Choosing Exterior Paint Colors For our Historic Homes

Selecting Colors for Erehwon Retreat

                                                                        

As a boy in Pasadena, CA, I remember my mother reading Huckleberry Finn.  Huck is an archetypal innocent, able to discover the “right” thing to do despite the prevailing theology and prejudiced mentality of the South of that era.  We were renting a Bungalow in 1949, so that’s when my association of Bungalows and Mark Twain began.

While in college in St. Louis, I made a weekend drive to Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum at 206-208 Hill Street, Hannibal, Missouri, on the west bank of the Mississippi River.  It was shortly after reading that it had been designated  a National Historic Landmark on December 29, 1962.

For historic homeowners, the decision is often more complex than taking a quick trip to the paint store. It’s often important to know what the original exterior and interior colors coated the wall. Architectural historians routinely research and document this type of information.  This can provide owners with a greater understanding of the design tastes of particular periods.  For me, it was looking for an appropriate color after completing the interior restoration of Erehwon. Prior to moving to Minneapolis in 1982, I used Valspar’s clear Varnish on the restoration of a 1923 Wianno Senior Knockabout Sloop.  My experience over three years in restoration came to a head while standing on a high promitory overlooking Lake Minnetonka.  I was attending a cocktail party hosted by George and Sally Pillsbury.  When former State Senator Pillsbury introduced me to C Angus Wurtele (Chairman of Valspar) and his wife Margaret.  Can you imagine Wurtel’s face when I said “may I introduce you to “Corsair” pointing to out to a nearby mooring buoy—all the Varnish is Valspar.”

Valspar was the first ever clear varnish; developed by L. Valentine Pulsifer. Pulsifer had joined the company in 1903 after earning a degree in chemistry from Harvard University. After three years of experimentation, he created the clear varnish, which went into production by 1905. The Valspar varnish was the company’s main product for more than 30 years. The advertising tagline, “The varnish that won’t turn white” made Valspar a household name.

Famous users of Valspar included Robert Peary in his 1909 expedition, the U.S. military during World War I, Bungalow home owners in the 1920’s and Charles Lindbergh during his 1927 solo intercontinental flight.

Twenty six years after meeting the Wurtele’s, I was deep into the restoration of Erehwon Retreat when I read that Valspar had teamed up with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to create more than 250 historically accurate colors for historic homes.

I was interested in green. Green is the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy.  I think green has a healing power and is understood to be the most restful and relaxing color for the human eye to view.  With the color green’s association with renewal, growth and hope, what a great color for a Retreat. New growth and rebirth, common each spring season the world over when all of the plants are coming back to life with fresh growth.

I selected Valspar’s Olive Green (#6001-2A).  And Pittsburgh Paint’s Cherokee Red Taliessan created by Frank Lloyd Wright.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus – Mark Twain