My Money Pit (circa 1888).....and exterior color help

lmt77March 16, 2010


This is my first post here. My name is Lisa, and I have an 1888 home in NJ.

I am currently in the middle of a sizable renovation including a new kitchen. The kitchen was not original when we moved was circa 1950s with metal cabinets and appliances.

More on the interior later....I am at a point where I need to make a few decisions on exterior color.

A bit of background...

When we bought the house it was all white and the paint was in bad shape.

The original cedar clapboard was covered in asbestos siding at some point.

There are decorative scallops on the top which are slate but have been painted.

When we bought the house we chose a color scheme and had the exterior repainted. It was an improvement from the white but we made color mistakes for sure.

I did research historically accurate colors however, I didn't find something that I wanted to go with....I wanted a bright and cheery Victorian cottage. I tried, but just got it wrong.

Our current project involves an addition and we are use hardie plank siding to mimic the look of the original cedar siding. we decided that we would like to remove the asbestos and hardie plank the entire exterior.

Our builder wants to use one of the 8 standard hardie colors, which I haven't seen yet.

So I feel the need to make a decision on color scheme soon and I don't want to get it wrong again.

If anyone has used a standard hardie color on a Circa 1888 Victorian (style = queen anne cottage maybe??), I would love to hear your thoughts and see photos.

Any other thoughts or ideas on color scheme are welcomed.

Here are a few photos so y'all can see what were working with.

House from MLS listing. Shrubs were very over grown and we've since re landscaped:

With the new color scheme...we also rehabbed porch. I don't think the color looks too bad in this photo because the green trees balance the bright yellow, however, after looking at the house all winter with no color in the's just all wrong.

one more pic of the broken bluestone path that we added. I am very happy with this, we did one thing right so far:

Many thanks in advance for any advice that you all have. This is such a wonderful forum.

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I'm in no was associated with the link below, but this is a company who specializes in designing color schemes for historic homes. Very fun to click around and see examples of how they put colors together for different styles of homes.

Here is a link that might be useful: historic color combinations

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 3:37PM
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As I was reading your post, I was thinking that I'd provide the link to Robert Schweitzer's site....but billl beat me to it!

There's also a tour of homes on Summit Ave in St. Paul, MN - where I used to live...some great eye candy!

Here is a link that might be useful: Summit Ave

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 7:37PM
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There's a lot of information on this topic online: just do a search under Victorian color schemes. Also Dover has reprinted an 1883 book, "Authentic Colors for Victiorian Houses" (I think that's the title) that is excellent.

Although not in a Victorian, I live in the Summit Avenue area lesterd mentioned above. The authentically painted Victorians are amazing! I'm not sure where you live but if near a Victorian neighborhood perhaps you can get ideas by just strolling around.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 7:43PM
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Thanks so much for the excellent resources.

Does anyone have an opinion on what's the most wrong with what's there now?

No matter what I'm pretty sure I do want a light, airy color scheme. So I'm thinking stick with yellow, maybe a little lighter and creamier and then the yellow that I have now and then lighten or change the accents as well.

Or maybe change to taupe/tan/&something else, maybe something in the green or maroon for suble accents.

I'l like to to shutters on the top single window and the double windows on the first floor and also add a little decorative trim on the peak in the front.

What do you think?

Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 12:25PM
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"Does anyone have an opinion on what's the most wrong with what's there now? "

To me, everything seems to wash out in comparison to the really dark roof - light yellow, light blue, and white. The deeper greens of the plants ground it a bit in summer, but I imagine the contrast is pretty stark in winter. If you like the light body color, I would consider a deeper/warmer color as an accent/trim.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 1:52PM
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You have a beautiful house! If you are up to it some day, I'd love to see photos of the inside, it must be amazing.

What I think the look of your house is missing is probably under the asbestos siding- usually with Queen Anne houses, there is quite a bit more decoration than your house has. I would imagine that when they put up the siding, they also took down some of the detail on the porch. While looking at photos of historic homes for color, look at historic details as well. That is what is really missing for me on the exterior of your house.

When thinking of color scheme, just remember that Victorian colors were based on earth tones. That natural tie makes color combinations work that might not otherwise.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 1:58PM
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Wow the landscaping looks fantastic! You done a great job, love the walkway. That's what I would like to do for our house.
To me the blue looks wrong. Also the white window trim looks wrong too, although less so. Victorians typically put a darker trim on windows and sashes than the main color of the house. I also agree that the color of the roof also needs to tie into the whole color scheme and right now, it is too much of a contrast with the pastels.

If you still like the blue maybe you could use it as trim between the siding and the scallop shingles. Or you could use more blue and use a deeper yellow for trim. Craig and Yvonne's Victorian looks great with a blue and yellow color scheme. While it's not necessarily historically accurate, IMHO, it still looks great.

