Monday, May 30, 2016

When Something Just Doesn't Look Quite Right.

This house is one of my favorites in my hometown of Spencer, Iowa.  The ornament and detailing are classic examples of the Queen Anne.  Note the beaded spindle work on the porch, including the frieze across the top, turned porch posts and large newels.  This sort of elaborate spindle work is characteristic of the Eastlake sub-type of the Queen Anne.  Other features commonly found on examples of the Eastlake are the incised, geometric patterns between the second story corner windows and on the porch gable and the baroque-style scrollwork under the front eave.  
A beautiful home for sure.  But can you spot something that doesn't look quite right?
However, when you look at this house as a whole, something does not look quite right.  Here are a few things that stick out to me. On most buildings the rake angle of gables and the pitch of the roof are similar.  That isn't the case here as the gable on the porch roof has a much steeper angle than the very low-pitched roof.  Queen Anne houses are also known for their asymmetrical shape where bay windows, porches and wings are often capped with a complicated roof with hips, valleys, gables and dormers.  This roof is symmetrical and does not follow the irregular shape of the house below. 

What is going on?  This house is an example of how buildings can change through time.  Sometime around 1910 this ca.1890 Queen Anne had a fire which destroyed the roof.  Rather than rebuild the original roof, the owners built one typically found on Foursquare homes popular at that time.  It is unclear whether this decision was a stylistic one or due to expense, since rebuilding the more complicated Queen Anne roof would have been more expensive.   The results are not unpleasant, but do lead to a moment of pause as we try to reconcile the different parts into a stylistic whole.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why choose Historic Design Consulting to help you select historic paint colors for your Victorian era home or business?

For more information about historic paint colors for your Victorian or Arts and Crafts era home or business, please visit the Historic Design Consulting Website today!

There is an abundance of colorists, consultants and other professionals who specialize in Victorian-era paint colors and ornament for historic homes.  This can make selecting a consultant who is right for you and your historic architecture difficult considering their varying levels of training, education and expertise.  Historic Design's color consultants, however, have a unique background which includes academic training in architectural history and building conservation as well as hands-on experience in restoration which distinguishes us from others in the field.  

Unlike colorists whose backgrounds are in decoration and design, Historic Design's consultants are grounded in a graduate level education in history and architectural history.  Like any good historian, we start our research with primary sources and period color palettes rather than rely on modern authors and paint manufacturers to tell us how people painted their homes and businesses.  We know which pigments painters used and when. We know how architectural styles and aesthetic ideals evolved during the 19th century and how color palettes reflected these changes. We know that colors used on an 1850s Italianate home might not be appropriate for a 1905 Colonial Revival or Shingle Style home.    

19th century card with paint chips from Lion Brand.  Historic Design
 Consulting has a collection of primary sources like period color
samples which we use to select our period-correct color palettes.

In short, we use the same materials and literature that painters used in the 19th century to write custom color reports for our clients.

John W. Masury's 1881 book on house painting.  Period literature offers
an instructive account of 19th century painting practice and theory.

Our expertise in architectural history is complimented by our training in building conservation. Building conservation is the discipline of preserving and restoring historic architecture. This includes a thorough knowledge of historic building materials and construction methods as well as the best practices to preserve them. 19th and early 20th buildings present challenges that are unique to historic architecture and a background in building conservation is necessary to preserve these building's distinguishing characteristics.  

Historic Design Consulting has a library of period photos which we use to determine correct
color placement. 

Historic Design Consulting also benefits from hands-on experience in building maintenance and restoration.   Although academic training is important, there is no substitute for actual experience in paint preparation, window restoration and building repair.  Our expertise in modern maintenance methods as well as 19th century carpentry and house joinery using Civil War era tools and techniques makes Historic Design Consulting stand apart from other consultants and colorists.  

To get your own historic paint color report for your Victorian era house or business, visit our web page at and click on the Paint Colors button in the Our Services Menu.