Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Color Choice Timeline

I think it took me about a week to prep the first section. That was just a butt-load of sanding, scraping, and washing. Today I washed everything down and tomorrow I will start to put primer on. I doubt I will get it all primed tomorrow so that means that if all goes well I should start putting on the first top-coat late Saturday. I’m feeling a little uneasy about the colors. Here’s how I came to chose them.

My basic philosophy about the house has always been that an original style, wallpaper, color, or whatever will take precedence over change. That is to say, if I discover some original element of the house, and I like it, I will go back to that rather than changing to something else. For me this is great because I really don’t like having to make a lot of choices about these sorts of things. Choosing colors is very near the bottom of the list when it comes to making decisions about the house. With that in mind I figured I’d go back to the original exterior colors of the house if I liked them. This brought up the question, what where the original colors.

When I bought the house it had the green asbestos siding. Obviously that was not original. When I took off the siding and revealed the original redwood siding I was surprised at first to see the brown paint with tan trim. However, the more research I did it seems that maybe that could have been the original color. By the mid-1890s earth tones were a popular choice for house colors.

There were some problems though. Where the sunburst designs had been removed I could clearly see green paint. It was green, green, green. No mistake about it, it was as green as the nose on my face. Also it seemed odd that the newly revealed second story sunbursts were painted the same dark brown as the body of the house. If you go to the expense and trouble to put the design up there why not highlight it with a different color.

Then when I started to gut the inside of the addition I discovered another color. The addition was built as 3 walls up against the house. The “forth wall” was really the old exterior wall of the house. All they did was nailed planks up to the old siding and then covered it with wallpaper. When I removed the planks the octagon shingles were mostly there and where an old downspout for the gutters had once been I could see a tiny strip of color. When they painted the house brown they couldn’t quite paint entirely behind the downspout. It wasn’t much but I scrutinized. Man, I was on a ladder with a flashlight. I got out the old heat gun and tried to carefully remove some of the brown paint to expose more of this mystery color.

In the end I decided it was a vary pale green. Now I had a connection. I had the dark green behind the first floor sunbursts and the pale green behind the second floor downspout. I had a pallet of greens to work with. I then discovered a third color, or so I thought. After the house was freed from it’s asbestos sarcophagus I had to do some repair work on the window sills. I stripped them to bare wood and found what I thought was black paint as the very first color – or was it a very dark green. After more demolition of apartment era stuff I found a piece of trim with very alligatored olive green paint on it. Yes, this was starting to make sense now. A dark green first story, pale green second story, and an even darker olive green trim.

Then I ran in to some problems with this theoretical color scheme. Back in the 1920s they added a hide-away Murphy bed to the apartment that used to be the dining room. The bed folded up into the wall that was once the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. The bed was gone when I bought the place but the framing was still there. When I rebuilt this wall to put back the original doorway I removed all the Murphy bed framing. To shim out the frame and make it square they use scraps of octagon shingles that had been ripped off the house when they added the addition on. They removed the bottom three or four rows of shingles so they could connect to the water supply. Obviously when they framed in the Murphy bed and needed some shims they went out to the pile of construction debris and grabbed a few of the now discarded shingles. These shingle/shims that I removed from the wall were not pale green, they were in fact white. White, white, white, white, white, white. As white as my soft-white underbelly. This throws the whole green pallet idea out the window.

I went back to the downspout and looked at it again and decided I was wrong about it being pale green. It was white after all. The green paint behind the sunbursts had long since been sanded away, so I can’t confirm that now. The “Olive Green” paint that was on the window sills may have just been some sort of primer or early wood preservative. Who knows? The only thing I had – or didn’t have at this point because I couldn’t find it – was the piece of trim with the alligatored olive green paint on it. The real problem was, by this time I had already go out and bought $300 worth of the finest green paint money can buy down at Sherwin Williams. Whether I liked it or not, and whether it was original or not, I was committed to a green house. I just so happens I like green. In fact, I painted my last house green So green it is.

So the colors I’m working with are (everyone get out your Sherwin Williams paint chips) Basil for the first floor, Livable Green for the second floor, and Olive Green for the trim. I’m not sure about the third floor gables and I will probably stick with the brick red sashes and crown molding that are on the house now. My one concern at this point is the Livable Green. It may be too pale of a green for the second floor. I want the house to stand out, no question about it. If you’ve got it flaunt it, right? But I don’t want it to be offensive. The plan at this point is, if the Livable Green is too light I will use it was a first coat and then buy a darker green as a second coat. The plan along has been to put on two top-coats of paint so it’s not the end of the world. I don’t think I’ll waste any thing here.

As I said the plan is to start putting on primer on Friday and the top coat on Saturday. I will start with the second floor, so if all goes well I may have photos of a Livable Green second floor on Saturday. This should be interesting.


Poppy said...

Which shade of SW exterior paint Olive did you chose?

Relentless Olive?
Renwick Olive?
Ripe Olive?

I couldn't find out called plain old Olive Green...

I can't wait to see the house with your color scheme on it. I think it sounds lovely.

allison said...

I think it’s great that you’re remodeling and staying true to the original details of the house. While it does reduce the number of decisions you’ll have to make, it also helps retain the architectural details. The siding is a classic example – you got rid of it and found something cool underneath. It’s always a lot of work, no matter how you slice it, but at least you’re uncovering some charm, too.

Greg said...

Oh, it is the Ripe Olive, or at least that is the way I'm leaning. This is the one paint I haven't purchased you.