Standout house colors

Paint, architectural style give homes distinction

Paint, architectural style give homes distinction

October 27, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

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When Audrey Griffith bought her South Prospect Street home in 2003, it was off-white with an off-blue so faded it was barely noticeable, she said.

The house is much more noticeable now. It's indigo and turquoise.

Griffith said the colors are important to her. Indigo reminds her of a flower she loves in the Alps where she grew up. Turquoise was the color of her grandfather's stunning eyes. Another personal connection is the house looks like her grandfather's Victorian-style home.

Griffith, 49, is aware the colors are brighter than anything else on the historic district street, but they are historically accurate. Homes built in the Victorian era, she said, tended to have more eclectic colors.


She used to live in San Francisco, which is known for its "painted ladies" - Victorian homes colored in a rainbow of hues.

In recent years, several local homeowners have painted their homes bright colors that make them stand out in their neighborhoods. Like Griffith, some picked the colors for historic or personal reasons.

Maria Wenker bought her Woodland Way house in February 2006. A year ago, she painted it yellow and red. The colors are that of the famous Luneta Hotel in Manila in the Philippines, where Wenker grew up.

In the Philippines, red and yellow also are good luck colors, Wenker said.

In Hagerstown, painting brick homes like Wenker's is not unusual, said Paula Reed, who runs an architectural preservation consulting firm in Hagerstown. Traditionally, brick homes were stained, often brick red with mortar lines highlighted with white penciling. That penciling can still be seen behind the shutters of some Hagerstown homes, she said.

Painting brick colors other than red started around the beginning of the 20th century, said Reed.

In general, houses getting painted are getting color rather than white as a base, according to Kristi Meehan, sales associate at Randy's Paint and Decorating in Hagerstown. The colors aren't wild and crazy, but typically neutral earth-tone shades such as tans and greens, she said.

How eccentric or muted the colors are on a Victorian home depends on the region, City of Hagerstown Planning Director Kathy Maher said. Certainly not too many local Victorian-style houses are painted with the bright colors you see in San Francisco, Maher said, but Hagerstown doesn't have the more exuberant Victorian styles, such as Queen Anne, that are known for bright colors."I think Hagerstown is probably more conservative in terms of its use of color," Maher said.

One trend with Victorian homes, which you can see in the area, is using different colors or shades to highlight architectural details, Maher said.

Carl Rowe used approximately 10 colors on his circa 1901 Victorian-style home, which was a "really gross pink" on the outside and inside when he bought it in 2000.

"It looked like a cake and I did not care for that look a whole lot," Rowe said.

Rowe, 59, consulted with colorist Bob Buckter in San Francisco, who sent Rowe a paint by number scheme for the Summit Avenue house.

The base of the house is elephant gray, Rowe said. Accent colors include oyster gray, downpour blue, copper clay, 24-carat gold leaf (yes, real gold) and sailcloth, which is the color of linen.

"Despite the fact that it's 10 colors, it really is rather subdued," Rowe said.

Tom Myers and his partner, Thomas Kiefer, decided to have their Martinsburg, W.Va., home painted mustard with dark maroon trim to emphasize the architectural features of the Mission-style home.

The mustard color is the same as on the dome at the courthouse downtown, he said.

"I would say the color combination, while it's certainly correct, it's not for the timid. I love it," said Myers, 65.

They've heard, secondhand, that some people don't like the colors, but others have applauded them for "brightening up a stuffy block" that features white or brick homes, Myers said.

Griffith said she wasn't trying to shock anyone when she picked indigo and turquoise for her Hagerstown home. Griffith likes that she can express her preferences freely in the U.S. She said she's proud to be free enough to make her house the colors she likes.


By Yvette May/Staff Photographer
Maria Wenker holds open a book showing the Luneta Hotel in Manila in the Philippines, which inspired the colors for her North Hagerstown home.

By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer
This Victorian-style home on South Prospect Street is painted indigo and turquoise. Homeowner Audrey Griffith said she likes the eclectic color schemes associated with the architectural style.

By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer
When Tom Myers and his partner, Thomas Kiefer, bought the West King Street home in Martinsburg, W.Va., above, about five years ago, it was a washed-out white with faded battleship gray trim, Kiefer said.

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