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.