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Historic colors of america - by period

a guide to color, styles and architectural periods Website source:

 

This guide provides general descriptions of architectural styles of houses and buildings found across America, with the eras and colors associated with those styles. Styles overlapped in time and many colors, used interchangeably both on interiors and exteriors, were popular in more than one era.

These descriptions and color lists serve as a springboard to possible color schemes for a building’s major exterior or interior features, as well as lesser architectural details, including accents, decorative stenciling and overlays.

Using this guide and the Historic Colors of America paint chart, homeowners and professionals can create the effect of a given historic period while applying variations to suit personal tastes.

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Colonial

MID 1600's -1780

Colonial architecture, from the period up to and including the American Revolution, is based on the traditions and precedents that European settlers knew from their ancestral cultures and the tastes and fashions transmitted to the colonies from their mother countries.

Appropriate paint or color treatments for these houses reflect the limited number of colors available at the time, most of which were simply derived from earth, stone, or other natural pigments. Typical 17th-century paint treatments detailed the framing or trim elements in colors that contrasted boldly with surrounding untreated or neutral wood or masonry exterior (or plaster interior) wall surfaces. Many more 18th -century houses survive than do houses of the 17th century. The classicism of Georgian England dominated the East coast, while colonial architecture in the Southwest shows the influence of the Spanish Baroque. Paint colors for these houses are frequently strong colors, with contrasting white trim. Colors that mimicked stone construction were popular for Georgian exteriors, while interior colors were frequently bolder and brighter than was once thought.

 

Colonial colors


Shaker
Red 

English
Bartlett

Bold Bolection

Parsnip

Ginger Root 

Rawhide  

Cogswell Cedar


Tailor’s
Buff 

Newport Indigo

Langdon
Dove

Portobello  

Chocolate 

Pumpkin

Blonde
Lace

Wainscot Green

pettingill Sage

Tankard
Gray

Quincy Granite

Knightley
Straw

Meetinghouse 
Blue

Blue Winged 
Teal

Burnished
Pewter 

Otis
Madeira

Vinal
Haven

Asian
Jute 

Lexington
Blue 

Phillips Green 

Milkweed 

Liberty 

Polished Pewter

Georgian Yellow

Standish
Blue 

Warren Tavern 

Pitch
Pine

Burnt
Umber 

Redrock Canyon

Farmhouse Ochre

Tory
Blue 

Sayward Pine 

Nankeen

Wooden
Nutmeg 

Wooly
Thyme

Grassy
Meadow





 

Federal

1780 - 1830

By the end of the 18th century, popular taste had moved away from the bold massing and strong details of the Georgian style to a lighter, more delicate interpretation of classical motifs.  Named “Federal” in honor of the new federal republic of the United States, this style reflected the decorative quality to the buildings of English architect Robert Adam as well as popular interest in newly-excavated classical Greek and Roman antiquities.  A handful of American architects (such as Charles Bulfinch, Benjamin Latrobe, and Samuel McIntire) worked to design the new country’s important public buildings and grand private residences but most houses took their architectural form from the illustrations of a few widely-disseminated builders’ handbooks and guides, such as those of Asher Benjamin.

In keeping with the style’s lighter line and more delicate form, colors for Federal houses were also lighter, more pale and delicate, with whites and pale stony shades of gray, off-white, and ochre used on exteriors.  Newly-discovered ancient frescoes inspired the use of bright, clear tones in interiors, often in contrast with white or pale colored trim.

 

federal colors


Stagecoach
 

Barrett Quince 

Lucinda
 

Bristol
Green 

Wild
Oats 

Pettingill
Sage

India
Trade 

York
Bisque 

Bulfinch
Blue 

Longfellow
 

Parsnip

Burnt
Umber

Pumpkin 
 

Lyman
Camellia 

Citadel
Blue 

Viscaya
 


Langdon
Dove 

Wooden
Nutmeg

Knightley
Straw 

Woodstock
Rose 

Meetinghouse
Blue

Green
Bonnet 

Jackson
Antique 

Quincy
Granite

Asian
Jute 

Mountain
Laurel 

Tory
Blue 

Wainscot
Green 

Phelps
Putty 

Vinal
Haven

Georgian
Yellow 

Rundlet
Peach 

Amelia


Grasshopper 


Bayberry
Wax 

Curry
 

Farmhouse
Ochre 

Tudor
Ice 

His.
Morning Dew

Boardman 

Sandy
Bluff 

Rain
Barrel

English
Bartlett 

Appleton 

Coral
Springs 

Jewett
White 

Flaxen
Field

 

Greek Revival

1825 - 1855

The Greek Revival style is the first architecture that can be considered national in scope: huge increases in population and settlement and the birth of a national economy generated vast new construction, carrying the style well beyond the Eastern cities. In this time, the American architectural profession developed and the number of popular architectural builders’ guides expanded. Small mills produced lumber to construct thousands of houses from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and out from the ancient trade centers of the Southwest.

The Greek “temple” form, with its triangular pediment supported by columns, epitomizes the style but classical columns and pediments were reflected on the simplest of houses, in wide trim boards that flanked a door or circled an eave.  Typically, Greek Revival houses are painted white, but off-white, ochre, and gray are also suitable, provided the trim elements are contrasted in white. Natural earth and stone pigments remained the source of most exterior colors but interiors began to feature the richness and depth of color associated with the Victorian era. Shutters and window sashes on Greek Revival houses were invariably painted dark green or black. 

