Exterior color scheme help on 1880's Victorian...

sarahandbrayAugust 26, 2012

Hi there!

I used to post frequently on the Kitchens forum...and then the Old House forum.

Just unearthed our 1880's Victorian out from under 1952 aluminum siding. It is filthy and in need of a good paint job, but otherwise in pretty good shape, considering it's age.

We know it was dark green and white in the 1940's as per this (albeit) B & W photo. This is my husband's granfather's old house so we can vouch back that far at least.

We were just going to copy this color scheme...but then I got to thinking this *might* not have been the original color scheme. And if it was, there might have been more areas with green than in the old photo.

If you had this house and needed to include dark green and white, what would you do? Would all the trim be green? What about the scalloping? Would you add a third color?

Any help or suggestions welcome!


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Here it is with side one of aluminum ripped off...except top of peak--that is all scalloping too...

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 12:09AM
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Where are you? Your local historical society maybe be able to answer, or may just be able to give you a palette of colors that would have been used in 1880's on a home like yours.

On my last home, I found a pamphlet put out by the Shaker Heights Historical Society very interesting. It gave actual paint colors used for certain style homes.


love the house!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Robert Schweitzer's site has tons of photos of historic homes. His business is advising on old home color schemes. I recommend checking this out.

Why do you HAVE to keep the green?

Here is a link that might be useful: historic House Colors

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:56AM
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There is a lot of information about paint colors for old houses on the web. Most likely the house was not originally white, but was a light to medium color, according to this article:

Here is a link that might be useful: House color changes

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Love your house!

I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of white houses with green shutters. They always looked dirty to me after a few years.

Who is it that has a green house with reddish-burgundy trim?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Sandyponder's house:

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:54AM
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Notice how the band of fancy shingles is continuous of the porch roof? I think originally the porch (wood) shingles and the band would have been the same color, and probably the roof. Like red oxide or chrome green, and the rest of the colors would have taken off from that, like a tan/buff, olive green, or cream yellow lap siding, dark red or black sash, and a fourth color for all of the trim which framed the different zones. The Roger Moss book (as mentioned earlier/elsewhere) is your best jumping off point, because all the recommended color schemes are of their actual period. The 1st floor siding could also be a deeper shade than the second floor, and the shingle band a third color.
All that to point out that in your period the roof color was thought of as a very important statement.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Thanks for the suggestions, pics and links!
I would love to say that we are open to a 5-color traditional Victorian color palatte, but I just don't think we are that bold!
Plus, when our original barn burned in '05, we put up a huge white and green Morton building in its place. So I know we are going to keep the deep forest green in the picture--which was actually a common color it seems from some of the Victorian color samples.

I guess my question is, would you keep the scalloping, trim, band boards, etc. white or would you incorporate a third color? I LOVE the deep burgundy/cranberry color which also seems to be a common color at the time. (similar to the trim on the above windows).

Decisions, decisions! Painting starts mid-September, so I only have a few weeks to pick colors and convince my very old-fashioned husband!


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:21PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Can you tell by an area where the paint is peeling? You may be able to get at historic colors underneath....there are people with historical societies that do such things.

It's a lovely home and you can go as bold or as soft with color combos as you like. If you want the dark green and white, I like soft yellow with that....

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 10:14AM
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That's the funny thing...house got aluminum in 1952, reportedly b/c my husband's grandfather got astronomical quotes for painting that made it cost-prohibitive. So, I assumed it probably had a paint job from 1940-1945 ish. The body of the house is not peeling at all in most places--very tight--and where it is, there's only wood underneath. Most definitely no other color. Around the windows, I have found chips of a very dark red and a dark green. But nothing on the band boards, trim, friezes, etc.

I read somewhere that this style of house (Folk Victorian, I think?) was built by solidly working class/middle class people out in the "country"--we are about 10 miles south of Albany, NY, so that was definitely rural in the late 19th c. They were able to copy some Victorian traits--scalloping, thick trim, etc., but never really copied some other Victorian things like turrets or Gothic influences or the super-dark/intricate color schemes.

So wish I could find a pic of this house from the turn-of-the-century!
I have some very elderly neighbors, so I may ask them--you never know--our house might be in the background of their old family photos!

Thanks again for the help!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 10:25AM
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Take a look at photos of San Francisco's zillions of painted Victorian houses, painted in every scheme you can imagine. Many of them will not be suited to your house, in your part of the country, outside an urban area, but you may find some inspiration there.

The link is to a Google image search, and is heavy with that one row of houses that you see All The Time at the edge of Alamo Square Park, but lots of them have subtle, pretty arrangements of color that could work for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Painted houses, San Francisco

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 10:45AM
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I know you said you think the 5 color scheme is too bold, but IMO your house is begging for it, the scallops and trim are just beautiful. I would have loved to have more ruffles and flourishes on our exterior, but the $$ just wasn't there, so we went bold on the color choice instead. I think your house is far too special to be just white, what about sunflower yellow with rusty red and creamy white trim? Or paint the body green with purple and cream trim (I'm not a stark white fan, sorry, can't recommend).

I would look at the "Painted Ladies" and use whatever color schemes you are drawn to, you can always use less colors than depicted in the link from bronwynsmom, but let me say again, the size, scale and level of detail on your house can handle 5 or even 7 colors, dare I say it was even built for that many colors!

Thanks to alison0704 for posting a pic of our house, I didn't expect to see that on this thread.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 11:14AM
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You're welcome. It's a great looking house. Love the colors.

There is/was a podiatrist office in an old Victorian near my town. He used two shades of green. It was more a gray/green, but stunning.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 1:03PM
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