HELP! My Victorian's main color is white!! Color(s) for trim???

kroach001May 30, 2010

Hello all!

PLEASE HELP ME!!!! I have a Queen Anne Victorian Farmhouse, circa 1890's. The house's main color (exterior) is WHITE. This leaves me clueless as to what color scheme I can use for the porch and trim details. I never see pictures of Victorian houses that are white. I do know that this house's original color was white. Some other old Queen Anne Victorian Farmhouses around here that are white have all the trim and porch components white which looks "OK".... but it would be so lovely to have a color scheme that would show off some of the wonderful trim work on the porches, windows and eves. With everything in white, the beautiful trim on these houses just blends in.

So a little about the house... its not a stately Victorian mansion. Its a simple small Queen Anne farmhouse. Its simple, but has some really elegant trim details around windows and the porches (three of them) have great trim details as well. Right now the trim is hardly noticeable because everything is white (I have black shutters). Changing the house's main color is not an option, first off because its more work than I can handle, and secondly because this house's original color was white. It did have an almost hunter green shutters and the same color on the gable fish scales. I don't know if porch components or window trim were ever anything but white. Right now they are all white, my gables are white too. This house did originally have a green metal roof. It now has a black metal roof and that is not changeable either.

Sooooo..... my dilemma... how to chose some nice colors to compliment some of the simple but elegant trim details without it looking like it stands out from the starkness of the white house. It needs to blend in, but stand out just a bit if that makes any sense at all. Painting porch components in some bold color scheme I do think would probably make the porch look like it doesn't belong with the house. This is not a super fancy Victorian, its a farmhouse with Victorian features, so I need to keep it simple, but would like to do something to help some of the great trim work stand out a bit more than just the all white everything is now.

ANY IDEAS?????? THANKS!!!!!!!

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You'll find colour experts/fanatics on the Home Dec forum who might be able to help, especially if you post a picture of the house. I know just enough to know that some very subtle differences could make a real difference to the outcome.

For example, there are whites, and whites, and then still other whites. If it's a cool white with blue tones vs a warmer white with yellow or pink tones, your choices may look different. Of course, it may just be a white white - ours was too, by the way, when we bought it; white all over, inside and out. I came to appreciate that as I started stripping paint and realized that at some point the house was likely sort of an acid jade green on all surfaces inside and out, as were most of the houses in this neighbourhood.

We did paint the house, and I'm happy we did - not an original colour though. I'm not a huge stickler for maintaining original colours for the sake of authenticity. You obviously do feel that way, and I respect that, but I would question your belief that changing the whole house colour would be more work than merely painting the trim. You might like to visualize whether you'd be happy with white trim if you changed the house colour. This is because painting trim is more work than you might think, especially if you have three porches.

Having said all that, with a base scheme of black and white, your range of colour choices is enormous, and personal taste is going to play a huge role, as will the kind of presence you want the house to exude. Obviously earth tones won't go (rusts, olives) as they go with beige, not white; nor beiges or navies, being too close to your two base colours. I tend to think soft pastels might be your best family to look at, and you could go either two-tone (light green and darker green) or two contrasting colours: blue and yellow, blue and pink, etc. Those would be a bit country, I suppose, or maybe a little feminine. If you prefer a really dressy look, grey might be your best option, perhaps with some black highlights to connect to the roof. Taupe and black might also work for that look.

You might consider photoshopping a few ideas, or if you prefer the non-tech route, taking a few photos, printing them out, and colouring on them.

I'm linking below to a blog entry by Maria Killam on choosing exterior trim colours in which she also talks about different whites. The rest of her blog may also be of interest to you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Colour me happy blog

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 1:40PM
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It's not at all unusual for real farmhouses to be painted white in the Victorian era. I had an 1890s one and yes...white was the original paint on that too. Farmers were utilitarian and pristine white was the paint they'd use on fences and houses, and red on barns. Cheap and no problems touching up when needed.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 1:59PM
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Do an image search on Lyman estate. As you can see, the body of the building is painted a cool white, and the trim a warm white or ivory color. It is just enough contrast to pick out the beautiful trim details, and a similar strategy might work well for you.

Every time I drive by it, I think of wedding cake.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 7:22AM
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The colors you choose should reflect what kind of house you want. If you desire a traditional farm house, all white is the way to go (even White-wash is appropriate.) If the town has grown-up and closer to your house over time, you could add some gentle-colored neutrals for a 19th century suburban kind of look (think mushrooms and fawns - golds and olives). If you desire a high-style Victorian robber-baron mansion, go for the deepest golds, greens and reds.

FYI - remember that white paint was CHEAPER than colored paint in the 19th century (and earlier.) That's why farmers and other lower income folks painted their houses white. It had very little to do with style or preference as it does now (there are periods historically when white is used to mimic marble or other white materials, but that was mostly for "fancier" house styles, not simple wood framed)

Color was, and for some paint companies still is, made from ground earth pigments added to a ground lead/oil base (ok, no more lead today)- If you dont add a pigment, you have white paint - the lead base is white (white lead). all paint was mixed on site (some even ground on site) by the painter - there were no Lowes or HDs selling premixed paint (premixed paint was not really available till well after the Civil War - and even then it was primarily marketed to the city-folk.)

Browns, some greens and a few reds were less expensive colors with vivid blues and fashionable greens being generally the most expensive.

Go with "what you like," but keep in mind what effect you desire, nothing can kill that emotional effect on a house (or in an outfit or haircolor) faster than the wrong color.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 5:27PM
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FYI - remember that white paint was CHEAPER than colored paint in the 19th century (and earlier.) That's why farmers and other lower income folks painted their houses white.

Well, not all farmers in that era were low income. I live in another farm house now, and although the original owner of this house was a farmer, and it is a utilitarian house and not fancy, it was pretty obvious he was a prosperous man by some of the materials he would have had to have shipped in by riverboat in that era. And it was a large house, quite large with numerous bedrooms and I've done research on the family and there weren't that many children.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:09PM
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