Why Barns are Red and Other Traditional Paint Colors

traditional paint colors

When you drive through the beautiful countryside in Yamhill Valley, you’ll probably notice a lot of red barns. Or, you might take note of the abundance of blue porches. But have you ever stopped to wonder why nearly every barn is red? Why do most suburban homes look the same? Chances are the exterior paint color of your home has a long historical significance. Without even realizing it, we contribute to the symbolism of these traditional paint colors every time we start a new house paint job.

  • We typically see colonial-style homes painted a blue slate, which is traced back to the early colonists. In the Georgian era, British settlers looked to their new environment for inspiration, reflecting the open blue skies and complementing the lush green that surrounded them.
  • To contrast the colonial houses, suburban homes tend to be muted beiges, creams and peaches. This was to separate from the traditionally colorful homes after the Revolutionary War. So next time you see a neighborhood of pale houses, remember the early Americans and feel that rush of independence.
  • Farmhouses are traditionally white because, though more expensive than other paints, white paints were made with lead or zinc oxide and lasted longer than other colors. The white paint was also easier to touch up as needed. Furthermore, bigger farmhouses in the South were build during the Ancient Greek Revival; columns and the white paint associated with cleanliness and purity was prevalent.
  • Brown and tan painted ranch homes put focus on the natural wonders of the Southwestern United States. Rather than emphasizing the home, deference was made to the big skies and sprawling landscape.
  • There’s also a very practical reason why most barns are now red, and it’s not so the cows can find it easier. Rather, it’s because the lead in white paint made it more expensive. Red paint was cheaper and used to be tinted with rust which also protected the barn wood from decay.
  • It may seem like a strange habit, but there’s a reason why shutters are traditionally green. Green paint started becoming extremely popular at the end of the 18th century. At that time, it was often made with arsenic. The poison in the paint then kept mosquitoes and other bugs out of the house. Your green shutters today won’t be toxic, but hopefully they’ll still keep the insects out!
  • Paint your porch ceiling a light blue-grey to ward off any ghosts. This special paint choice has been thought to keep spirits away for generations. Homeowners in the Victorian era swore by the choice. The light blue also reminded them of the sky during stormy days.

Your exterior paint color is certainly a reflection of your family. It’s also highly symbolic of the traditions we’ve all become accustomed to. If you’re considering a new paint job for your home, feel free to stick with tradition or think outside of the box. Whatever your needs, contact us and we’ll help you get started!