Here is a link that might be useful: Craig&Yvonne's Victorian Home

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 3:36PM
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Blue is not an exterior Victorian color. In that era, it was an unreliable pigment; it often turned greenish in the shade and faded to powder blue in the weather. With those problems, it was mostly avoided.
Earthy greens of every tint and shade, ochre yellows, terra cotta, deep reds and creamy off whites defined the late 19th century exterior color palette.Occasionally brighter accent colors were then used to add highlights to this somber and organic menu.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Thanks for all the replies!
The inside is undergoing a renovation currently and we are not living in the house since both bathrooms, the laundry room, and the kitchen are out of commission for now. I will certainly post interior pics when we pull it back together. We lived in the home for about 18 months and figured out what we wanted to do and then couldn't stay during the reno since we have 2 young children.
Thank you again.
I'm considering changing the color scheme all together.
Maybe taupe, tan, and green. I don't know?
A new roof was put on the entire house today and it is black so I have to work with that.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 11:03PM
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Thank you for sharing you house with us. I'm dying to see more. I have a quirky victorian as well so I like them when I see them. wasn't used? Gad man my house is the wrong color!! I wondered about that...because I've seen so few blue victorians. They thought they were taking the colors from original paint when they removed the siding to restore it. I wonder if in fact it was a dark blue and the colors had that likely for my place????

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 2:39AM
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Very interesting on why there was no blues. The only blues that are in my Victorian exterior color plate books are from materials, stone or weathered cedar shingle. Igloo, is it possible that the paint they thought was original wasn't? Maybe it was painted in the 1920's or 30's. I know that you house came with extensive history attached to it, so you might have clues.

lmt77, At the college near me, they have rehabbed several Victorians for offices, one of them is a khaki color with white trim and forest green accent. While the color scheme isn't authentic, it looks amazing. If I'm out and about I'll try to snap a photo for you.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 9:39AM
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Thanks autumngal.
There is a gorgeous home in my neighborhood that is taupe/tan/with subtle deep teal (maybe? not sure how to describe the color) accents.
It also may not be authenic but looks fantastic. It is a much more ornate home than mine.
I have a few homes in my town that I adore for different reasons and I'm drawing inspiration from...I'll try to photograph them with in the next few days and post photos here for you all to see.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 10:26AM
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They found the color under shingles put on in the 40's I think (I'd have to finish dating pics to be sure and I'm not there yet). Under the shingles was a gray blue tone which is what they used as the color guide.

Gad I'd kill some grayhairs, but it would be fun to paint it :) LOL Maybe I should post a thread heh heh

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Lowes used to have a free service called "the Color Doctor", a gentleman who specialized in exterior color schemes. They don't have it anymore, but when I googled the phrase I found he is affiliated with a site called "Old House Authority". I contacted him when I painted my house, & although I didn't exactly use his suggested palette, it got me started toward where I ended up.

I really enjoyed the process of picking colors, but I did take a while! I ended up with a sage green (Glidden "high tea") with very dark green shutters and cream-yellow (Laura Ashley "bleached wheat") porch and trim. My roof at the time was the lightest grey, now it is a medium-dark gray-brown mix, and the colors still work.

On your house (a style that I love)I like the pale yellow, but the blue really threw me off. And so did the white on the 2nd story bump-out. I would like to stay with yellow myself; if the current color is truly too bright, in a more muted shade then, and see if I could use a darker trim that ties in with the dark roof better. A sort of butterscotch shade might work.

If I couldn't come up with a good trim solution to tie in the roof, then I would be more inclined to go with a green or even a warm grey with color in the trim.

There was a house in my neighborhood that was a sort of dusty lilac with dusty rose trim (I've forgotten the third accent color) and it was absolutely delicious. The owners said it was a combination they found on a card at the paint store. I could see it on this house, but don't know if that would be authentic.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 3:14PM
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The hardie plank site also has some tools to help pick colors (

I don't think that I would add shutters. I think that I would maybe beef up the trim around the windows a little (perhaps with just the paint color, or by adding some extra wood framing). It is hard for me to see, but looks like there is some decorative detail to the upper windows already? I think that shutters are wrong stylistically and would overwhelm those details. Some of the beauty of this style house is in it's simplicity and symmetry. I think you have to be careful to not add too much detail.

You did do a great job on the landscaping, BTW!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 3:45PM
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Thanks again!
The house did have shutters originally. You can see where they were attached on the windows.

I'm thikning creamy yellow/richer yellow (think butterscotch) with black and white.

Or a different blue from the Ben Moore Historic Collection, Stratton Blue.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 6:24PM
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