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Historic Exterior Paint and Stain Colors


The National Trust for Historic Preservation has documented over 250 historic colors from its extensive research. The colors were influenced by popularity or fashion of a particular era, and the technology of paint manufacturing during that time.

Choosing the perfect exterior colors for your house and yard (fences, arbors, trellis, outdoor furniture, wood planters, and so on) can be both fun and overwhelming at the same time. Whether your house is a traditional period style, a period revival, arts and crafts, modern, or an eclectic style that reflects earlier eras, you may be very interested in choosing period colors from that era. Any house style can be enhanced with rich character from a well chosen color palette of its period. This palette can be used for both house and yard.

You may see sample brochures of historic color collections at the paint store and may wonder what are historic colors and how did the paint manufacturers select these shades. These colors are actual shades that were used on buildings and houses, when they were new, during a particular period in our country’s architectural history. The colors were influenced by popularity or fashion of a particular era, and the technology of paint manufacturing during that time.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with architectural historians conducted color analysis of paint and stains from older structures, to reveal the original colors and color palettes used during each historic period.

The research included the gathering of samples of the many layers of paint and stain that were applied over the centuries. Not only were colors revealed, but also application techniques and color placement on the different parts of a house (or building).

Period design details are enhanced & highlighted with this color palette

 

This color palette (same as first photo) includes red to accent post finials

 

Historic Color Palettes


To get the period inspired look you want, there is a range of options for the homeowner, anywhere from hiring a historic color consultant to using a major paint brand’s historic color palette for guidance.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has documented over 250 historic colors from its extensive research – check their website to view these colors. Major paint manufacturers that use a ‘color match’ system can match any of the National Trust colors, so you can use your favorite paint brand for your project.

Coordinating a period correct color palette for your home, should include shades for the body (walls), trim, and accents and details. Color placement is essential to a well done project, too, and a good historic color consultant should be able to advise you on this.

Color palette in green tones with white trim

 

Good color placement is key for a historic palette

 

Prominent Victorian turret with period details and paint palette

Whether you will be using paint, stain, or both for your project, it is recommended to first select the color for the body (walls) of your house. A well known historic color consultant suggests choosing up to 4 possibilities for the body color, and then covering large sheets of plywood with these colors leaning them against the house to see how each color will look during various times of the day as the light changes. After the color for the body of your house is selected, choose the colors for the trim, accents and details, and entry doors.

The lattice-type design pattern, in this Victorian gable, is emphasized by a contrasting color palette

Note: If your house is on the National Registry for historical houses, or if you are going to be applying to place your house on the registry, before you start your project, contact them and your local chapter for approval for the color scheme/palette your have chosen.

Also, homeowners who belong to a Homeowners Association may be required to adhere to a specified color palette.

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