Colored trim with white vinyl windows???

lizzie_nhSeptember 29, 2011

This is not really an "old house" question, but I figured this forum would be the best place to get advice as it's sort of a "new old house" question.

I currently live in a new (post-2000 Cape) in New Hampshire, on "old" land (lots of historic stone walls and cellar holes in the woods, etc..) Unfortunately, everything about the house is modern (vinyl siding, vinyl shutters, vinyl windows.) I know, I know. I was not around when this house was purchased by my husband. In any case, there's nothing I can do about all the vinyl right now... it would be prohibitively expensive to replace the siding and windows when they are all new and in excellent condition, and at least the exterior color scheme is classic - white with black shutters.

To my question - the vinyl windows are double glazed with those faux muntins set between the two panes of glass, making the windows look like classic six over six divided light windows. I'm not a big fan, although from a distance they look fine. The issue is that the windows and "muntins" are white and cannot be painted. This is fine right now because all of the interior and exterior trim is also white, so although it's not exactly historically correct, we still have a reasonably traditional look.

However, I am interested in adding "period" elements to the house - wide pine floors and other things to bring it at least somewhat more in line with the 18th century Capes around here. I am a big fan of white or cream walls, with trim and windows painted in a period color - a light olive/sage green, or yellow ochre, etc.. Unfortunately, while I can paint the trim, I would not be able to match the window frame and muntins. Would it look extremely odd to have the walls white or cream, the trim a color, but the windows white?

If this is extremely misguided, I won't be devastated. I'm pleased with the classic white trim look, too - it's clean and cottage-y, but it's more of a post-WWII Cape look than an 18th or 19th century Cape look.

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No one has any opinion about the look of white windows/muntins, with period paint colors on the trim? I realize that this is not truly an old house question, but it does relate to decorating in a historic way, and may even be an issue for some people who buy old houses which have had replacement windows installed and who do not want to pay to replace perfectly good, though not historically-accurate, windows.. (FYI I have lived in several actual old houses, I just currently do not.)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 4:41PM
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lizzie nh. I don't have an answer for you, but am very interested in the replies you'll get. I do actually have a old house (1838), but it has new windows :( (which are white, inside and out). I've be starting to consider the same exact thing. Good luck on your "aging" of your home.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 4:57PM
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most folks in old houses that i know ignore them, or b*!#$ about them, paint the way they want, and save their pennies till they can afford real windows.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 5:15PM
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In NH is Carlisle Floors, check them out. Beautiful!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 5:34PM
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I know of Carlisle floors... absolutely gorgeous floors, but we plan to install and finish ourselves to save a bit of $$$.

Unfortunately it doesn't really make financial sense for us to change out the windows and everything else, since they're essentially brand new... makes more sense to pour time, money, and effort into an already old house rather than attempt to recreate all the details in this bland new house. The workmanship in this house (which was a spec house) just isn't high enough quality... we'd basically be rebuilding the whole thing, and still not have the genuine old house I want. Still, I'm trying to make relatively minor changes to add character. Perhaps I will stick with the white trim.

(There are plenty of very old houses around here, which can be had for a song but my husband grew up in a 1970s suburban house in another region of the country and I have not sold him on the old house idea, just yet. Grrrrr.....)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 7:30PM
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Here is a picture for you with the white on the inside.

Our original windows have been patched in the past with what looks like white bondo, so when I went to strip, my only option was to leave any areas that were damaged as white. Now that it is done, I kind of like it. If the windows were dark, they would actually look smaller.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 7:37AM
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Lizzie, my first choice would be to paint the walls in the sage/olive or ochre. I'm afraid having the trim painted in color while the windows and walls on either side were white would draw too much attention to the trim alone, rather than the windows as a whole.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 11:28AM
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I have always been kind of an "anything but white" (as one poster here has called it) person but as we gradually replace our cheap (and dark) aluminum replacement windows with wood windows, I'm working with colour around the windows and beginning to appreciate white or cream. The reason is that when looking out the window during the day, if the frame is dark the window looks like a hole - the framing is so dark in contrast that it is not visible. Of course, if you look at the window frame when lights are on in the room and the curtains closed, it looks fine.

White frames, whether it's the actual window box or the moulding around it, pick up the light that is coming in and play with it, illuminating the room better and also allowing the trim, and its detail, to be better seen. I think in Daniaadele's lovely photo, above, you can imagine that if the windowboxes were not white, you would not be able to see any detail of the inside wall or window.

So while I like coloured windows in theory, in reality they are maybe not the best idea, and maybe it is a good thing you have white mullions!

BUT I am also a big fan of doing what you like, or at least trying it, otherwise you end up staring at it for the rest of your life wondering what it would have looked like. Can you pre-try the painted moulding concept by painting some boards in sage and propping them up in front of the window?

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 4:00PM
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I read this post about an hour ago, and didn't think I had anything to contribute. Now I am watching History Dectives on tv, and they showed a picture taken in the early 1900s of a couple out in front of their home. The white house has black trim AROUND the window (in a rectangle) and the windows them selves including the mullions are painted white!
I just thought it was interesting and curious. So your windows are not so Un historical after all1

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 9:36PM
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