Paint Schemes for a Victorian Cottage

Historical color experts suggest that this late Victorian cottage might be polychromed in period colors.
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Historical color experts suggest that this late Victorian cottage might be polychromed in period colors.

Homeowners David and Carol Delaney kept with New England’s long-standing Colonial Revival tradition of white paint for both body and trim on their Second Empire cottage. They felt that such simplicity was the best way to show off their very colorful garden on a small lot.

Second Empire cottage all-white paint scheme

Here we present several suggested paint schemes, all keyed to the late Victorian period but, more to the point, chosen for compatibility with other houses in this neighborhood. In the old seacoast town, blue-gray light hovers over weathered shingles and white churches. Brilliant “boutique” color schemes are best left to other locales.

Note: Exterior schemes were chosen by James Martin of The Color People. All paint colors are by Benjamin Moore.

Paint Scheme #1


The most historical scheme ends up looking edgy: Dark trim and sashes, typical of the era, generally are not in favor today.

Historic paint palette for Second Empire cottage

The Colors

Paint Scheme #2


Even with this historical and more colorful palette, minimal detailing keeps the house modest and serene.

Historic paint colors for a Second Empire cottage

The Colors

Paint Scheme #3


This scheme uses a gray body, perennially popular and suggestive of weathered wood.

Historic paint colors for a Second Empire cottage

The Colors

Paint Scheme #4


Again, James Martin puts a punch color, or accent, on the crown molding at the gable edge to relate to the dark copper gutter.

Historic paint colors for a Second Empire cottage

The Colors