The choice of color for country houses requires the exercise of taste, judgment, and an eye for harmonious combinations. Keeping always in view the general effect, when the fancy begins to range beyond the safe line of the neutral tints, the field for error is so large disastrous that the house may be as we have known certain houses to be of all the colors of the rainbow before the decorative portions of it are finished. Before the building is finished, the whole subject of color should be carefully considered. Afterward, as the eye becomes accustomed to the incongruity, the necessary changes become more difficult to make. It is almost impossible to give a correct idea of colors in painting without presenting their different tints and degrees of shading to apprehensions the eye. When we leave the well-known white, black, red, etc., there are so many variations of particular colors that description is apt to fail in conveying to the reader the exact color which is in the thought of in the writer. There are very few persons who have had the means of acquiring a knowledge of the different shades of color, or of the method of combining colors so as to produce the neutral which may be desired. Such knowledge is nevertheless well worth taking some trouble to obtain, and any one who wishes to have his dwelling painted in a manner to give him great future satisfaction, would do well to specify, as nearly as possible, the colors he wants, have minute quantities combined of various shades approximating most while closely to his idea, and from these sample colors make his final selection. It will not do, of course, to fix a particular body color, however much it may we find at please the taste, without having due regard to the situation, the surroundings, and the style of building. The lighter colors, which are suitable to cottages and the smaller class of farm-houses, will not look so well to more imposing structures.
It is laid down as a rule by Calvert Vaux, that every building requires four tints to make it a pleasant object in the way of color. “The main walls,” he remarks, “should be of some agreeable shade of color, the roof-trimmings, verandas, and other wood-work being either of a different color or of a different shade of the same color, so that a contrast, but not a sharp one, may be established a third and fourth color, not widely different from the other wood-work, should be applied to the windows, blinds, etc.”
The greatest defect in the generality of country buildings is the too frequent use of white. It is true that white reflects the rays of time sun, instead of absorbing them, and is therefore a good preservative of weather-boarding. It is true, also, that the materials of white are cheap. This relates, however, only to washes of lime, and not to white-lead, or zinc-white, mixed with oils and their combinations. Under any circumstances, unless the building is heavily embowered in shrubbery and shade-trees, white as a color is extremely objectionable. Where deep shadows are flung over the house from the embowering foliage in the summer season, the objection to white is partially removed; but when the leaves fall, the objection returns with double force; a delicate cream color will, on the other hand, soften the glare of white, and may in many cases be used to advantage. Equally to be avoided, in the country, is an unmodified red, or those brown-stone tints, approaching to chocolate color, which are so frequently used in the construction of town houses; neither of these colors harmonize with the landscape. In the midst of green trees and green fields they become sombre and forbidding, and their gloomy aspect can not even be relieved by flowers or running vines.
Take, again, those bright red brick houses which are sometimes met with, or bear in mind the red barns of the German settlers in Pennsylvania, and their ugliness as blotches on the landscape are at once apparent. With an old brick building, time-worn and mossy, the case is different; for it has become gradually assimilated, to some extent at least, with its surroundings; but, as Allen says, There can be nothing less comporting with the simplicity of rural scenery than a flaming red on a building. It connects with nothing natural about it. It neither fades into any surrounding shade of soil or vegetation, and must of necessity stand out in its own bold and unshrouded impudence a perfect Ishmaelite in color, and a perversion of every thing harmonious in the design.
We turn now to the neutral tints, such as time drabs, fawns, grays, and their combinations. There is here a great variety of choices, some of the colors being warm and others cool, and time use of either will depend upon the situation and time amount of shade about the house. And here we lay it down as a rule that, whatever the color of the body of the house may be, the window-facings, blinds, bracketings, and often the roof, admit of tasteful variation. Downing remarks that different shades of color applied to the trimmings of the house confer the same kind of expression on it that the eyes, eye-brows, lips, etc., do upon time human countenance. To paint the whole house drab, for instance, gives very much the same dull and insipid effect that colorless features white hair, pale eye-brows, lips, etc do the face. A certain sprightliness is, therefore, always bestowed on a swelling in a neutral tint by painting the bolder projecting features of a different shade. The simplest practical rule that we can suggest for effecting this in the most satisfactory and agreeable manner is time following: Choose paint of some neutral tint that is quite satisfactory, and let the facings of time windows, cornices, etc., be painted several shades darker of the same color.
And here we pause, trusting that these suggestions may prove profitable to our readers. Maryland Farmer.