Painting your home is a major undertaking. When done correctly, it will last for years to come. Therefore choosing the paint can sometimes seem like a scary and daunting exercise. Add to that all the beautiful trim you want to highlight, and well, it can become downright distressing.
Let’s take it a step at a time: First and foremost, the surface has to be prepared. Being the daughter of a professional painter growing up, I was always told that any paint job is 90 percent prep work. All loose paint needs to be scraped and removed. I highly recommend hiring a professional. Scraping loose paint can reveal and chip off lead based paint, which needs to be disposed of properly. Also, all nails and exposed metal needs to be treated with a rust inhibitor. Finally, all surfaces need to be primed so the paint can adhere properly.
Only then can the real fun begin. Often we hear Victorian homes referred to as “painted ladies”. Actually that term derived from a book written by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Lasen in 1978 titled Painted Ladies: San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians. A resurgence in Victorian and Edwardian homes being restored in the 1960s and painted a plethora of bright and pastel colors in the San Francisco area inspired their term. But, in fact, the colors that they were writing about didn’t have any historical precedence. Victorian homes in the late 1800s were originally painted in polychrome, or multicolor, schemes with no less than three colors. In fact, using more than five colors was thought to be a sign of affluence.
The first color to choose is the main siding color. This is the color that will catch the eye the most, so choose wisely. Charles Locke Eastlake said: “In all chromatic decoration I need scarcely say that bright and violent hues en masse should be avoided. In the 1800s, as cities grew, house colors became darker and muddier to hide the soot and pollution from coal and oil furnaces and industrial buildings, that clung to all of the surfaces. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with that today.
Instead, I would suggest a color that will complement its surroundings. If you have large trees surrounding your home, you might want to choose a light color so that it stands out in the shade. Also, be aware that in our bright strong sun, colors will fade over time.Next, choose a trim color that complements the main color. All paint stores sell sample cans of paint that are inexpensive. Paint at least a 4’ x 4’ swatch of paint on your house with a smaller swatch of the trim. Look at it at various times of day. If you aren’t happy with it, try different shades of the same combinations until you are happy with the selection. Don’t worry–even designers don’t always get it right the first time (just don’t tell my husband I admitted that).
Now, it’s time to highlight the details. Even if your home doesn’t have a lot of fancy trim, you can still highlight with color. Shutters and doors are a good place to start with the most outstanding highlight color. They don’t have to be the same color either. Often Victorian home window trim and sashes were painted different colors so even if you don’t have shutters, you can still add highlights in that way. Again, those sample cans of paint are your friend. Don’t forget to check your color selections at different times of day. Paint stores do make it handy for you with paint sample cards that show three complementary color ways.
But don’t feel you are limited to those. I always like to look to nature for color inspiration. Just make sure your third, and maybe fourth colors are in harmony with your base and trim colors. Once you pick that highlight color(s), its easy to use variations of all of your paint colors to add the dimension that brings out the beauty of the details. Look at the paint cards with your selections, you will see lighter and darker shade variations of that same color. Those colors are the best way to keep everything in harmony. The lighter shades of your colors will make the transition between darker colors easier on the eye. And the darker shades can really bring out a certain detail.
Have fun and enjoy your house for many years to come.
RITA FORNESS| E: RFInteriors@sbcglobal.net