Painting a Historic House…Historically. PART VI


DELICATE SENSIBILITIES ALERT: This post contains naughty words.



Last week I did a post about the shocking discovery of the original 1894 exterior wall color of the Cross House. Shocking because it was WAY different than the color I have been painting with for two years now. Shocking that I messed up something so vital to me so badly.

I wrote:

I feel utterly devastated. Punched in the stomach. Sucker-punched.

HOW could I have gotten the wall color so wrong. How?



The light wall color is what Sherwin-Williams mixed for me, based on the information I gave them about the 1894 color. The darker wall color is what I have been using since 2014 because I thought IT was the 1894 color, or close to it.




Then Brandy wrote in, after finding a color chip of the 1894 color online. And the online chip looked nothing like the color Sherwin-Williams mixed up for me.

But, the online chip did look a lot like what I have been using for two years.


I wanted to marry Brandy.


But this is what Brandy found online. And, gee, it looks a lot like what I have been using since 2104! So, did Sherwin-Williams simply mix the wrong color?

This is what Brandy found online. And, gee, it looks a lot like what I have been using since 2104! So, did Sherwin-Williams simply mix the wrong color?




Of course, colors online are not accurate. So, Frank Welsh, who I had retained to scientifically ascertain the original 1894 color, graciously offered to send me an actual color chip. From this, Sherwin-Williams could do a computer-match.

I was BREATHLESS with excitement, and every day raced to the post office.

Had the chip arrived?

It did today!!!!!!!!



The envelope!



Inside was a tiny envelope containing the golden prize!!!!!!!!


I raced

I raced to Sherwin-Williams, and they mixed up a sample quart. Looks pretty good, right? Then I raced to the Cross House, raced up three flights of steps, crawled out onto the scaffolding, and painted a bit on the 1894 shingles. The result? Scroll way down….


















What the fuck????????

What the fuck???????? It looks just like the sample from last week! ARGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!



Last week.



The two samples. The one on the right is the new one, computer-matched to an actual color chip.





Fuck, fuck, fuck.

So I really have been painting the house wrong. It seems that I have been painting the house not in the original color, but the second color it was painted.

Well, I give up.

There is no way I am going to start all over, my historical accuracy passion notwithstanding.

I also just love the current colors, and think the house looks really rich and elegant.





  1. Kelly on May 12, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    The fucks were so loud I just said them in the dream I was just having. But mine was about Subway. :p

    I know you wanted it accurate but maybe the original owner pulled some cosmic strings and had you paint it the color they really liked better. I think it looks awesome the way you painted it anyway.

    • Ross on May 12, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      I am affecting your dreams?

      Well, I am kinda thrilled to be a bad influence!

  2. Barb Sanford on May 12, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I’m starting to think they are color-matching the primer. Either that, or the universe is conspiring to play a horrible trick on you.

    All I can say is: I hope you stick with your current color scheme. Because’s it’s beautiful, and really dresses up the house. And it IS historically accurate — just not the original color.

    Anyway: I will be in Emporia this weekend, and I will walk past the house at some point and will send good vibes your way. If you’re around, I will say Hi.

  3. Julia on May 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I think “Capertree” is Jamaican for fuck. The house looks gorgeous painted in the colors you chose…but I get it.

    • Ross on May 12, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      Your comment made me burst out laughing.

  4. kara on May 12, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I love both colors, but I can see why the word “fuck” is particularly appropriate in this situation.

    Also the swatch looks a lot more olive/green than either the paint on the house or the color in the can. That’s why painting is such a pain in the … ahem.

    Maybe a few years down the road you can change things out, but honestly I think it looks great just the way it is. And, mind you, I have a degree in history and I’m an avid historian/restorationist, but sometimes change can be good too. 🙂

  5. Sandra G. McNichol on May 12, 2016 at 6:43 pm


    BUT – I really think that the lighter color isn’t the best aesthetic choice, alleged historical accuracy notwithstanding (and I’m with Barb in wondering if it was the primer that was color matched). For real.

    When I first saw the paint colors you have been using, I honestly felt a deep “Aha – that’s how this house used to look, and SHOULD look! Gorgeous!” and I still feel that way! Just like love, and honesty, and integrity (etc. etc.) – powerful “things” that can’t be seen, I trust my gut reaction to your paint color choices. They’re right, they’re gorgeous. The house does look very rich and elegant. My thought is: accept that the Universe is TRYING to tell you something with these gorgeous colors, and embrace them. Fuggedabout the lighter color – yuck. <3

  6. Frank S. Welsh on May 12, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Ross, maybe someday you will reconsider my original advice to submit samples from all features for accurate microanalysis.

    You have stumbled into what I cautioned you about at the beginning. After 44 years of experience, I was attempting to gently guide you in the right direction.

    • Ross on May 12, 2016 at 7:05 pm


      I agree with your approach 1,000%.

      The problem with the Cross House is that the previous owner stripped it of paint. So, there is no there, there in terms of paint samples.

      Quite frustrating!

      The ONLY part of the house retaining its original paint is a outside/inside second-floor porch. It is from this porch that I removed a wall shingle to send to you.

