For “older” home lovers, historical integrity is very important. That’s why I took a brief moment to think through the work involved before accepting a recent historical home renovation.
When Opportunity Comes a Knockin’
In the dead of last winter, I received a phone call to select colors for the renovation and future sale of a home. Unbeknownst to me, this particular in home consultation would prove to be the perfect challenge, not too large, but certainly outside of my typical comfort zone. Who knew that upon crossing the home’s threshold I would be catapulted back in time? That certainly was the case, as this gem was built nearly 200 years ago!
Most color consultations are very straightforward. Each fixed element is studied, followed by the surrounding room’s colors, textiles, artwork and the homeowner’s preferences. These puzzle pieces come together to form the perfect paint color for the space.
Creating a Color Palette for an Older Home
Selecting a historically correct palette begins in the same way, but delves deep into the history, architecture and available pigments of the time. Thus, the steps to creating a historical color palette are:
- Analyze the fixed elements.
- Study the period of the home’s architecture.
- Research popular colors of the time.
- Translate those colors into an appealing palette for today’s homeowners.
Rolling Up the Sleeves and Jumping In
Important fixed elements of this home included some of the original hardwood flooring, several exposed brick walls, and practical built-ins, each in need of tender loving care. Selecting colors that would enhance, and not distract from, these elements was key. For this reason, colors with low contrast to one another were the backbone of the palette. Low contrasting paint colors call less attention to themselves allowing brick and natural hardwoods to shine.
Next, the home’s architecture was studied and researched. The home in question was built in 1835 and of the Federal style. Homes of this design were very popular in the eastern seaboard states, but less so in the more sparsely populated western edges of U.S. expansion at the time. This home was built 15 years beyond the Federal architectural period’s prime causing me to reason that little has changed in the last 200 years. Trends still begin on the coasts and spread to Indiana approximately 2 years later!
Colors of the Time Period
Further research concluded that sage greens, muted blues, and soft pumpkin colors were quite popular during this architectural time period, so I set about creating a palette based on these. But how does one utilize a historical color palette while also appealing to current home purchasers? That was the $64 question.
When it doubt, add white or gray. Not white or gray paint colors, but colors with those underpinnings. Gray mutes the colors making them less vivid, while white lightens them.
In muting and lightening the colors of the era, I created a soft and very current color palette. The homeowner was not a fan of soft pumpkin, so the home was painted in muted shades of sage green and blue.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Although selecting this home’s colors was a challenge, in the end it was a great success. So much so, that I’m currently working on an exterior color scheme. The owner was very pleased with his new palette and I’m quite sure the soon to be new homeowner will be as well. All it took was some research, a study of the home’s fixed elements, and a little forethought.