Owning a historic house is a special and exciting privilege in home ownership. It allows you to enjoy the traditional aspects of being a homeowner while also owning a piece of history. You are part of a long line of owners your home has boasted, and you will forever be linked with its story.

However, being true to your home can bring with it some unique challenges. Among them is something few modern house owners have to consider; how to reflect the home’s pedigree in its paint colors?
So, what does this mean for you, and how can you accomplish it? Here’s a quick guide to historic house painting.

What Are Historic Paints?

Historic paint colors are those hues that not only existed at the time the home was built but also were generally used as part of its original design. You may be surprised to find that many architectural styles had their own color scheme.
Historical color palettes were often influenced by the fashion or technology of the day, and they may be different from what the casual modern observer relates with a particular period.

Why Should You Care?

Your historic home may come with certain requirements if it has a historic designation. These requirements are there to preserve the integrity of its design and era. So, you may find that you’re limited to the period-appropriate exterior or interior paint colors.

Even if you’re not subject to historic preservation rules, remodeling or decorating the house according to standards of its pedigree maintains the value of the home and preserves its charm. If you care enough to buy a truly historical home, you certainly want it to look its best, and a proper paint scheme does just that.

What Are Some Examples?

So, how can you ensure you choose the right color palette? Understanding the context of your home’s particular historical era and style is the best place to start.

Many paint companies have lines that are specifically designed to mimic the original exterior or interior styles of historic architecture.

You can also put together your own palette with a little research. For example, here are a few specifics for common vintage houses:


Early Victorian houses were built in the era of natural pigments, so they featured reds and brown shades made from ferric oxide base. Later styles, such as Queen Anne, existed in a time of synthetic pigments and therefore used bolder colors like blue, green and yellow. They typically feature several different colors to highlight all the trim and ornate decoration by contrasting it with the siding.

Mid-Century Modern

This post-war home design was all about looking to the future and getting back to nature. This combination of earthiness and modernism is reflected in a generally monochromatic paint scheme that boasts occasional pops of color (like bright orange, yellow or turquoise). Simplicity is the name of the game for this style.

Cape Cod

The weathered look of true Cape Cod homes comes from their life near the sea. Grays, blues, and whites are common colors. These homes are symmetrical, neutral and a little austere, and their color palette reflects that. Unlike exuberant and effusive Victorian homes, the Cape Cod style speaks to the difficulty of the maritime life.

How Can You Choose Well?

Understanding your house’s style and the context in which it was built will help you choose the right color scheme.

It’s best to work with a professional painting company that has experience with historic homes. They can help you not only determine what colors would have originally decorated your home but also recreate those hues in the modern world.

No matter what type of historic building you own, complementing it with an appropriate paint job will help maintain its history while also creating a space you’ll be proud to call home.

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