Picking the New Palette

While the exterior paint was stripped, homeowners Kim Whittemore and Bruce Leasure searched for new, historically accurate colors for their Colonial Revival home. Kim consulted a book by Roger Moss called Paint in America: The Colors of Historic American Buildings (Preservation Press, 1994). It's arranged by house periods, with each section showing appropriate colors for an era. "It's like one of those 'idiot's guides' to whatever," she says. "I flipped to Colonial Revival, and there were lots of interesting choices."

Bruce and Kim narrowed the range to four color families: blues, grays, taupes, and greens. Armed with preliminary picks, they hit the streets of their neighborhood. "We didn't want to match, and we didn't want to clash with, any of the houses around us," Kim says. TOH master carpenter Norm Abram had this to offer: "Once a paint is on the building, it looks several shades lighter and brighter than what's on the postage-stamp-size chip you get at the paint store." The best way to gauge true colors is to invest in quarts of the shades you're considering, paint part of the building with each, then stand back and look.

After a trip to the local paint store, Kim painted test swatches of seven colors for clapboards and five for trim. "It came down to a final choice between stone gray for the body with cream-colored trim, or a greenish-gray with dark, bottle-green trim," she says.

Jim Clark helped with the final decision, painting a section of clapboard and window and shutter with each combination. "In the end, we chose the green-gray for the clapboards, cream for the trim, and dark green for the shutters," says Kim. "It was a lot of work, but you know, it took us a while to find the right house. Why wouldn't it take at least as long to find the right colors?"
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