to skim right past this, but for those of you interested, here is a deeper dive into exterior house combo options before we get to the final two.

Exterior Options 2
Exterior Options 2

There is a combination of two green paint colors, with varied chimney finishes and different materials. I like to see all the options and so does Brian, especially when SO many of them could look good, but we had her narrow it down to two that we liked.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer House I Design You Decide Exterior Option 1

Option one WAS to get rid of the shingles and the horizontal siding and keep all the existing board and batten and then match the rest. Great.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer House I Design You Decide Exterior Option 2

For option two, we’d do a lighter green and plaster the brick with a schmear (like we did on the interior fireplace), nix the shingles but keep the horizontal siding and the board and batten.

Before we posted this though, I had a last minute thought that maybe I should ask my contractor to give us a quote on those. We also had him quote us for just repairing the house and painting it all one color. I was SHOCKED at the cost.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer I Design You Decide Exterior 3 Options 1

That’s right. It was pretty nauseating. And it’s a $20k difference. We canceled the I Design, You Decide for the materials because this wasn’t something that was in the budget (ha, “budget”…that’s a hilarious word) so we are doing anything to keep the costs down while making sure that this house still looks good.

So, I told Velinda that we would save at all costs and just choose between two different colorways. We also got the good news that they would approve a blue, just not a crazy bright blue. We still love the green, but happy that we have two options for us to decide between.

First up, we just paint it all the same dark green. We keep the different materials but unify them through color.

Emilyhendersondesign Mountainfixer Exterior I Design You Decide Option 1 Green Copy 1

Honestly, it looks really good and when it’s dark enough, it’s so seamless you barely notice all the varying finishes. I think if I were an architect or a general contractor that blogged about my work, I might invest it making it look better, but we just need to save resources for the interior as that’s where my focus is.

Here it is in a dark moody blue, which I love, too. We have to steer clear from being too close to black, but I’m leaning toward going darker while making sure there’s a little green undertone in it (so it doesn’t go too purple).

Emilyhendersondesign Mountainfixer Exterior I Design You Decide Option 2 Blue Copy 1

Depending on budget, we might just paint the deck the same blue, but I love the idea of warming it up with a natural wood tone, it just has to be the right wood. And we will paint the chimney a matte charcoal, but honestly that is still kinda up in the air.

So there you go. All that time and effort designing these finish changes when really it’s just “green or blue.” I love either. We haven’t chosen the exact colors yet as we are awaiting a potential paint partner (which would be so lovely), so stay tuned on that front but if you have any favorite specific blues or greens, please leave in the comments. But either way, she is going to be moody and mountainy and that a unifying color will help it feel modern. Heck, maybe the different finishes are actually kinda charming, but you tell me. Do you think it’s a mistake NOT to take down the lap siding and the shingles? Or do you agree that it’s a great place to save money? Our decision is made and the work is already in progress (and they are moving FAST) so it can’t be changed, but if you have opinions, please do tell.

So now, VOTE!

I Design, You Decide

The Exterior Color

Option One - Dark Green


Option Two - Dark Blue


(Vote by Wednesday, September 12th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


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Aimee Swindall

I was 100% on board with ditching the shingles, UNTIL you got to the price. You definitely made the right decision in keeping the materials as they are. I voted for the green colorway, but I actually really like both, and I think it’s going to be beautiful, either way.


Whew, costly project. But that green, so worth it!!


In what universe does it cost $36K to have a house painted? There must be an awful lot of repairs to be done. That seems excessive.

I totally agree that dumping the more expensive choices was the best call, but that lighter green paired with the German schmear is calling out to me … what a killer combo!


It was going to be my vote as well until…

Erica Alvarez

Agreed ! ! ! !


What color would you call the wood? I would love to see a post on wood coloring, as a lot of what you find is wood with a reddish undertone, and I am not sure how to describe the varying hues without a reddish undertone. Also, we just painted out house Night Train my Benjamin Moore. It is a smokey grayish green. I picked it because I wanted something to highlight my plants, and the natural world jumps off of this color.


