Painting the Bungalow

After months of renovation fatigue and, um… well… slacking, we’ve made the somewhat sudden decision to paint the exterior of the house NEXT WEEK.  Period colors or not?  That is the question.  Well, maybe not THE question, but you know what I mean.
our current ugly paint job
our current ugly paint job

So, what do you think?  What’s more important: staying true to the period of the house or choosing colors that make us happy, regardless of accuracy?  I’d love to hear some feedback…


29 thoughts on “Painting the Bungalow

  1. Oof, that’s a hard one. We’ve been struggling with that ourselves. We’re leaning away from period colors though, and going more for a cottage-y look than craftsman look.


  2. Have you seen Scweitzer’s book/web site? We had the book (thanks interlibrary loan!) and it really helped a lot – and the way he combines the colors makes them look really fresh. Also, there’s a period foursquare down the street from us that has a nice pale green body, yellow-gold trim, and orange doors (accent) that looks AWESOME and very period. I think it’s my fave combo.


  3. Thanks Sarah and Anne,

    Yup, I own a copy of Schweitzer’s book and I actually met him once too.(He was very nice.)

    I don’t mention it a lot on the blog, but I actually work as an architectural color consultant, helping people choose colors for their interiors and exteriors. I do both commercial and residential work – primarily on pre-WWII buildings – and the majority of my clients hire me because they are interested in using period colors.
    I am very pro-period color. That said, I work so often with period colors that part of me is itching to break out of that mold. And I found a color that I LOVE but it is not a bungalow color. So, I am really torn over practicing what I preach and just taking the plunge and using a non-bungalow color… which I think will look lovely, but probably send the purists into fits. 🙂


  4. Purist, schmurist. If it looks good, go for it. (I wouldn’t say that to everybody, but since you’re a professional color consultant I doubt you’d come up with anything truly reprehensible.)

    For my two-cents, I’d just say to make sure to keep a nice contrast and use different colors on the body/trim/window sashes.


  5. I think you should do what makes you happy. I think it is nice to stick with period colors, lighting, etc. but it is YOUR house. You have to look at it every day. And look at how beautiful your home is! Anyone who would dare criticize you for painting your house a non-bungalow color is not worth listening to. They can do what they want to their own houses! You have done AMAZING things to bring your lovely bungalow back to life. 🙂


  6. There are some excellent thoughts here. One additional aspect of house color that is a factor in more densely-built traditional neighborhoods is how houses harmonize with their neighbors. In your “period vs. personal” color evaluation, it might also be worth asking which will look best with the neighboring properties.


  7. I completely agree, Josh. We do live in a dense urban neighborhood, so that is definitely a factor. However, the house next to us is gray, the house on the other side of us is beige, the house directly across the street from us is gray, the house next to that is beige, the house next to that is gray and the house next to that is beige. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK! It seems you have identified the source of my struggle – I think I just want to see some color around here!!! While I DESPISE the baby blue paint that’s on our house now (which was there when we moved in) maybe what I REALLY need to do is talk our neighbors into doing some painting of their own!


  8. I say go with what you like, even if it means abandoning period colors. A bunch of bungalows in our city are painted non-traditionally—and are gorgeous, especially a few that have taken the extra step of coordinating landscaping to contrast with the paint!

    Our house is actually painted purple with black and white trim and terra cotta accents—the previous owner chose the colors and I wasn’t the biggest fan initially. But the combo has grown on me, and I much prefer it to the other bungalows on our block, which are all beige, white, or gray. I’d take it up a notch to something even brighter if I had the choice, though. (And agreed on making sure to do the trim and windows in contrasting colors—I think it makes a world of difference visually versus the easier/cheaper option of doing them in the same shade.)


  9. Oddly enough, Artemis, the color I am swooning over is a super-dark eggplant purple from Bejamin Moore’s Aura line. It’s called Caponata. It’s about as dark as a semi-sweet chocolate chip, except that it’s purple, not brown – or maybe sort of brownish purple (which I know sounds weird, but it’s pretty!) It’s not period by any stretch of the imagination, yet, I LOOOOOOVE it!

    We’re leaning towards using a very dark body color – espresso brown, charcoal gray, dark dark dark green – all of which are acceptable choices for a bungalow. But I keep being pulled toward the Caponata….


