Friday, June 8, 2012

Help Me Out

I apologize for the poor quality of this photo, but it's a photo of a microfilm copy of a newspaper photo.  The only advantage to this photo is that it's larger than the one in the sidebar.  I need some opinions, y'all.

(But first, can we have a moment of silence to mourn all that gorgeous roof cresting that's no longer there?  Amen.)

This photo was taken around 1906 and it's the oldest photo I have of the house.  (Incidentally, I think the house was built about 1887 or so.)  You can find out more about the photo and some house history here and here.  At the time I wrote those posts, I thought the yellow was the original color.  Now, after careful scraping with a razor blade, I believe the paint history to be this:  light gray, white, yellow, white (several times) and then my coat of yellow. The trim history:  light gray, black or very dark green (it's hard to tell), tan, white (many times) and my coat of green.  I had settled on Montpelier Ashlar Gray for the body of the house; Woodlawn Bedroom White for the trim, window frames, and porch posts; Mark Twain House Ombra Gray for the trim detail (like on the porch posts and porch brackets) and Lincoln Cottage Black for the window sashes.  (All those colors are Valspar from the National Trust For Historic Preservation collection.)

But then I started looking at that 1906 photo, and here's where I need some help.  Does it look to y'all like those big boards under the eaves and under the little roof where the stained glass windows are were painted a dark color?  I think the line's too sharp for it to be just shadows.  And then look over to the left side of the house, by the horse's butt--I think the trim was a dark color, too.  (It's hard to see the trim over by the porch because that part of the photo's so dark, and it looks like there's a downspout in front of the trim.)  I think maybe the trim was painted darker than the house, not lighter.  I'm not sure, though.  What do y'all think?  And, would it look terrible to paint the trim that MTH Ombra Gray?  Or even the next darkest color on that card, Ocean Storm?  The window frames and porch posts would still be that off-white and the window sashes would be black like they are now.

I have to have my colors approved by the city's Historic Preservation Commission later this month before I paint, but they're not required to be National Trust colors, just colors that would be historically appropriate. Since the trim's been both dark and light in the house's history, either would work.  I can't decide which I like better.  So help me out and tell me what y'all think would look best.


  1. I thinks it's a shadow because if you look at your current photo of the house the shadows are in the same place.

    Take the current photo of your house and make it a black and white photo and see if the shadows read 'dark trim' or as shadows.

    I've had several grey houses and one thing you have to be careful with is not picking a grey with blue in it.

  2. You are so lucky to have such an old picture of your house. I've searched and the oldest I can find of mine is from the 50s.

    I was able to find the original colors on my house. When I demolished the vestibule, which had been added on early in the house's life, there was a 4" strip where the vestibule wall met the front wall that had the original paint. It showed the clapboard color and the trim color. But the colors were ugly. The main color was a dark olive type green (which I like but too dark as a main color) and then a slightly lighter shade of green for the trim. I want to stick with a historic green but not something so dark.

  3. Dynochick, Now that I look at it more carefully, I think you might be right. The photo quality is terrible, but if you look at the window sills they look dark too and I know they weren't. You're spot on with the blue-gray, too. Not my favorite. The gray I picked is more of a tan gray. I'm still buying testers though.

    Nina, I was very lucky to have a neighbor give me that photo from the newspaper. Wish I could see the original. I agree with you about the historic colors--some of them are really ugly. I'm not so much of a purist that I'd paint my house a color I hated just because it was original. Pick something you like that's still historically accurate.

  4. Does the newspaper maybe have the actual photo in its files?

  5. One thing always to consider is that paint yellows. Period. Our interior doors were last painted in the 70s, with regular oil paint, and I'm sure they were stark white back then. Now they aren't. Linseed oil based paint yellowed even more, particularly in the dark (don't know why, but manufacturers of modern linseed oil paint advise against using it indoors for that very reason). After some weeks or even months of exposure to sunlight it seems to brighten up again, but probably never back to the original colour. I did find that applying paint stripper and removing it before it had a chance to dissolve more than the very surface of the paint seems to reveal the original colour.

    Eyeballing the original shade looking at an old yellowed coat is pretty hard, at least for me, especially as far as greens and blues go. Blues turn green and greens even brown.

    Regarding the original photo: as far as I can tell the sun was very high in the sky when it was taken, that would explain heavy shadows under the eaves. It wouldn't explain shadows along the vertical trim pieces though.