Seriously though – I would LOVE to see even a rough breakdown of the $36K. We’re currently re-siding one side of our house at a time and nothing is more fascinating to me right now.


Yes, Debbie, I agree. in my opinion the very dark shades are a little try-hard. The lighter green (or even a little lighter), it seems to me, was more appropriate to the architecture, and possibly the neighbourhood. In Emily’s own words, ‘The colour of the back of the house is actually so sweet.’
The mix of materials only adds to the charm.


Yep. That’s the one I would have picked if budget were no consideration. Beautiful! Love the schmear.


That was my choice also. I love the dark green in the summer and fall but it’s going to look so barren in the winter mountains.


Another vote for the lighter green.


Jasper by SW is a gorgeous dark green. But maybe too dark? We just stained our house black and LOVE it. A dark house amongst the trees is lovely.


Agree! Jasper is gorgeous. I’ve been looking for somewhere to use it for two years.


Just googled Jasper and I’m pretty sure that’s my new favorite color!


I was kind of on the fence with this vote since they’re both fairly similar (dark, moody black-green, or dark, moody black-blue). I voted for green. I’d have voted for matte, soft black if the HOA would let you do it, which sadly you said they will not (although, couldn’t hurt to make your case to the HOA, given that their rule is outdated and that you are a design expert after all).



Karli Kuhns

I liked the original option 3 and 4 the best anyway. I like the added texture of the shingles but the unified color of the whole house. I’m usually a fan of blues versus greens but that green is gorgeous!


I completely agree with using paint to unify – the options are gorgeous, but not worth the $20k (this may turn out to be a litmus test for the income bracket of your audience – ha!). Honestly, I’m always a blue fan over green (I don’t really like green), but in this case, the green just looks gorgeous and right. Beautiful, beautiful color choices!


I voted for option 1, green colorway. I wish there was an option for a mixture of option 2 and 3. Like leave all the existing shingle, siding and board and batten but paint them a lighter green and still do the German shmear on the fire place. I can’t believe doing the German shmear would cost an extra $20,000. That’s astronomical. Whatever you choose, it will be lovely.


Right? Valinda, get out the shmear spatula ????Staff “meeting”


On the possitive side of having to keep the shingles due to price constraints, I do think the subtle difference in texture between the finishes when painted will be interesting … sort of like a tone on tone outfit.


I like both colourways, but my mother once told me blue houses are very hard to sell (she’s a now-retired realtor) so I picked green. Unifying the different finishes with paint instead of replacing some of them seems like a great place to save money to me.


Definitely just paint–it will look great. I voted for green, but I love both colors. However–I really prefer a lighter paint on the chimney. That schmeared brick would look beautiful with the green, I think. The black chimney with the darker paint pushes it into “Halloween house” territory in my eyes.


Yes! I totally agree with this…especially if you are going to paint the deck. I think a lot of other commenters are team “contrasting chimney”!


Yes, I loved the lighter chimney too.


Option 4 is my favorite!


Aw I’m a little sad we lost the lighter green and schmear option, as I loved that concept. But not $20K more loved it, so I get it! Still, that slightly lighter green is so great.


I can’t tell a lot of difference between the two colors as both are so dark. Maybe in sunshine I could tell them apart, but not on a laptop screen. Therefore, I voted for the green because more people like green than like blue, so if you decide to sell the house in the next ten years or so, the green will appeal to more people than the blue. Either paint would unify the variety of materials on the exterior, so there is no need to replace them. This seems to be one of those cases where a unifying paint… Read more »


Have you considered painting the chimney area matte gray so there’s contrast like with option 4? I love that green!

Vicki Williams

Actually not only do I not mind all the finishes I think they add to the charm of the house. I love Option One though the other is good too. the warm wood is a great idea . It is going to look GREAT! Hope you don’t go much lighter. What you have posted is really beautiful.
Hey Girl, you’re and Exterior Queen! Do NOT spend extra (ha!) money changing materials. It is already wonderful!


I chose the green, but am finding the house’s many elements still to be too busy to highlight with different colors — roof shingles, fascia (trim), chimney, garage door, front wood stair, house body with different finishes. I’d prefer to have the stairs sides stained same green as house, leaving only the floor in that lovely natural wood color and maybe painting fascia and garage door in same color as house (like Danny Seo’s green cottage and porch that Brian liked).


