If you want to paint your Victorian home to reflect its heyday, you will probably want to use “authentic” Victorian-era colors and combinations. While many Victorian homes today are painted on neutral themes, this may not be the best course for a true Victorian atmosphere. “True” Victorian colors may surprise you, as they are not plain, nor always light.
In 1885, a critic writing in California Architects and Builders News had this to say about Victorian color schemes in San Francisco: “…red, yellow, chocolate, orange, everything that is loud is in fashion…if the upper stories are not of red or blue… they are painted up into uncouth panels of yellow and brown…” While he may not have appreciated the bright colors that were in vogue, there is a definite contingent of home owners today who want to paint their homes in authentic colors of the era and bold ones at that.
Contrary to today’s white Victorian, the ‘modern’ Victorian home in the mid-late 1800s was painted in dark, vivid colors. Earth tones held sway: rich browns, greens and brick reds were what dotted the Victorian middle-class neighborhood. Victorian society was interested in nature and this was reflected in their color schemes, both within and without. Rich colors were commonly used for walls and trim and were reflected in the interior of the home in harmonizing wallpaper prints and moldings.
It will help if you study pictures and books of Victorian architecture and think about how the original builder of your home must have intended for the various parts of it to be colored. For each Victorian style home, there are certain colors that can be more or less appropriate depending on the time that the home was built and the particular flavor of the house itself. If you can find pictures of your home in historical documents, it might aid you in selecting the shade, if not the color of paint to be used.
If you want a little more flamboyance, consider painting your Victorian to resemble The “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. While the above quote indicates that bright colors were certainly not unknown to the late 1800s Victorian home, this style really began in the 60s. A hideous period of wartime economies had uglified many of these beautiful houses with gray battleship paint and “modern” sidings of aluminum, tar paper and stucco. When artist Butch Kardum painted his Italianate-style home in blues and greens, he was criticized at first, but when other homeowners began to emulate his color schemes, the Painted Ladies were born and have since become one of the sights of San Francisco. Painted Ladies have three or more contrasting colors that flaunt the embellishments of the home. Intense blues, greens, reds, purples and pink shades are not unknown to these homes. If you would like to go this route, carefully study the many pictures of the Ladies and like homes for ideas. Painting the exterior of your Victorian home can be challenging if you want an authentic reproduction of your home in its early years. However, it is a fun challenge to make your home into something that could have stepped out of the late 1800s… or the 1960s… or anywhere in between!