One of the most common questions the homeowner of a historic home faces throughout the years is: “What color of siding should I get for my house?” Choosing a color that maintains the authenticity of the era while refreshing the crisp appearance and beauty of a home, gives it great curb appeal and impress guests and neighbors. There is an important element of siding maintenance that helps you preserve the unique character of your historic home.
Of course, James Hardie siding gives historic homeowners a stunning variety of color choices to consider as they update their home’s siding. This means it may not always seem easy—at first—to select the right color for your historic home.
But thankfully, a little research can help. With the guidance of experts like a home exterior contractor experienced at working with historic dwellings, you can pinpoint stylish, elegant colors that enhance the stunning architectural features of your historic home.
Historic Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Muted
It can be tempting to envision the past as dull-colored and sepia-toned. After all, old photographs and the heirlooms found in vintage shops may suggest the world of the past existed only in blacks, whites, grays, and pale colors. But nothing could be farther from the truth!
What’s important to keep in mind is that time causes many things to fade—including paint colors. Paint applied to interior and exterior walls may lose its brightness. The sun and other weather elements can especially cause the paint on siding to become faded and pale.
That means the muted shade of yellow or blue you thought was “historic” may simply be a faded version of the bright, rich color that once graced your home’s siding many decades ago.
This was the case, for example, with Thomas Jefferson’s dining room at Monticello, which was recently painted a stunningly deep egg yolk color. Too modern? Not exactly. Jefferson actually painted the room that sunny color in 1815. The shockingly bright, refreshed paint is authentic and historic.
How to Identify Appropriate Historic Home Color Choices
Fortunately for the owners of historic homes, there are plenty of ways to research authentic color choices for your exterior siding. These tips can help you get started:
1. Look for clues in your home.
One aspect of owning a historic home is that many of its features have been there since the house was first constructed. So, a careful examination of rarely touched spots like the interiors of closets and the tops of molding may give you hints about the original colors first used in your home.
2. Perform a careful sand-and-scrape.
If you can be delicate about the process, a gentle sanding and scraping of painted or papered surfaces may reveal original colors underneath the existing surface paint or wallpaper. This may give you an idea of which shades to consider, though it’s important to remember the original paint you’re looking at is likely to be very faded.
3. Commission a professional paint analysis.
If your house has a clear architectural pedigree—such as the fact that it belonged to George Washington or was the first Frank Lloyd Wright building ever constructed — there are likely to be some historic records, such as paperwork or descriptions in old books, that may reveal the home’s original colors.
(This was the case for Monticello’s yellow paint, by the way. Records reveal what color paint Jefferson got his hands on in 1815, as well as where, why, and how.)
4. Consider the work being done on other historic sites.
Experts who are working to restore historic spots are already doing some of the research for you. Look for sites that are around the same age as your home, and learn what experts are finding out about their original paint colors. Your home could easily have been painted at its construction with those same, era-appropriate shades.
5. Consult color guides for historic homes.
It is, after all, the age of the Internet. There are so many resources online that you could use to do research that we couldn’t name them all here. Home remodeling pros like Bob Vila provide handy color guides for homes built in different eras. Search for the era your home was built in, and see what you can discover. You’ll find that every era had its preferred colors. Georgian-style homes, for example, were often brown or yellow, while Victorian homes were various bright shades.
6. Look for siding manufacturers who are paying attention to historic colors.
Today, many paint and siding brands are savvy about the need to provide authentic paint colors for historic homeowners. That means there are many hues on the market right now that replicate popular color choices from earlier centuries. These modern-style paints marry the look and feel of the past with the durability, environmental friendliness, and convenience of modern paint—making siding maintenance on historic homes easier than ever.
To learn more about authentic color schemes that work for historic homes, visit various manufacturers to see what they’re offering. James Hardie® siding, for example, offers a home color tool that can be helpful in narrowing down color choices.
7. Consult with professional home exterior companies that are experienced in handling historic homes right.
Not every home exterior contractor in the area will be an expert on historic homes. So, if you own a historic home and you’re looking to hire someone to help you with paint and siding maintenance, take the time to find out which companies have a proven track record in restoring and refreshing historic architecture with skill, care, and expertise.
Your Historic Home’s Exterior Siding Deserves the Best in Color and Maintenance
At Siding & Windows Group, we do more than simply install siding, we treat every Chicago home with the unique skill and attentiveness it—and you as the homeowner—deserve. And we love caring for historic homes. Check out our latest case studies to discover what we’ve accomplished for other Chicago area historic homeowners.
Contact us for a free quote and discover what siding options would benefit your historic Chicago area home today.