So you’re thinking of painting your heritage property?

Perhaps the most daunting task homeowners’ face is repainting their house. This is especially true for owners of historic homes.

Nearly everyone has driven by a house and said, “Oh my, what were they thinking?”

Colour selection for historic homes is a challenge. Consideration of so many architectural features such as porches and gables can make the task overwhelming and mistakes in colour can be expensive.

Queenslander in Thorn Street

Exterior house colour options changed throughout the 19th century in much the same way as fashions. Technological advancements and altered public taste helped foster an evolving colour landscape that went from soft, almost pastel colours in the 1840’s to dark, drab schemes in the 1880’s then to stronger colours with bright, white trim near the turn of the 20th century.

In the sixties, most older homes were painted solid while. This reflected the influences of modernism and its call for clean lines and monochromatic surfaces.

It is interesting to see the return of the ‘grey’ house in Ipswich. A grey exterior was very popular in the sixties, in particular the homes of railway employees, a striking similarity to the grey of railway carriages. An example, our home at 15 Rowland Terrace was painted grey most of its life until cladded in the seventies. When sold, the new owner removed the cladding and painted grey!

The first step in colour selection should be to determine what architectural style your house is (Gothic, Victorian, etc.) and approximate when it was built. This helps establish a historical time frame for possible colour palette options.

Once you have a sense of when your house was built and what period its architectural style is, you can begin looking at which colours were available at that time. The internet is a powerful tool as many scholarly and government agencies have posted information regarding period house colours.

With architectural style information and historic colour cards in hand, you can begin to consider colour options. This is a critical point in the process because it is here you have several paths you can take to achieve a stunning result.

Some homeowners will opt to copy another house’s colour scheme either locally, seen on a trip or in a book or magazine. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It should be noted that when following this path, what looks good on one house style may not be as appealing on yours. The amount of body colour and placement of architectural details varies greatly among house styles and these items have a huge effect on how a colour scheme will work out.

One important point to remember is that “there is no rule” that says you have to paint your house using only the colours that were available when it was built. Remember your home has existed through several historic colour periods and it was likely repainted in newer, more modern colours in each of them. It is perfectly fine to have a period home in today’s colours, if that is what suits you. After all, it is YOUR home.

~~ June Frank

This post first appeared as an article in the 2017 Summer edition of the QT Magazine, published 2nd December.