In the late 1800s, the ornate approach known as Victorian style came into its own. Although Victorian homes vary by style, the basic characteristics remain the same throughout. Victorian homes are marked by steep-pitched roofs with multiple dormers, unique porches, detailed bracket work, fine gingerbread, shutters and windows of unique shapes and sizes, some with stained-glass panes. Exterior colour schemes were more vibrant in the colonies than in Britain.
Authentic Victorian palettes
Painting the exterior of a home built between 1850 and 1920, the Victorian era, in authentic colours requires an understanding of the home's particular style. For instance, a Folk Victorian built in 1906 calls for a different colour scheme than an Italianate Victorian constructed in 1853. Research is key to reproducing accurate colour schemes for individual homes. Hire consultants versed in Victorian-era home design to offer advice on period appropriate house painting. The most common colours used when painting Victorian homes were moss green, slate blue, brown and yellow. People with a taste for flare employed colours such as purple, rich mulberry, ginger and mauve. Always consider the material to be painted and apply appropriate colours. For inspiration, peruse Victorian home magazines, take a driving tour of historical neighbourhoods or surf the internet for photos of Victorian homes.
Pale shades of cream, green, blue, yellow and brown wear well on Victorian homes. Lighter paint colours do not fade in the sun as readily as dark colours. Pale colours age throughout the years with grace and beauty. Employ the triad method of painting, or painting with three colours, whenever possible. Draw the eye to decorative details by painting it in shades darker than the body of the house. For a display of colour that surprises the onlooker, use the triad method of painting the main portion of the home, then sparingly add bold splashes of colour on selected bits of trim. Create depth in the overall look of the house by painting window sashes a darker value of the colour used to paint the main body of the house. Paint large portions of relief in colours that enhance the relief work and compliment the body of the house. Always select colours that complement the roof of the house.
Although pretty, mauve is best employed for the decorative portions of the home. Try painting decorative trim and relief work in various values of mauve such as light, medium and dark mauve.
Jewel tones such as red, blue, green and deepest gold evoke a sense of opulence. Often used to enhance the finer points of Victorian house exteriors, jewel tones may overwhelm a house if not applied by an experienced hand. If painting the body of a house in a jewel tone, opt for a lighter shade, then add darker shades of the same jewel tone on trim work and architectural details. Select paint colours that enhance the house's overall design and the architecture of neighbouring homes. A suggested colour scheme for royal blue and green is to paint the body of the house deep royal blue, the wide expanses of wooden shingles and other decorative details pale blue, then paint the trim deep green followed by mauve pink paint on gingerbread work. Remember that paint dries darker when painted on a house.
Utilise a four-colour paint scheme by applying slate blue on the body of the house, cream on the trim, pale yellow on wide portions of relief and a bold mulberry hue on decorative details.
More vivid colours were used during the Victorian era in the Queen-Empress's warmer realms. Select a trio of vibrant colours for the largest portion of the house. Paint the architectural details of the house in colours that harmonise with the main colour scheme or employ one or more of the main colours to embellish the details. Some vibrant homes sport as many as 11 paint colours on their architectural details. The key to giving a Victorian house the vibrant look is to make the architectural details pop with colour. When in doubt, hire a professional painter experienced in painting historical homes, namely painted ladies.
The monochromatic Victorian
Monochromatic simply means one colour. Victorian homes painted in a monochromatic colour scheme illustrate quiet charm that catches the eye of passers-by. Create a monochromatic colour scheme by choosing three values of one colour. Choose light, dark and medium green, for example. Paint gingerbread, window trim and other architectural elements to highlight their fine detail. For a conservative monochromatic scheme, pick lighter shades. Monochromatic schemes in blazing shades may appear bizarre if the colour scheme is not chosen and applied correctly. Keep the colours of surrounding homes in mind when deciding on a colour scheme. A badly painted Victorian house quickly becomes an eyesore in its neighbourhood. When uncertainty prevails, call in the professionals for recommendations. Professional painters offer good advice on painting homes.
- Old House Web: Choosing exterior paint schemes
- Inetours: Historic Victorian homes in San Francisco, California
- "Authentic Color Schemes for Victorian Houses -- Comstock's Modern House Painting, 1883"; Rossiter, E. K. & Wright, F.A.; Dover Publications; 2001