  10. Ooh, there’s an eggplant-y colored house in our area that’s gorgeous—though unfortunately the Google street view was taken pre-painting so it’s not very helpful. If I remember it has bright white trim and some other color (gold maybe? can’t picture it…) windows. Our purple (officially “Muffin Mix”) is sadly more washed out so it’s more of a lavender that looks almost gray in photos. I’m definitely a fan of the dark body colors, though—the one gray bungalow on our block that I really like is a medium charcoal gray with cream trim and red window sashes and door (and is happily right across the street, framed by our picture window!)


  11. I’m thinking of an eggplant body color with a cream or biscuit-colored trim and just a touch of a spicy accent color like cinnamon, cayenne pepper or paprkia.

    Hmmm… must be lunch time – I seem to be associating all of my colors with foods!


  12. That dark gray, cream and deep red combo is one I also really like. I also like the idea of espresso with cream and…. hmmm – I’m not sure. Guess it’s time to whip out photoshop!


  13. I agree, Becky. I do think that your house should be a home and not a museum. But I also wonder if it will be bad for business if do something non-period. Decisions, decisions!


  14. That color sounds fab! There’s a deep brown bungalow (not eggplant, but a similar richness) nestled on a dark corner with overhanging trees, and I think it’s one of my favorites. Dark is good! As long as it’s not light blue, right? Cayenne sounds lovely as an accent. Nice!


  15. In a moment of insanity (and by a moment, I mean for the past couple of years) we discussed removing all of the siding on the house (installed in 1960s) and replacing it with cedar shingles stained a rich dark brown.Finding the time and money to do that is a huge challenge though, and in the meantime, we’re stuck looking at all of that baby blue paint! Plus, there’s nothing really wrong with our siding aside from being too tall to look authentic. It’s cedar and it’s in fantastic condition. It’s just the wrong size (which is another reason I’m thinking color authenticity might not matter – the siding is already “wrong.”)


  16. Hi Sarah – yeah, I think dark is good too. Not that there’s anything wrong with light!But there’s something sort of romantic and earthy about a dark bungalow. Like the Gamble House:

    It has such “presence.” I don’t think it would be nearly as charming if it was, say, yellow! 🙂

    Shoot – now I’m thinking brown again….


  17. That rich eggplant color you’ve selected would look fantastic! I’d say go for it! I was a student of yours (PCC, Products and Materials) and stumbled across your blog during my own kitchen remodel breakdown. I must say THANK YOU! My 1911 bungalow has dark stained fir built-ins and moldings, but I was hesitant to match the kitchen cabinets to the rest of the millwork… Would it be too dark and shrink the space? After seeing your gorgeously remodeled kitchen, I became completely inspired. Cabinets ordered! Thank you Stephanie! Your blog has given me back some sanity! Now on to the countertops…


  18. Hi Thea! So nice to hear from you! I still use your wonderful project as an example for my Materials students! 🙂

    I’m glad to hear you found our little blog helpful. Sadly, our “remodeled” kitchen is STILL unfinished. We’ve been planning to tile the backsplash for a couple of years now, but other projects (and kids!) keep getting in the way.

    I had the same question about the dark woodwork (and knowing it would have been more authentic to go with a painted cabinet made that option attractive too) but our kitchen is SO visible from the living room and dining room (and vice-versa) that I thought it would look weird to have a little island of painted woodwork floating in this sea of dark stain. I think everything flows so better this way. I hope you end up feeling the same way!

    There’s a great new countertop material I just learned about – made right here in Oregon. It’s called Cement Elegance and it’s pretty cool stuff. As you can imagine, it’s a cement product, but it’s a cement veneer over a lightweight foam base. So you get the benefits of cement, but without the weight, the seams or the cracking. It can be made in any shape, with any edge detailing you want, and they can even make seamless integrated sinks. It has some other benefits too. If it gets damaged, the surface can be easily repaired. And if you ever get sick of it, it can be re-faced in a new color. It’s fairly environmentally friendly too. I think it’s pretty interesting stuff:

    Good luck with the rest of your remodel. I’d love to see photos when you’re finished!


  19. Hi,

    I just stumbled onto this blog while surfing for input on bungalow colors. We are enlarging the upstairs dormers to put or bedroom upstairs. We are replacing all our windows in the house with a dark/burnt red exterior and wood interior.

    We originally were going to have a “cream” body to the exterior, but now my husband is leaning toward gold and squash tones, which I never, ever have liked. The new roof has brown, red and black tones.

    Any and all suggestions would be appreciated.


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