Historical exterior paint colors

Written by laurie carpenter
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Historical exterior paint colors
Historical paint colours can vary by period, home style and region. (paint image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com)

Exterior home colours, like clothing fashion, have changed throughout the centuries. From the colonial period through the 20th century, colours and painting styles varied greatly. According to Andrea M. Gilmore, principal with Building Conservation Associates in Dedham, Massachusetts, there are common colours and levels of repetition for each period of time.

Colonial Period

Surprisingly, dark drab colours were not the rule of the day during the 17th and 18th centuries; in fact some colours are actually considered vibrant. While the browns were in fact used, so were deep reds, yellows, blues, greens and whites.

Historical exterior paint colors
Colonial home colours were not as drab as typically believed. (new England colonial home. image by Tom Oliveira from Fotolia.com)

Early to Mid-19th Century

Belle Grove, a manor house in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and part of the National Parks system is representative of the early 1800s. While the manor is constructed of limestone, the trim and wooden pillars are all white. Besides white, there was a tendency to paint home in colours which reflect colours found in nature.

Victorian Era

The mid to late 1800s ushered in the Victorian home with ornate architecture. White was out, multi-coloured palettes were in. Plum shades, golds, greens, brick, sage , pumpkin and umber are just some of the colours used. The body of the house could be one colour or three. The door and window trim or any detailed cornice trim could be another colour. In sunny regions such as the Southwest, home colours were lighter in colour and more vibrant.

Historical exterior paint colors
Victorian homes with their intricate trim work provide for multiple paint colour choices. (cape may Victorian home details image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com)

The 20th Century

As the Victorian era closed, homes returned to white, often with dark green or black shutters and trim. More earth tones became prominent, such as mossy greens and browns and shades of grey. As the mid-1900's housing styles turned to ranch style homes, harvest gold and avocado greens became popular home exterior colours.

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