Homes of the 1920s are often smaller and cozier than the large structures of previous periods. Bungalows, small, one-story single-family homes, were extremely popular, as was the four-square, a square, two-story house with four rooms per floor. Often wood-sided, these homes were painted in a number of distinctive color schemes. Repainting your home's exterior can add an authentic touch to your restoration effort.
One of the quintessential 20th century home exterior colors, white was used both as a main color and as an accent. According to Old House Journal, Tudor-style homes were often cream with green or maroon trim. Older arts-and-crafts style homes were often painted white to modernize them. 1920s texts recommend pairing white trim with dark green and straw body colors on a foursquare, and with amber brown on bungalows. White is inoffensive and gives a fresh look, but it can be boring in excess.
Light gray was popular on foursquare homes, combined with red brick and black. Grays were considered durable and attractive. They were also less expensive than white, as they contained considerably less white lead. A 1917 Evercote paint chart offers three different shades of exterior gray: light gray, French gray and slate. Gray was most common as a body color, rather than on trim.
Greens were popular both as main colors and for trim. In fact, many shades of green paint in the 1920s were known as “shutter green” or “blind and trellis” green. This decade favored dark greens with a slight blueish tint, rather than bright or yellowish greens. Homes were often painted in several shades of green. For instance, the upper part of a foursquare could be dark green, the bottom light olive, the trim white, the shutters willow green and the sash medium green.
Brown and other earth tones were common exterior colors in the 1920s. Paint companies provided a range of different browns, from tan to “copper brown” and “rich buff.” Some homeowners painted entire houses in shades of this color. According to Old House Journal, a bungalow might be painted amber, with tan trim and a russet roof. A foursquare might be painted dark brown on its upper part, straw on the lower part and trim, and white and green on sashes and shutters. Browns were frequently combined with red tones.
Exterior reds in the 1920s were muted, and included brick red and terracotta. Brighter reds were usually reserved for interior paint, where they wouldn't fade and turn pink over time. Reds could be combined with brown tones, or used in several different shades, like greens. Brick red was also combined with gray and black.
- Old House Colors; Colors for Foursquare Houses; Stuart Stark
- Old House Colors; A 1917 Colour Chart for House Colors; Stuart Stark
- “Old House Journal”; Twentieth-Century Color; Patricia Poore; March-April 1999
- “Old House Journal”; Colors for a New Century; Steve Jordan; May-June 2003
- 1920-30.com: 1920's Residential Housing and Commercial Buildings
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.