Paint Colors for a Foursquare - Amy and Tim's Big Adventure

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Searching For the Right House Colors

American Foursquare Home
American Foursquare Home. Photo 1 of 7 © the homeowners

Built in about 1910, this charming home is a classic American Foursquare with hints of Queen Anne styling. The owners, Amy and Tim, loved the natural, tan-toned brick, but they also wanted to accent the architectural details. The couple began to search for historic colors that would highlight the window sashes, moldings, and other trim.

About the House

Typical of the American Foursquare style, Amy and Tim's home has a symmetrical shape, wide eaves, and low, hipped roof. The main portion of the house is brick. The dormers are sided in the original gray slate. The main roof is a reddish-gray color (mostly a light terra cotta color with flecks of light gray and charcoal gray). Although the house was built in about 1910, the sunroom was probably added later.

About the Neighborhood

Located in Southern Ohio, Amy and Tim's home is surrounded by turn-of-the-century homes in a variety styles. The area includes a few Tudors that have been painted bright blue, sunshine yellow, neon green, and other bright colors. However, most of the homes in this neighborhood are conservative. Lavish "painted ladies" are not the norm here.

Join us as we follow the homeowners in their search for the perfect colors for their old home.

NEXT: Removing the Vinyl Siding

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Removing the Vinyl Siding

American Foursquare Home: Sunporch
American Foursquare Home: Sunporch. Photo 2 of 7 © the homeowners

The base of their sunroom was surrounded by vinyl siding - definitely not in keeping with the character of the 1910 Foursquar home.

Before they began painting, Amy and Tim ripped off the vinyl to discover a pleasant surprise underneath - Solid wood panels with decorative moldings.

NEXT: Advice and Experimentation

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Experimenting With Paint Colors

Window sills of a Foursquare house
Amy and Tim tried paint colors on the window sills at the back of their Foursquare house. Photo 3 of 7 © the homeowners

Amy and Tim considered numerous color possibilities for their American Foursquare home. They posted a photo of the house on this Web site and received helpful advice from architectural color consultant Robert Schweitzer, author of the book Bungalow Colors (compare prices).

Robert Schweitzer's Advice:

To reflect the original intent of this 1910 American Foursquare and also highlight important design features, Schweitzer looked closely at architectural history. The Foursquare is a product of the Arts & Crafts era. Schweitzer found suggestions for Arts & Crafts homes in a brochure from Monarch Mixed Paints of Chicago, which was published during this time period.

Foursquare homes in the early twentieth century were most commonly painted in autumn tones. The Monarch brochure recommended using four colors. To create a color scheme using contemporary paints, Schweitzer matched specific color chips from the Monarch brochure to the Sherwin-Williams exterior fan set, which is widely available throughout North America. Schweitzer's solution:

  • Major trim - Renwick Olive SW2815
  • Minor Trim - Caper SW2224
  • Accent - Biltmore Buff SW2345
  • Window Sash - Rookwood Dark Red SW2801

NEXT: Amy and Tim try out the colors

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Choosing The Best House Colors

Window sills of a Foursquare house
After painting parts of the window sills, Amy decided she liked the darkest colors best. Photo 4 of 7 © the homeowners

Choosing the best house colors is a trial and error process. Before painting their Foursquare house, Amy and Tim purchased the suggested colors in small, quart cans. They tested the paint on window sills at the back of the house.

The colors were close, but not quite right. Amy felt that the bricks looked washed out next to the dusty green and red-brown tones. So they tried again with deeper colors. "At first we went just a shade deeper," Amy says. "And then we just went deep."

Finally, Amy and Tim settled on colors from the Porter Paints Historic Colors series: Mountain Green and, to provide contrast, Deep Rose. For their third color they chose "Sea Sand". The sand color closely resembled the wood panels beneath the sunroom. The panels still had their original paint!

Because Amy and Tim were applying dark colors over white trim, several coats were necessary. The Sea Sand coated best and the Mountain Green closely followed. The Deep Rose showed brush marks with the first coat.

Amy and Tim were glad that they tested their colors on a small portion of the house. Sure, it was expensive to purchase those extra quarts of paint. But in the long run the couple saved money - and time.

"Patience is the key if you are doing it by yourself," Amy says. Painting the detailed trim was indeed a slow process for Tim, who worked in his spare time, weather permitting. And then, to add to the complexity of the job, the couple realized they needed one more color.

NEXT: Honoring History - Painting the Porch Ceiling

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Painting the Porch Ceiling

American Foursquare Home: Porch Ceiling
American Foursquare Home: Porch Ceiling. Photo 5 of 7 © the homeowners

Winter and spring months in southern Ohio can turn gray and gloomy. Amy and Tim were intrigued when they learned that pale blue paint was used on the porch ceilings of many older homes on the East coast. The blue paint was said to reflect light. For anyone standing inside the house, the day would seem brighter.

Well... why not? So it happened that the porch of their American Foursquare received four colors: Mountain Green, Deep Rose, Sea Sand and a subtle, almost white, blue.

NEXT: Before and After Painting the Foursquare House

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Before and After Painting the Foursquare

American Foursquare Home Before Painting
In this older photo, the American Foursquare house has white trim. Photo 6 of 7 © the homeowners

Amy and Tim's American Foursquare home has come a long way. This older photo is blurry, but you can see that the architectural trim was painted white.

NEXT: The house with trim freshly painted in historic colors

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Details Make the Difference When Painting the Foursquare House

American Foursquare Home With Painted Trim
After painting, the autumn colors accent the details on the American Foursquare home. Photo 7 of 7 © the homeowners

Amy and Tim painted only the trim on their American Foursquare home. But don't underestimate the impact of details. What a difference color makes!

Do you like the color scheme Amy and Tim selected? Would you like help choosing colors for your own house? Post your ideas, questions, and house pictures in our House Helpline Forum.

Also, check out the links below for help with your house painting project.

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Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Paint Colors for a Foursquare - Amy and Tim's Big Adventure." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). Paint Colors for a Foursquare - Amy and Tim's Big Adventure. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Paint Colors for a Foursquare - Amy and Tim's Big Adventure." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 19, 2018).