Painting a Historic House

The 1886 Haas-Lilienthal House is a historic house museum in San Fransisco. It is quite the stunner and for many years looked like this:


Pretty spectacular, right?


Wanna see? Scroll way down.

In 2018, a multi-million dollar restoration was completed. The original colors were ascertained and the results are both startling and unexpected.




















Wow. I am gobsmacked.

It all looks like one color but is actually two.

Before, one tended to notice the disparate parts. Now, one notices the whole.

I think the house looks FAR more elegant.

Just wow.









  1. Cody H on December 26, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I have a couple nitpicks:
    -First, the window sashes would look substantially better in black, as was the norm for Queen Anne houses. To my eye, the windows just kind of…die, painted green.
    -The ACTUAL window trim (not the sashes) would pop in the darker shade of green.

    *they also could have used the secondary green to accentuate some of the other details. I can get behind using only the original colors, but some creative variance from the original scheme would do wonders.

    • Ross on December 26, 2018 at 10:02 pm

      It seems that they were not trying for, well, maximum POP, but historical accuracy.

      I love what they did. Which is why I did this post.

      While black sashes were common for the era (as with the Cross House) they were not absolute.

  2. Cody H on December 26, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Also, WHY THE HECK did they PAINT the uppermost section of the chimney! WHY??!??!

    • Ross on December 26, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Yes, that is curious!

      • Bethany Otto on December 30, 2018 at 8:47 am

        That chimney isn’t in the old photo. Curious.

  3. Mary Garner-Mitchell on December 26, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    I just love it! My eye doesn’t know where to go in the first photograph. That chimney, however, is a puzzle!

  4. Seth Hoffman on December 26, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Another good counterpoint to the widespread notion people have of Victorians being pointed in many bright, contrasting colors!

    Personally, I prefer a bit more variation than this one (especially the window sashes), but perfectly-correct examples like this are invaluable to understanding the original context. I wish more were done so.

    The painted chimney top is puzzling, though. I would like to know the story on that.

  5. Dawn Rocco on December 26, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    In the first picture it looks like the chimney had some repair work done which kind of stands out perhaps that’s why they painted it. It does look odd. I agree with Cody, a third color to offset just a little around the windows would of looked nice but it is an amazing difference as is.

  6. Marlon Mormann on December 27, 2018 at 8:12 am

    The Victorians had a penchant for the dark and dreary. All these bright colors used today were not as authentic as many believe.

  7. Carl on December 27, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Perhaps to signify the chimney was not original to the house? The Park Avenue Armory in NYC did all their current additions in copper so 100 years from now people would understand when and what additions were made at this time.

    • Ross on December 27, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks, Carl!

      I added the archival image you sent in.


      • Seth Hoffman on December 27, 2018 at 3:12 pm

        Wow, I would not have guessed the chimney was a later addition! Thanks for the photo! It really is a remarkable place.

    • Bethany Otto on December 30, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Making the historical narrative of the house very clear, as I believe Ross would say!

  8. Julie on June 8, 2019 at 1:40 pm


    I got to wandering around here after your Ooops post, and went digging in regards to the “chimney question”. I found this (NPR):

    The principal modifications of the house itself have been in the form of chimneys and interior fireplaces, added or suppressed. On the south side, one chimney was added – some time before the fire (ca. 1900). This is a tall brick chimney in the center of the south exterior wall; another is an enlarged sheathed chimney (A) between this point and the east front, serving the first two floors. The fireplace in the north wall (near the east front – in the hall) was taken out, and the chimney opposite to the south (mentioned above- A) was enlarged at this time.

    It is difficult to ascertain the exact sequence and dates of these modifications but in general the first decade of the 20th century would include most of them.

    The walls adjacent to the high brick chimney were reworked when it was constructed, principally in the first and second stories, although details ol the third story were altered also. Close examination of old and recent photographs provides the best indication of these alterations.

    • Ross on June 8, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks, Julie!

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