Agree 100% with ^^^




I voted for blue because I like how the green of the trees and plants has some contrast against the house. And sometimes a mixed green paint just can’t compare (looks dingy, artificial) to the green of nature, ya know??? AND C’MON, EMILY, IT’S BLUE! ????

Cici Haus

I was team keeping all the variation in the first place, but than definitely after the budget! Having the various textures but all one color keeps it interesting. Aren’t you always telling us how important texture is?


That green is my favorite color; in fact, I just remodeled my kitchen with that exact color scheme. BUT, your house being amongst the green trees, I would prefer a bit more contrast and go with this deep blue. I’d vote black if I could.

Vicki Williams

Well shoot I already commented and it isn’t showing up so…here I go ago, (Mama Mia). Option One has my vote. I hope you keep that shade of green, it is beautiful. Some of the others looked too yellow. The blue is gorgeous too but the green does it for me. What I said in my first comment is that I’m glad you are not changing the materials, I think it actually adds to the charm and so isn’t worth those bigger bucks. I love the German Schmear and that’s what we are doing to our fireplace but in this… Read more »

Hi Vicki! Looks like your other comment registered (sometimes it takes a few minutes to pop up!). Just wanted to let you know in case you see that this happens again.



Jennifer Harrup

This has nothing to do with today’s post, but I have got it into my head that you should design a doll house room by room the same way you do a house and then share the whole thing here as you work on it . Maybe I’m just weird, but that sounds like it would be SO fun to watch and then also Boom! Birdie has an amazing dollhouse for Christmas…or a birthday or something!


There was a YA horror book I read as a kid in the ’80s that had that exact thing (a dollhouse that was a replica of the house – I believe it was called “The Dollhouse Murders”) and I will forever have nightmares from it. Based on that alone, do not recommend.




If you have seen the HBO show “Sharp Objects” (starring Amy Adams, highly recommended IF you like dark and creepy murder stories – heavy emphasis on the dark though) then you will NOT be hoping she replicates her house in miniature for Birdie…

Paula Carr

Heh heh….


Ok if she’s not replicating any of their houses and it’s done in a modern way (not too victorian or that still gets creepy) then I’d be on board with this haha. Mandi from “Making Nice in the Midwest” is doing one in a modern style that is actually really adorable.


I love the black painted chimney and think the green will look better with the mixed materials. Also I think the mixed materials make it look more like a mountain house.


What if the stairs were painted dark to match as well? More impactful for the monochromatic scheme, and less distracting to the eye, (and could you use a cheaper wood if you paint?). If you put something on the treads for wear and tear purposes, they will not be visible for curb appeal/exterior photos either (plus, I’m sure you would find something beautiful and practical). Personally, I’m partial to the grey schmear. So pretty in grey, but could still be painted black later if you decide you don’t like (while the black cannot be undone). Exciting no matter what!

Lindsay B

The green foliage on the dark blue would be so so so beautiful! I’d prefer that contrast over the green.


i think its a perfect place to trim the budget! the exterior will look beautiful with fresh cohesive paint. And I’m all about the dark green. Both on trend and mountain-friendly.


I’m in love with that green. The monochromatic color scheme is a smart update. Yes it would look more sophisticated and designed (and correct?) to minimize types of cladding but leaving it as is does feel more charming and slightly “off” in a good way. If I’m remembering correctly, there will be an old Ferrari-red golf cart parked in front of this, with the mixed materials and weird roof lines and secret stair nooks, this house is saying all of the right things.

Paige Cassandra Flamm

Ah! So many choices! I can’t wait to see what you decide on! I’m shocked that monochrome for the trim is trending because it seems like where we live in Utah, builders are just barely starting to do the high contrast of deep colors with the bright white trend!



I like the dark green. DO NOT paint your deck. You’ll have to repaint it way more often than you think you will, and it will look shabby fast. Seal it with a good oil-based, penetrating sealer (not a cheapie like Thompson’s), either in clear, which will gray over time, or a darker tint.


