Thoughts On Painting a Victorian House: When You Change Your Mind (and admit you made a mistake)


When I started picking out paint colors for our house, I was so intimidated.  I poured over hundreds of paint samples, drove and walked through a dozen neighborhoods had a professional decorator visit and finally setttled on this palate:


This is SW Red Cent is shown, but I actually went with “Sierra Redwood”, High Reflective White, White Heron, and Silverpoint (All Sherwin Williams).  Pittsburg Paints: Gunmetal Grey.

I picked these colors using what the designer had recommended and tweaking them a bit.  (Hind sight- probably shouldn’t have done that.) I wanted the house to look bright, feminine and cheerful.  I’ve always liked white Victorian houses, and so that’s what I thought I wanted for “my” Victorian.  I was so worn out from all of the debating, and also cash-poor from home repairs that I didn’t want to waste time or money on sample cans of paint.  Can you say IDIOT????

I cannot even believe myself.  Seriously?  Instead I just bought $450 worth of paint and brought it home.

Sierra Redwood- loved it

High Reflective White- loved it

White Heron- loved it

Gunmetal Grey- loved it

Silverpoint-  hmmmm….. wellllll… maybe?  yes.  no.  maybe???  Nope.  Hated it.

This is how it went with me and silverpoint for the last 18 months.  I WANTED so much to like it, but I didn’t.  It was way too light.  It washed my beauty out.  Also, in the meantime, I had learned so much through books and blogs about Victorian homes and came to the conclusion that I had made a mistake.  In hind sight, I would have had the paint analyzed and painted it the original colors, maybe adding in a few accent colors of my choosing.  From what I can tell, originally the bottom clapboards were a medium grey and the shakes were a sagey green.  By the time I realized my mistake, I believed we were too far gone.

Original Paint Colors

And here you are… the original paint colors- photo taken in the mid 50’s. The folks who bought this house in the 50’s purchased it from the original owners (yes… that is crazy awesome). And from what I can tell from the paint on the house, the grey bottom and sage top were the original colors. It also looks to me that the trim around the windows was painted a green as well.

It really makes me sad to think that I made the decision so quickly- before I had immersed myself in the house and the history of it a little longer.  But… in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s ok.  I mean, we have done really good things for this house.  And we love it more every day. And at least I know what the original colors are.

Anyway, continuing on…


The house in May. The Silverpoint color is on the first tier of shakes. It had a blue tone to it that didn’t jive with the green tones of the Gunmetal Grey (tops of dormers)



Side View. Do you agree? It was just too washed out and color-less

So you want to know what is THE WORST?  Working SO. HARD. on something and not liking the results.  I have poured a lot of myself into the painting of this house.  I have been way higher off the ground than I was comfortable with.  I painted in 40 degree March weather.  I sacrificed time with my family.  I litterly bled, sweated and cried over this paint job.  And I needed to love it. And I did not.  Every day, many times a day, I looked at the house and wished I had made a better choice.


When we were able to snag some free scaffolding from friends to complete the trim on the North and South sides, I saw this as my only opportunity to somewhat right my wrong.  Having the scaffolding up would be the perfect opportunity to repaint the first tier of the shakes.  They were brand new- with only one coat of the Silverpoint on them, and frankly could use another coat of paint anyways- they had been banged up when they were installed.

So, I rifled through my giant folder of paint samples and came across a color by Sherwin Williams called “Oyster Bay.”

It was a nice medium grey-green that seemed to coordinate with the four other colors already up on the house.  First, I BOUGHT A SAMPLE CAN, Second, I confirmed that it was a great improvement over the Silverpoint, Third, I GOT THE BLESSING FROM MY HUSBAND and Fourth, I went to town, baby!


Here you can see the Oyster Bay on the bottom of the windows. Silverpoint is on the right. Do you agree that it is better???


Here’s the last shot we took on the North side before taking the scaffolding down. The entire mid section is painted with Oyster Bay


And here’s the street view. You can see the turret is mostly painted. Unfortunately, we will have to get back up on the roof (sans lift or toe holds) to cover up the last of the Silverpoint. But it will be ok, right?? It’s worth it, right?? I’m not crazy… right???

One more thing- after this picture was taken, we painted the shakes on the front of the porch Oyster Bay, which made a HUGE difference.  Can’t wait to post pictures of the finished product.  Seriously, I can’t believe I painted a whole house.  And I can’t believe I changed my mind and painted it again.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts On Painting a Victorian House: When You Change Your Mind (and admit you made a mistake)

  1. Ross says:

    You have my sympathies. And I like Oyster Bay better! So, congrats!

    What colors to use on the exterior of a historic house is one of THE most important decisions an owner can make.

    I always recommend that people figure out the original colors first. There are also companies which specialize in this process.

    Even though my 1894 house had all the paint removed about ten years ago, I still found bits and pieces which retained the original colors under MANY layers of paint. I then had these colors computer matched, and was able to accurately recreate the original 1894 color scheme.

    The results were WAY WAY WAY better than any colors I might have selected. And everything just suddenly came together: the limestone foundation, the many stained-glass windows, and the oak front doors. Well, OF COURSE the original architect would have taken all these things into consideration when selecting the colors.

    In short? Go original! You will be thrilled.

  2. ovedia says:

    Yes, Ross, it amazes me how much I didn’t know 18 months ago, even when I thought I knew so much about what I wanted. Next time we paint (hopefully not for a very long time) I might decided to go original. The cellar door still is the original grey, so it is fun to have that preserved as a reminder and potential source for the future.

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