Historic Paint Colors for Old Houses

Consider painting your home's interior with a timeless color palette.

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Old houses have seen dozens of paint color changes over the years. Color trends fade, and new colors are announced every year. Fortunately, some historic paint colors have enough staying power to give you a break from the paint roller.

It’s important to note that people picked paint colors the same way a hundred years ago as they do today. First, people who lived back then still cared about how a space functioned. They also cared about the psychology of color. The next section shows a catalog from 1910 that picks room-enhancing hues. For example, in the author’s words, a dining room should be “cheerful,” and a bedroom should be “dainty.”

Additionally, people chose interior paint colors based on the home’s style. For instance, someone might paint a Dutch Colonial differently than a Craftsman Bungalow. The second section highlights some typical interior paint colors based on the style of your home.

Paint Color Palettes from 1910

The following interior paint colors are from a 1910 home catalog by C.A. Simpson & Son. You’ll notice a color psychology undertone that is still relevant today. Living rooms were painted with lively colors like peach and cream. Bedrooms incorporated calming hues like dusty blue and off-white. The dining room palette shows a deep red that is thought to promote an appetite. Finally, the kitchen palette highlights popular shades of sage green, which is a color that is symbolic of nature and freshness.

Living Room & Bedroom

historic paint color palette

Painting Your House
C.A. Simpson & Son Catalog, 1910

Painting Your House
C.A. Simpson & Son Catalog, 1910

historic paint color palette

Dining Room & Kitchen

historic paint color palette

Painting Your House
C.A. Simpson & Son Catalog, 1910

Painting Your House
C.A. Simpson & Son Catalog, 1910

historic paint color palette for kitchen

Entryway

historic paint color palette
Painting Your House, C.A. Simpson & Son Catalog, 1910

Historically Accurate Colors

If using the above method of picking colors doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps you’ll prefer basing paint colors on design principles. Below are some custom paint palettes based on a home’s style. You’ll notice that each palette uses a different paint company. Fortunately, these companies offer historically appropriate color collections that have been used for decades.

Victorian Paint Colors

Victorian homes were typically maximalist in their design style with extravagant attention to detail. Rich reds, golds, greens, and anything that would provide contrast adorned the walls. You’d also see dusty pinks and deep neutral brown tones. If a wall wasn’t painted, it was wallpapered in similar shades.

Favorite Colors

  • Adams Gold
  • Hodley Red
  • Fairview Taupe

Arts & Crafts Paint Colors

Arts & Crafts (or Craftsman) wall colors embraced simplicity and a subtle connection to nature. Interiors were entirely intentional about moving away from the Victorian homes’ cluttered and sometimes stuffy look. Interior paint colors included soft roses, muted greens, and smooth creams to accent all the unpainted and streamlined woodwork. Some homes embraced deeper tones like dark moss, burnt terracotta, and rich amber.

Favorite Colors

  • White Hyancith
  • Roycroft Rose
  • Ruskin Room Green

Colonial Paint Colors

Colonial Revival homes, including the Dutch Colonial, featured muted earth tones like soft yellows, dull reddish browns, and dusty grays. Likewise, the interior paint colors reflected the colonial design’s inherent calmness and stately elegance. However, colonial homes weren’t necessarily fussy with sticking to a strict color palette, so you’d see more variety, trends, and personal preferences in these homes.

Favorite Colors

  • Pavillion Gray
  • Setting Plaster
  • Fawn

We hope these color palettes inspired you to rethink how you want to paint your old home. To sum up, I recommend staying true to the home’s style on the exterior of your home. However, let your imagination roam on the home’s interior. These historic paint colors are merely a jumping-off point.

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