Color My World

My wife’s Grandpa Sam was a house painter by profession. At the time he was working, house painting was a job best left to professionals because you didn’t just walk into your local Home Depot and select a latex color from a palette offering thousands of choices. Grandpa Sam also specialized in stenciling, which required patience, skill, and a crazy attention to detail. Who has time (not to mention talent) for that today? Certainly not us!

Thinking about the period rooms that I’ve photographed, it seemed to me that the choice of colors available in the 18th and 19th centuries were pretty restricted. Based on what I’m seeing, muted colors were overwhelmingly employed, and I assumed that’s because it was all they had. Well, it’s good that I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.

There’s an article authored by Bob Vila, available on his website, which you should read that covers the subject of historic house paint colors. Bob was the originator of the popular TV series, This Old House, so he’s been in many period houses. He writes that by using technology, preservationists are electronically stripping away layers of paint and have discovered that our forefathers were more adventurous, colorwise, than we imagined. Using the old technique of sanding and scraping through layers of paint gives us the false impression that colors were mostly muted. Actually, what we’re seeing is the paint after it’s been dulled by sunlight, exposure, and time, so it’s no wonder that our beliefs need a reboot.

There’s a lot more to this article, so please take a few minutes to read his entire piece. If you’re interested in old houses and preservation, it will be time well spent. You can find it here:

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