Restoring the Colors of a 1912 Arts & Crafts house: Shingle Stains of 1912

Original shingle stain colours are important to use if one wants a heritage appropriate color scheme for your shingled house. Below are 12 shingle oil-stain color samples from 1912, to show the range of colours that were readily available in pre-mixed colors at that time. These samples were used to advantage to assist in the restoration of the exterior colours of a grand Arts & Crafts house in Victoria, B.C. Canada.

Here are three images of a 1912 house restoration that I supervised – an original 1926 photo; a 1990 “before” photo; and a 1994 “after” photo – show how that information can be used to advantage when planning a restoration project.

Original Scheme: A 1912 Greene & Greene style house designed by Pasadena architect Charles King. A 1926 photo of the house shows darker beams and pale window sash – both clearly different colours than that of the shingle walls

Before Restoration: Originally the shingles had been left natural, with painted beams and window sash. Pre 1990, the house had been painted all over with a too-dark Oxford brown paint, obliterating the intent of the original colour scheme of highlighting the prominent Arts & Crafts beams on the exterior of the house.

AFTER: the original red-brown color of the beams and cream color of the sash were sampled, analyzed and restored, and a green stain of the period – chosen from the original shingle samples below – was replicated in a flat paint to cover the brown paint. It was deemed better to paint the shingles an appropriately researched Arts & Crafts colour, rather than attempting to strip them of the brown paint, or reshingling the entire house to return the shingles to an unstained appearance when the house was constructed.

Shingle stains for houses of the 1912 period were widely available, answering demand for the product in the Arts & Crafts building boom period of house construction prior to World War I. Shingle walls were popular both for their rustic appearance, as well as their economic appeal: shingle walls at the time were actually less expensive to construct than walls clad in siding. Even houses whose original owners could afford a fine home chose to use wood shingles for their home because of their visual appeal.

Below are 12 actual shingles that were used as salesman’s samples that were found in their original box in an attic of a 1912 shingle house overlooking the ocean. The shingles each retain their original label explaining that the shingles were meant to be dipped in the stain “thereby rendering the shingles entirely waterproof”.

Remember that each computer monitor renders colors differently, so use these colors as a guide only for the range and variety of available colors in 1912.