Victorian Era Color Schemes for Houses


The reign of Queen Victoria lasted from 1837 to 1901. In the United States, the majority of Victorian homes were built between 1850 and 1915, although some domiciles characteristic of this era predate this period. Victorian architecture continuously evolved in terms of home styles and color and included Italianate, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Second Empire, Stick and other home designs. Victorian color schemes have not only been dependent on the date employed but also the geographic location.

Early Victorian

  • During the early Victorian age, prior to the American Civil War, color schemes were quite simple. Italianate homes were built beginning in the 1840's with flat roofs, overhanging eaves, wooden shutters, cornices over windows and doors and sometimes small towers on top of the homes. Around the same time, gothic revival houses were built and had features such as steep, triangular roofs, windows encased by gables, one-story porches and sometimes parapets. Both styles of homes traditionally were painted with a monochrome color scheme, either one solid color or with accent colors for shutters and trim a shade lighter or darker than the main color. Common colors were white or earth tones such as beige, brown, dark green and pale yellow. Earth tones were especially important as most paints were made with pigments derived from nature.

Late Victorian

  • After the American Civil War, more Victorian home designs developed and the use of color changed to reflect the appreciation of more lively colors and the use of multi-colored schemes. Queen Anne homes were built with slanted bay windows, steep roofs, often mini towers, ornamental brackets and elaborate moldings. Stick style homes were constructed with gables, horizontal panel designs and gingerbread components. Second Empire homes also came after the Civil War and had mansard roofs, hipped roofs with two different slopes, multi-story porches, decorative eaves and patterned shingles. Queen Anne homes are especially known for their colorful aesthetic, but all three home designs were generally painted with three or more colors. Some of these Victorian homes were still painted with earth tones, such as the triadic scheme of painting a single house various shades of hunter green, burnt yellow and muddy brown. Other more vibrant color combinations were also employed, such as purple with green and brown or deep red with yellow and blue-green. The exterior of Chateau Tivoli, a Queen Anne style home constructed in 1890 in San Francisco, is painted with 17 different colors including gold leaf, blue-green, deep red, orange, white, brown and gray.

Geographic Location

  • In the United States, the color schemes of Victorian homes depend on geographic location. According to Victorian Station, colors of Victorian homes on the east coast of the country were traditionally more restrained compared to those on the west coast, particularly San Francisco. In the east, painters tended to use earth tones. In San Francisco, bright pastels were introduced such as pink, blue, purple and yellow.

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