1892 Victorian Home - Should We Use the Original Exterior Colors?

victoriandreamJuly 5, 2010

Quite a while ago we accidently stumbled upon two small wooden paint chips with the original exterior body and trim colors for our 1892 victorian. They were tucked in the rafters in our basement ceiling. Last fall, I had the chips color matched and never even opened the paint because I thought the colors were quite ugly. So, to finally put this to rest I sampled it on the house.

I thought I would share what it looks like and also welcome some feedback. Here's the link to our photobucket, http://s646.photobucket.com/albums/uu185/victoriandream/Exterior%20Color%20Scheme/. You will need to use the password, 1892qavh.

As we stand back and look it gives us the feeling like we've stepped back in time. We've tried all other kinds of colors and this instantly struck us as "right". However, my mom (whom I dearly love) looked at it and reluctantly gave feedback that she thought it would be too bright and really stand out. I'm waiting to get feedback from Robert Schweitzer (Historic House Color Consultant). Of course, this is what he originally suggested and we hesitated.

Also, as long as I've captured you...one more question. Our home has been stripped of all the original siding and has been wrapped in aluminum throughout. Could a multi color victorian color scheme be accomplished using aluminum and adding the scallops in the gables and other details or are we on course to redo this whole home in wood?

Here is a link that might be useful: Original Colors - 1st Few Photos

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First off, I have to say What a GREAT house! That house epitomizes my dream home from childhood! My reality is much more modest!

Color me confused...
I presume that the white trim is the current paint on your house now. Then, are the following photos on the first page photoshopped? I do not like the chocolate brown trim. Too dark with the brown roof.

I do like the pic with your child on page 2 where the trim is khaki green, mustard, yellow and red with a mustard house body. Actually, I love that combo.

Or, are you saying that the original color was the yellow for the body of the house and the taupe (or mustard?) color was the trim, as shown in the first few pics on page 1? I like yellow houses too and I would not be afraid it is too bright. If that's the original color and you feel it is "right", I'd go for it.

As I said, I'm confused. How do you know that the chips you found in the basement were the originals? Were there notes? How do you know what color was the body and what color(s) was the trim?

I think that you can work with the aluminum siding. We have really ugly aluminum (yours, at least, is small profile clapboard-look). We've stripped the aluminum off our gable end and put up cedar shake hex and straight shingles in a pattern that mimics our original gable ends. But we are planning on living with the aluminum siding on the body of the house. It can be painted. At least your window frames are still wide... sadly, ours are those really ugly strips. We'll eventually have them replaced with wide trim. We've just spent too much money on the the old girl to restore the original clapboards and have to paint the wood body of the house into our old age.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 12:06PM
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I'm a bit confused by the pictures too, but nothing I saw looks too bright. I agree about not liking the brown trim though, it looks old in a bad way. I don't see why you should limit yourself to colors chosen by one builder or one family over a hundred years ago. There are so many colors that would be appropriate to the age and style of your house. Start with asking yourself what colors you like, and then find shades of those colors that work as a Victorian pallet. In any case, don't be worried about people thinking your house is too bright. You have an amazing, historic Victorian home - be bold. People might say "WOW!" but no one is going to think it's an eyesore.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 3:50PM
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Sorry for the confusion with the photos. And thanks for the compliments on the house. They are much appreciated and it keeps the motivation going.

The original colors are displayed in the 1st 9 photos. Currently the house is brown and white. The front right corner under the porch is our experiment area. The next photos are mock ups of various schemes that someone created for me. The photos that have red sash and green trim show the other colors we contemplated for a long time. We loved the colors but they tended to seem too muddy and dull.

The paint chips did have beautiful handwriting on them that indicated what they were for - one said something like "body color make a trifle lighter". We also have photos that have helped us (though in sepia tone) and a few areas of our home that still have the black sash and the brown trim.

Choosing colors we like is tough with this home. For some reason it "speaks" to us and tells us what to do :-). Anyone else had this experience? I do wonder about the brown - it's Sherwin Williams Rockwood Antique Oak. The Body Color closely resembles Sherwin Williams Downing Straw but with a lot more depth. Both of these are from the Victorian Era colors.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 5:57PM
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OK, that is so cool that they paint chips had writing on them! You are quite fortunate that your house has so much about it that is original; and old photos too. If the house is "speaking" to you, I'd listen. With age comes wisdom, right?? :-) Anyway, if you want to bring it back to the original colors and you feel good about that, go for it. I think that's what I'd do. I wouldn't worry about it being too bright. I do think the yellow is lovely and I hadn't noticed the black sash before; I always think black sashes look great. That's my 2 cents worth!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:51AM
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Hi - I remember your house from an earlier posting - So lovely.

I have to say, there is just something so romantic about having a house that is painted in its original colors. And those 'original' colors you are testing out are not at all boring or dull. How impressive a huge golden house would be sitting in the middle of all of that greenery. It would simply glow in the evening sunshine.

I still am a huge proponent of using real honest-to-goodness old colors (that were available at the time your house was originally built) and these colors can be mimicked today. Check out this link:


It will take you to the Winkler Moss books about painting your Victorian House. The funny thing is that as you dive into the colors that they cite, they are far more colorful than most people think - lovely blues and aquas and so many amazing browns, greens and golds.

The other nice thing about these old, or natural, colors (since they were originally made with natural pigments) is that if made from pigment today, they will not fade nearly as fast as modern colors made from dyes (almost all paints today are made of dyes)

Its funny how styles and mindsets change over time. Most old Victorians were repainted in Colonial Revival colors in the 20th century to update them, and those colors are very frequently seen as 'Victorian' by modern eyes. White trim was rarely used on pre-20th century houses and if you want to make your house look truly Victorian, use a darker trim color - immediately it will state 'I am a Victorian house'

There is some benefit to making the house 'yours' (sounds like a judge on American Idol, hu?) but do it with respect for the house - you said it, the house is telling you what it wants to be - let it speak and you will be magnificently rewarded.

Now, with regard to painting aluminum, I just read that painting aluminum and vinyl cladding can cause warping since most folks paint these materials darker and they thereby absorb more heat form sunlight and warp. also there is some trouble with paint adhering to the old dirty aluminum and prep for the metal may be more involved than replacing the wood - you're sure its not just hidden under the metal ? that stinks if its gone. really a conundrum.

I know we are all very very interested in what you end up doing - so much time goes into the right color - take your time and do it right ONCE. my best. (p.s., i too and still choosing colors for our vinyl clad house - we are doing sections over the next several years so need to clarify color now so we can start. it stinks to be poor ... lol)

Here is a link that might be useful: Winkler Moss Publications

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 4:06PM
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Might look something like the link. Of course in real life it will have more life and won't appear so flat.

That gold color looks real familiar. :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 7:45AM
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