Question: What on earth happens to the rainwater that runs into the valley between your two little roof peaks over the garage? I can’t imagine someone would design it that way without taking runoff into consideration, but from this angle it looks like a recipe for instant rot. And I like the green, btw. Nice and woodsy.


i had the same question! and snow and freezing weather, oy!

signed, the woman who has had too many roofing issues.

Lauren E.

I was all ready to vote for the dark blue until I saw all the green photos, and not I’m 100% on board for the green. I think it will fit in with the setting perfectly!


Are the vote buttons working? I don’t see anywhere to vote…but Option #1 definitely has my vote.


Love the dark blue. Would love to know some paint color examples of the blue.


I like both but the green seems predictable for a mountain house. Blue says “emily henderson” (it does need the green/gray undertones to read moody). I’m okay with the different finishes.

Renee Anne

I vote green although i always choose blue. However i stayed in a beautiful cottage in the Muskokas recently and the exterior was painted dark green and I just loved how it looked. It blended into the trees and lake so well. It felt very chic and modern too. The inside and the windows were in unstained wood. Beautiful contrast.

Rachel Alexander

I say leave the shingles but ditch the lap siding. I think two different materials on the exterior walls (not including brick) is the max. The three different patterns is too much. It seems like it would be a good middle ground compromise. Love the overall direction.

Amy Podlesak

If you’re planning to paint the brick a different color than the house, could you paint it a natural creamy color to give the same illusion/concept of the schmear? That way you’d have a bit of contrast like the original option 2 and everything wouldn’t be quite so dark. Just a thought!

Jan P

I really do like the light green with the brick shmear, it just seems to blend better with the environment. The dark can look so foreboding. But if I have to choose out of your 2 options , #1.


I think painting all the different materials one color will make it look so amazing. I don’t think you need to change all that. Keeping some character but painting monochrome is the right choice!! I voted blue because it will be so nice against the green foliage! But I love the green too! And it’s great that you are being budget conscious and not wasting perfectly good materials!


I love the green, and I think it will unify the exterior. Actually, I think it’ll look charming in that collected-over-time kind of way. Save the money for where it counts for you!


There is a husband and wife (Kelsey) on Instagram (mysimplysimple) who have a modern farmhouse and have warmed it all up on the exterior with wood called Ipe. They have to oil it, but it is beautiful and I could see it working so well with either color option! Check her out!


Nightfall, Benjamin Moore, is what I’m looking at right now for a moody green. Might be too dark.

Julie S

I really loved the lighter green with the German schmear chimeney and wish that had been the green paint color in the vote! Blue just feels a bit too modern for the mountain neighborhood you describe imo.

Caireen @ Shift Modern Home

Before seeing the costs, I thought unifying the finishes with paint would be your best bet to meet your brief. A $20k saving is huge, so definitely the way to go! Love, love, love the moody green with the charcoal and natural wood tones. It’s going to be beautiful!


Why is it so $$$ to paint your house?? I feel like these people are ripping you off because they know you are EM HENDERSON. I would have voted to keep it as it is for a few years, and then when you have a big windfall replace with all board and batten in the dark green. I think that was number 2. Can you halt things? I hear you when you say you are not an architect who needs this for a portfolio, but maybe you will be doing more exteriors in the future, and you will want something… Read more »


I voted green. Great choice to leave the materials and save on the exterior (so you can work more magic on the interior)!

Can I ask how Velinda rendered the exterior? Maybe photoshop or sketchup? (Great job on that, btw!)


Love the dark blue with natural deck. Keep the variety of materials. I think it will be unified yet interesting if all painted the same moody blue!


Green. Every. Darn. Day. Perhaps I chose green because I feel so validated! I started painting my “in the woods” contemporary, multiple materials, home dark green this summer (still not done yet). When regular non-design folks ask about the color they expect me to say “white” or “beige” since we live in a stuffy DC ‘burb and because isn’t that what everyone paints their home?! I get lots of funny looks when I say dark green but it looks awesome so far with our black standing seam metal roof. Now I will continue to paint with much validation and reassurance.… Read more »

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