When to Give Your Home a Coat of Many Colours

If there was a place and period of irrational exuberance, it was America during the second half of the 19th century. It was surely a time when if a selection of one was great, then two had been better, and three or even more was not overdoing it whatsoever. It was a time when surface decoration became the standard instead of the exception. It was a perfect storm of the new industrialism that made nearly anything available and the existence of money for people to buy it all.

So that it is not surprising that a number of the houses of the age were done up with lots of particulars — and tons of colors. Why pick just 1 colour when the entire rainbow is available? And do not skimp on the details, because every colour needs its own place to break.

While at the early 20th century that the entire world turned its back on this riot of colour, retreating into the protection of an all-white planet, the beauty, richness and joy of the “painted ladies” of the 1800s has been rediscovered. Therefore, in the event that you have it in you, and your span or period-inspired house has the architecture for it, please do not stop with just a couple of colors.

Imagine a whole streetscape filled with brightly colored and multichromatic houses near together. Walking down a road in this way could be a visual treat, with house after house being more joyous than another.

These famous painted ladies in San Francisco march down the hill in multicolored splendor. Even though the primary colors of their bodies are soft and silent, each detail and material is articulated by form, texture and colour. The articulation was often achieved here by varying the tone and color of the major colour, but it may also be reached by employing a complementary (or almost complementary) colour.

Thus a light green gives way to a darker green aspect, for example, and the trimming is not white but all creamy and soft.

Alex Amend Photography

As we get nearer to those houses, we begin to find the details and colour intricacies. Golds, taupes, mauves and more all pull out the inlay and overlay details which enliven the surface. Both the carpenters and the painters have to display their craft and skill.

And we see something new each time we walk. Because, after all, these houses are meant to be seen and appreciated from shut up, not whizzing by at 35 mph.

Farallon Construction Inc..

No face is left unadorned. Even the undersides of these eaves receive a rich treatment of colour to highlight all of that architectural detail. It’s the type of feast for the eyes which only a multichromatic palette may bring out.

B Birmingham Inc..

The point that can’t be stressed enough is that colour strengthens the architecture. So however subtle the detail, like the way the corner is created in a box bay, colour strengthens the proportion, scale and overall architecture.

Just imagine if this trimming didn’t step in to form the corner or if the color were the same. The entire home’s proportions could be thrown off, and the overall result would be nowhere near as interesting.

Warline Painting Ltd..

Of course, there is also the use of complementary colors in bold colors. Not for the shrinking violet, these colors will make your house really stand out. And while it is from a little distance that we more often get to love these houses …

Warline Painting Ltd..

… it is really from close up that we see just how artfully the colour palette has been employed. Each piece of molding, trim and detail is painted differently in the main colors to draw attention to it. And each texture is not the same colour, so we get to experience and revel in the diversity of it all.

Degnan Design Group + Degnan Design Build

These colour schemes are not just for old houses. A newly developed home near the Jersey Shore uses colour just as it had been used in the 19th century. A scheme which uses colour to pronounce each architectural element is ideal for a home together with all these mounts, bays and bows; crenellations and crowns; dadoes and dormers. Not to mention …

Degnan Design Group + Degnan Design Build

… a widow’s walk.

Note that the accent is on the vertical, as in 19th-century versions. This 21st-century version, however, splits the body colour in 2: The lower floor is painted a more earthen colour that recedes, whereas the upper levels are more conspicuous. Between the conspicuous color of the next floor and the vertical cream-colored trim, the eye will be attracted up into the rooftop and skies.

Degnan Design Group + Degnan Design Build

Window frame colour plays into this home’s overall palette at an incredibly significant way. Yes, even the 19th-century homeowner had to decorate and paint and repaint the timber windows. On the other hand, the 21st-century homeowner may get brightly colored frames in different substances that will last for many, many years. We are not stuck in a world of merely white, brown or beige window frames anymore.

And just as on its 19th-century ancestors, the undersides of the home’s eaves are richly decorated with architectural information and colour.

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