Sunday, January 15, 2012

Layers of History: The Dusty Victorian's Past in Paint

This April will mark the fourth anniversary of our ownership of the Dusty Victorian. Restoring while maintaining the character of the house has been very interesting and rewarding; Brian and I appreciate history.

Scraping away at several paint layers gives us a glimpse at the colours chosen by previous owners. We don't have photographic records of the DV from the beginning. The first owners were the builders of the house and lived here for a very short period of time. Having worked on the front doors, shutters and window frame, I know that these were originally not painted, but varnished over natural wood.

The second owners eventually painted over the varnish using a combination of colours: buttery yellow, creamy white, dark hunter green and pale green. They may not have been used all at the same time, but it seems to have been the palette used for much of their ownership (which lasted well into the 'fifties).

The earliest colours found were along these lines.

This is the earliest photograph of the DV we have - circa 1940. The side panels on each side of the entrance door are actually storm doors that could be closed, similar to shutters for windows. You can see those storm doors and these original front doors here, recycled in my guest bedroom. They were found on the ground by the side of the house, where they'd been resting for decades.

It was so lush around the DV at that time. A lot of it is long gone, but I'm working on restoring that lushness.

The burned red and cream combination were the choice of the third owners.

This was the DV with the palette chosen by the previous owners. This photo was taken in the spring of 2008, just after we moved in. We can't really see the colours from this shot; they didn't translate well from a distance.

Here are the actual sample colours from the previous owners.

Here is the DV taken at the end of last summer. It's far from being finished, but little by little it's getting there. When I chose my colours, I first thought of pale colours to avoid premature peeling. Historical colours in respect to the house, fresh looking so it's not perceived as haunted by the kids in the neighbourhood.

The sage green was taken from one of the first colours found - this while stripping a door. I love reds so I chose a garnet red for small areas (also it's my birth stone), and black in very small accents where metal is present, such as windows and shutter hardware, light fixtures, address plaque.

When choosing a white trim, I went for a tinted one as opposed to pure white. Any colours will appear paler outside and washed out in the sun so I chose a white with a green/yellow tint to complement the brick. This said, I prefer a low contrast look that unifies the house. Only time will tell if it weathers well and ages gracefully.

Below are some of the beautiful houses around St Marys with their own colour combinations.

Above is he main entrance to the town's Presbyterian church. There's something about a red door. Very effective here with limestone and black ironwork.

Having more colours on one's house doesn't necessarily bring a more interesting effect, but it always brings more work. In some cases, the multitude of colours do not show from the street, but it's when you start walking closer towards the entrance door that they are gradually revealed - and that is when it becomes impressive. This said, the majority of people seem to be afraid of colours for their house; they play it safe, going for the basic white, beige, grey or brown for all their trims, regardless of the colour of the brick. The only colour I find utterly unappealing for a house is a kind of peachy flesh tone found in abundance in the suburbs of Vancouver.

Now, I'm not an expert in architecture, but I understand balance and proportion. This home looks like it was designed by a cartoon character, yes the character not the cartoonist. I don't think this house will withstand the test of time, but that's a whole different blog.


Laura said...

You guys have done a lovely job with the D.V. The care and consideration you've given her shines though and I think that you have made the perfect choices in colour!

There are some beautiful homes in your area. Gosh, I wish I could own one someday! :)
I really hate that last house as well. The colour is kind of sickening, isn't it?

Great post!


The Dusty Victorian said...

Good morning Laura,
Thank you, so glad you enjoyed this post.
This last house along with thousands of others are the result of architectural firms with no ethics who allow delusional wealthy clients the possibility to design their own house - monster homes well over a million dollars.

Ashley said...

Oh dear, that peachy colour is just the worst. Many of the new subdivisions around here are built with Victorian influences, but there's a lot of houses with brick that awful colour.

Thank you for the "tour" of St. Marys! What a beautiful bunch of homes.

Your home is just lovely. I really enjoyed being brought through time and seeing what it once was.

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hi Ashley,
I'm glad you enjoyed it, thank you. Yes, St Marys is lovely. Of course, there are a few awful buildings, but that could be a Halloween post.

Richard Cottrell said...

Don't be afraid of colors, those Victorians weren't. Richard from My Old Historic House.

The Dusty Victorian said...

I suspect that In a past life, Richard, you were knighted by Queen Victoria and she named you; Sir Richard the Fearless.
Always a pleasure,

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Hello, Anyes -

I salute you and Brian for all the thorough work you've done! That first photograph impresses me because it shows how you've worked your way down to the original wood; someone else would have done a little scraping and let it go at that. But I'm a big believer in the theory that the ordinary person who doesn't notice that sort of detail, nonetheless, in an unconscious way, does perceive the better look .

And of course future paint jobs will be thast much easier. I'm painting my own house now, and trying to be as thorough as you. Luckily, I have only one story to work on!

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Mark,
I have to say that mother nature did a lot of the preliminary work especially on the sunny side and especially on the dark colours. She pretty much shoved the past layers in our faces, urging us to do something about it. But thank you so much.

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Any├Ęs-

I like how you've documented your home's historical colors, as close as you can from what you have found anyway. Seeing the photos through the years shows that you are really bringing it back to it's former splendor! And wow, there are so many beautiful old homes in your neighborhood! It must be an amazing place to live. That last photo looks like a house from Florida, where there's a lot of pastel and strange color combos on homes. :-)


The Dusty Victorian said...

Thank you Pam,
There was very little information on our house at our local museum. I have so many questions in regards to it. Some of the answers are revealed through restoration, but I'm afraid a lot will remain a mystery.
As for the last house, sometimes I wonder what bothers me more, the colour or the bad architecture.
Always a pleasure,