Color By Number
Victorian Homes|Fall 2017

America’s Rich History Of Architecture And Design Has Inspired Colorful Exterior Paint Styles For Hundreds Of Years.

Rebekah Wahlberg

How you paint the exterior of your Home says a lot about both the House and you.

It’s the first impression any guest gets of your home, and it determines how your house looks to the rest of the neighborhood. Choosing a paint color gets even more complicated when you live in a historic home—do you stay faithful to your home’s history and choose colors that would have been used when it was first built, or do you go your own way and add new flair to your house?


America has a long and expressive history in exterior paint colors. “Reflecting the first real pigmentation in paint, classic and colonial colors from the 1600s to the 1850s are simple and timeless,” says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. The company’s new paint collection, America’s Heritage, was inspired by these historic paint styles. “The rise of the standard of living in Europe stimulated the demand for coloring agents, which in turn encouraged trade,” Sue says. “Natural tones of creamy whites and soft neutrals were really popular, because early pigments were based on organic matter. The scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries created a near-literal explosion of color as chemists developed synthetic, long-lasting pigments.”

This eventually gave rise to the contrast and variety that became the hallmarks of Victorian style from the 1850s to the turn of the century. “Period décor brought together multiple rich, intense shades, often from opposite sides of the color wheel,” Sue says. “Reds were paired with greens, golds and purples, and gilded molding and accents gave everything the luster of wealth. As time went on, Victorians began to favor the line over the curve along with slightly more subdued colors. But the intense contrasts and layered decorating style remained constant.”

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