 

greek revival colors


Asian
Jute 

Jackson
Antique 

Phelps
Putty 

Wild
Oats

Amish
Green

Jewett
White

Quincy
Granite

Winter
Meadow

Brattle
Spruce

Langdon
Dove

Rain
Barrel

Yarmouth
Oyster

Canyon
Gold

Nankeen

Sandy
Bluff

Danish
Pine

Parsnip

Sayward
Pine

Flaxen
Field

Plymouth
Beige

Vinal
Haven



 


Victorian

1840 - 1900

The era called “Victorian” for the long reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria encompasses numerous distinct architectural styles including the “Romantic” Gothic, Italianate, and Egyptian Revivals (pre-1860), the Second Empire and Stick styles (1860-1880), the Queen Anne and  Shingle styles (1880s and  ‘90s), and the Colonial Revival style (1876-1900 and beyond). By 1900, thousands of trained architects practiced across the country. Millwork and trim was factory-produced.  Massive industrialization and immigration opened the whole country to development and new settlements, such as the middle class suburb, sprang up.

As architectural styles multiplied, color treatments of houses became more varied and complex.  Advances in paint technology brought ready-mixed paints in a broad range of colors. The three color paint scheme became the norm with one color on the siding, a second on the trim, and a third on the sashes, shutters, and doors. Multiple body colors might differentiate shingles from clapboards but elaborate color schemes using more than four (with perhaps a fifth to accent moldings) were not typical. For both interiors and exteriors, paint schemes were frequently richly-colored with deep, saturated color that used a complex mix of pigments.

 

victorian colors


Beetroot

Knightley
Straw 

Biloxi
Blue 

Newbury
Moss 

Winter
Meadow 

Bargeboard
Brown

Madder

Asian
Jute 

Bowen
Blue 

Picholine 

Coastal
Sand 

Fieldstone

Covered
Bridge 

Georgian
Yellow 

Muted
Mulberry 

Amish
Green 

Britches

Vermont
Slate

Alden
Till 

Goldenrod 

Concord
Grape 

Baize

Toffee

Curry

Flowering
Chestnut

Farmhouse
Ochre 

Plum
Island 

Gedney
Green 

Ginger
Root 

Redrock
Canyon

Roseland

English
Bartlett 

Cottage
Green 

Pointed
Fir 

Maple

Cummings
Oak

Codman
Claret 

Gable
Green 

Marrett
Apple

Brattle
Spruce

Bean
Pot 

Wooly
Thyme

Stagecoach

Tailor’s
Buff 

Whispering
Willow

Winter
Balsam

Palomino


Richardson
Brick

Blonde
Lace 

Brookside

Moss
Glen

Brownstone
  


Portsmouth
Spice

Robin’s
Egg 

Veranda
Blue 

Sayward
Pine 

Burnt
Umber


Clementine 

Glacier
Bay 

Warren
Tavern 

Pettingill
Sage 

Hickory
Nut


Pumpkin

China
Aster 

Hazelwood 

Sturgis
Gray 

Wooden
Nutmeg

 

20th Century Eclecticism

1900 - 1955

By the end of the 19th century, two major trends, one moving toward increasingly precise copies of historical architecture, and the other rejecting and moving away from traditional architectural forms, began to be evident in residential architecture.  These two main architectural “camps”, traditional vs. modern, still characterize much residential construction at the beginning of the 21st century with the traditional approach continuing to dominate the marketplace for new house construction.

Among the traditional architectural house styles of the early 20th century are “revivals” of the historic architectural styles of the past, the Georgian, Colonial, Spanish Colonial and Tudor Revivals. Contrasted with these forms are “modern” styles, such as the Craftsman, Four Square, or Ranch, that reflect new ways of planning and designing homes and use materials in new ways. In the 20th century, both traditional and modern houses used stuccos, brick and stone veneers, and concrete in addition to standard wood siding and trim. 

Paint colors varied according to style: generally, trim colors for the Tudor and Craftsman style houses were dark --browns, maroons, deep olives and greens. Georgian and Colonial revival houses were generally light: white, gray, gray-blue, gray-green, or yellow on the body, with white trim and window sashes and dark shutters and doors.  Modern houses tended to be painted in light neutrals with dark sashes and bold accents of bright, primary colors.

 

20th Century Eclecticism colors


Codman
Claret 

Lucinda 

Seal
Blue 

Melville 

Yarmouth
Oyster 

Vinal
Haven

Andover
Cream 

Bulfinch
Blue 

Volute 

Venetian
Glass 

Parsnip

Monument
Gray

Pale
Organza 

Emily 

Asher
Benjamin 

Newbury
Moss 

Langdon
Dove 

Fieldstone

Emma 

Portsmouth
Blue 

Beauport
Aubergine

Gedney
Green 

Portobello

Gropius
Gray

Lady
Banksia 

Rocky
Hill 

Hawthorne

Pointed
Fir 

Hitching
Post


Jonquil

Winter
Harbor

Elise 

Jewett
White 

Tyson
Taupe


Appleton

Saxon
Blue

Cottage
Green

Plymouth
Beige

Quincy
Granite

 

All photos courtesy of Historic New England.

Need help? For advice on caring for your old house contact Historic New England. Technical information and assistance on historic house maintenance, including paint color selection, is available to Historic Homeowner members. Please call 617-994-6645 or visit
www.historichomeowner.org for more information.      

         

The paint colors viewed on this site are for general representation only. All colors look different when viewed on a computer monitor. To view the actual color card please call our customer service at 1.800.225.1141 or contact your local dealer.

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