The Great Divide – What happened to colours in 1900?


Whether it was the turn of the century – from 1899 to 1900 – or a clean sweep of society on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, or just a cosmic time-warp, how exterior house colours were used, changed when the world welcomed the 20th century.

An Italianate style house with a fashionable 1880’s colour scheme: light body and dark trim boards

A selection of colours popular in the 1880’s. The blue colours would be used sparingly for fine trim or for signs.

From the deep, rich colours popular for houses in the 1880’s and 1890’s, to the fresher paler colours of the first two decades of the 20th century, there was a change.

A restored Italianate house built 1886. The colour scheme follows the recommended treatment for an Italianate-style house: warm paler body with rich trim colours.

And it wasn’t just the colours becoming brighter and paler, though they did. The actual placement of the colours changed too. Quite a reversal took place. Dark corner boards became pale. Dark sash became light. (Or pale sash became light). Multi-coloured paint schemes became more subdued (though three colour schemes were still popular).


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