Painting the Colonial [and Colonial Revival] House (1918)

from The Dutch Boy Painter

The word Colonial as applied to a style of house presents to the mind a picture that is more or less definite according as one may be more or less familiar with the different kinds of architecture.

Characteristic features of Colonial houses are regular, rectangular shape, wide clapboards, broad entrances and doorways, dormer windows, and, in the Southern style, stately porticos with columns reaching to the top of the second story. This style of architecture has a beauty of its own which has never been surpassed.

In color, a Colonial house is either entirely white or else yellow with white trim. In fact, the yellow used in this way is so uniform that it has come to be known as Colonial yellow. In the early times when Colonial houses were more commonly built than they are now, there was generally ample room, and a brilliant yellow or a white house stood out invitingly in spacious surroundings.

The influence of the great Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876 is seen in the departure from the fine old Colonial style of architecture. The English Exhibit there showed the Queen Anne style of house and it became immediately popular. Tho not as good as our own Colonial, if it had been used intelligently it might not have been so bad, but hideous modifications, done without the guidance of educated archtiects, soon covered the land. Fortunately, of recent years, a return to the Colonial styles has marked the trend of taste, and even modifications of that style are more intelligently done. Accordingly, certain Colonial features are often embodied in houses that would not otherwise be classed as Colonial. Where this occurs it is good practice to retain the ordinary Colonial colors, either white or yellow, or both, and thus emphasize the Colonial character of the house.

The problem of color is very much more complex in a crowded community than it is in suburban districts where houses are built so far apart that the color of one does not affect that of the other. When the color of each house has to be considered in its relation to the color of its neighbors on either side and across the street, the only safe rule is to keep the colors very much subdued. Even for a house with Colonial features the yellow, if used, should be delicate rather than glaring.

For such houses a soft creamy tan, combined with a white trim and with either blue, green or red blinds is especially pleasing. Three unusually good combinations which are not likely to conflict with colors on neighboring houses are found in National Lead Company's folder entitled “Color Harmony”:

Body of house gray . . . trim white, blinds dark blue

Body of house cream . . . trim white, blinds drk blue

Body of house drab . . . trim white, blinds chrome green

Copyright © 2012 Sarah E. Mitchell