How to Select Exterior Paint Colors for Your Historic Home

February 20, 2024

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I'm Heather, an Old House Lover, DIY Addict, Gardener Wannabe, and Crazy Dog Lady. I have renovated historic houses for over 20 years now with an emphasize on preservation over a quick flip. Now, I take great joy in teaching others the ins and outs of the renovation world.

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So let me start by saying I tend to march to the beat of my own drum when it comes to choosing exterior paint colors for my historic homes.  While I like and appreciate historically accurate color schemes for historic homes, I almost never choose them.  That’s just me.  I like to push the envelope a little and do something different. 

See what I mean? 

The Queen Anne

The Queen Anne

The West End

The West End

Peronneau Place

Peronneau Place

But I do think historical color schemes are beautiful too.

The Dowds Domain
Martha's Manor
Victorian Historic Home

Whether you’re going the traditional route with historical colors or trying something different, here are a few steps to follow to help with your decision making.

Step One: What Colors Do You Absolutely Love?

It should go without saying, but if you absolutely have your heart set on a blue house, go blue.  Don’t try to talk yourself into what you ‘think’ you should choose or what some real estate expert said was trending.  In fact, I don’t like trends.  At all.  The color scheme you choose should make your face light up when you arrive at your house every single time.  So go with what you love.  Pinterest is a great resource for this to get started.

My 1914 Bungalow

Step Two:  What Color Are the Houses Around You?

While this step may contradict the first step, be sure to look around your street to see what color the houses around you are painted.  Pay special attention to the ones closest to you.  If you have a white house on either side of you, unless you just have to have a white house, consider a little color so that your house doesn’t just look like all the other ones.  I love personality in a house and think the color of your house speaks volumes.  Be different.

Historic Homes

Step Three: Paint Samples on Your House       

If you’ve decided that you want a green house, explore what shades you like the best and purchase some samples.  I do not recommend more than three samples because once you get to the fourth, things just get confusing.  Also be sure to purchase the trim and any accent colors too so that you can paint them beside each other to make sure they are complimentary.  Historic houses typically come in a three-color scheme – the body, the trim, and the accent for items like window sashes and doors. 

Now that you have your samples, paint them on at least two, if not three sides of your house.  This helps to see how they will look with different sun exposure and at different times of the day.

My clients at the Dowds Domain were sure they wanted a dark green for the siding and had two shades in mind.  I painted large samples on two sides of the house so they could make sure they loved the color and she quickly said no to one of them. It was just too much.  She then found a third sample and that did the trick.  We left these samples up for several weeks before the painters were scheduled to start just so they would be sure.

Sherwin Williams Rookwood Sash Green

Step Four: Let the Painting Begin

Once the paint crew begins, they will want to know your colors so have them ready.  I typically make a list with the name of the manufacturer, the name of the paint, and the paint number.  In that list I also am very specific with what goes where.

This is the exact list I emailed to the painter for the Dowds Domain before they arrived:

Walk the house with them being very clear what colors you want where.  Historic homes have extra features so if you want those highlighted with your accent color, be very specific.  If you want them to blend in, paint them the color of the body.  Just be clear and leave no room for interpretation on their end. 

Step Five:  Wrapping Up

Now that your home is painted, do one last walk through with your painter before they pack up.  The good ones will be more than happy to do any touch-ups on areas of concern and always ask them to leave any remaining paint cans with you.  Label the cans and store somewhere out of the elements so that you can have them for touch-ups down the road. 

Learn more about this beautiful Victorian home, The Dowds Domain.

And now, enjoy your beautiful historic home, in your favorite shade of ……

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  1. Tracy says:

    I love that you said the colors you chose should make your face light up. I always felt coming home should bring you joy right when you pull up.

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