Historic Paint Colors to Bring Back Life Into Early American Homes


When it comes to putting some life back into a New England colonial home, check out some of the landmark colors, shades and tints that were used to paint interiors and exteriors of these early American Homes.


Exterior colors:  Many early houses were left unpainted to weather the elements. If an exterior color had been applied at all, it was often a pure yellow ochre and iron oxide (the “barn” red look we know so well) mixed with white lead and linseed oil and applied on site. Window sashes and trim exhibited lighter, contrasting colors. Sash windows (which slide up), though an improvement over earlier casement windows, had to be painted to protect glazing putty from the weather; otherwise the glass would fall out.

Interior colors: Neutral. The colors of doves and oysters were favorite, as were Prussian blues.

1740–1780 Colors Parsnip, Langdon Dove, Standish Blue, Meetinghouse Blue



Exterior colors:  With American independence, coloration went lighter, with the most common hues being white and creamy white. However, these shades were entirely different from cool color white; the linseed oil used as a binder would make everything appear yellowish. Because of technology, paint manufacturers use titanium dioxide to create pure-white shades, a technique that came into commercial use in the 1920s. Trimming was often to be light in the darkness, usually the same or almost-same tone as the siding. Dark tones or colors, like black or dark olive green, were used for doors, window sashes,  and shutters.

Interior colors: Soft shades were the style, including peaches and brighter pastels in shades of green, yellow, and blue.

Federal Greek Revival 1780–1840  Rundlet Peach, Cottage Green, Jonquil, Emily


Exterior colors: Post Civil War, synthetics were introduced to the nascent paint industry, opening up a more extensive range of pigments and higher saturation. The color was used to enhance and bring out exterior architectural elements, such as columns, dentils, and cornices. Often up to five colors of paint would be used on a single house; for example, chocolate-brown trim paired with golden-yellow siding and a brighter accent, such as turquoise, on a porch ceiling.

Interior colors: Rich, velvety clarets, and thick, woodsy greens were cool novelties, while strong neutrals such as dark gold and warm brown balanced busy Victorian interiors.


1860s–1880s | Victorian   Danish Pine, Portobello, Codman Claret, Picholine