      The porch also contains a wood ceiling, and this will reveal the original porch ceiling colors (there are five porches). As I wrote you previously, I am looking forward to retaining your expertise to ascertain the original porch ceiling colors.

      The only other color potential on the porch is some trim. I previously discovered a pristine 1894 sample, and had this computer matched, but I nonetheless still plan to see if you can confirm this color, too.

      But that is it. With bare wood and bare tin everywhere else, there are no other places to obtain samples from.


  7. kerri on May 12, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    But Ross, that “original” color doesn’t really make the house zing like the “second” color that you actually used. Look at it this way, maybe the original owners didn’t like the first color and repainted with the color that looked better. You are still historically accurate because the house WAS painted the color you are using.

    What matters is how it looks after YOU paint it and if YOU like it. The colors you are using look fabulous.

    • kara on May 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Yes yes yes. Being slavish to the “historical accuracy” is not always the best. People 150 years ago made mistakes just like we do now. Maybe the house was painted lighter and the owner hated it and repainted it darker. Maybe it was primer? Maybe things changed.

      I can tell you that, if, 150 years from now, someone wanted to restore my house they’d find 3 different colors on my bedroom wall. The original owner painted it a horrible “mustard” color. 6 months later, I bought the place and started painting it what looked like a “dove gray” from the samples and wound up looking lavender when it was on the wall. 1/2 way through I stopped, realizing it was awful and wound up painting it a pale, robin’s egg blue.

      Which of those is the “historically authentic” color?

      Don’t get too emotionally spun up in “authentic”. People 150 years ago were just as fickle as we are today about design and color and style.

  8. Frank S. Welsh on May 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Ross, Please remember this: you think that since the house paints have been stripped that there is no evidence left on the other features, but after 42 years, I have yet to be unable to find evidence on a structure that has been stripped. No painter ever removes all of the evidence. No one is ever that thorough. I can always find the evidence. My nickname is: “The Paint Detective”, or at least that is what the TV media have called me. Have you seen the TV feature on my work on the White House Plinth, on FOX Business Network?

    Here is a link to a short video clip.

    I don’t know its schedule, but they will rebroadcast the entire show from time to time.

    Frank Welsh

    • Ross on May 12, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Frank, I had NO idea that it was possible to discover a full color chart from a stripped house!

      Why didn’t I meet you two years ago????????

  9. Brandy Mulvaine on May 12, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Ross, I’m so sorry…My eyes are seeing it but my brain refuses to believe that those are the same colors… what is painted on the house looks really different from what is painted on the white board. I keep comparing them side by side on a split screen…

    So I guess the marriage is off? Lol!

    For what it’s worth, I like the color that you’re painting the Cross House better than that pale color.

  10. Carole. Canton Ohio on May 12, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Ross, I agree with most everybodys opinion. You have a beautiful color choice, based on what you found. The color was on the house, just after the orginal. They used the wrong base color to tint for the first color. The owners realized it was just ucko and chose the lovely colors you did. You were right based on your good sense & your great sense of color. Most of us, probably, didn’t think that a surface stripped of paint would still be able to “tell us” 100+ years later.

    We are one your side!!! Now get back to painting!!!

  11. nathan on May 12, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Fuck – really goes to show how much a colours surroundings infuence how we see it.

    Both colour choices are fantastic, it’s okay if it’s not original. It’s still historically correct, and it looks lovely. -fuck

  12. Tony on May 12, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    First let me say, I absolutely love the colors of your house and thoroughly believe you should keep them, always (I’m the Harry Potter generation, so when I say always, I mean always). Second, I don’t think we’re being fair with this original color. By itself it is beautiful. I think we need to realize you’ve painted it next to some darker colors making it look even lighter than it should appear to be.

  13. Frank on May 12, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Ross, what everybody says. The current colors are the best.

    Still I matched the two samples side by side and they don’t seem to be the same color.
    I don’t know what’s up with that.
    If I could upload a jpg I would .

  14. Melody on May 12, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I like the colours that you’ve been working with.

    Question in all of this – how many other aspects of the house are not 100%, to the plans, as it was built, absolutely to the day original? The stairs were not built to the blueprints. Without solid evidence, you don’t know that the house wasn’t repainted before the family even moved in.

  15. Betsy on May 12, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Honestly, I am not seeing it. I also think it may be a primer color? In the old photos, it doesn’t look like it could be thus “other” color. It looks darker, like what you are painting it. What you are doing is beautiful.

    • Ross on May 12, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      I am confident that Frank, based on his four decades of experience, found the first color the house was painted.

      I do not believe that Capertree was the primer color.

      The more I think about all this, the more I think I understand why the house was originally so pale.

      Stay tuned…

  16. Tamara on May 12, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    A conversation that possibly took place 122 years ago [between Harrison and Susan Cross, about their architect, Charles Squires]…
    Mrs. C: Harrison, I am not happy.
    Mr. C: Uh-oh.
    Mrs. C: Mr. Squires has chosen an absolutely horrid color for our new house!
    Mr. C: Now Susan dear, you loved the color when Mr. Squires showed it to you before they began painting.
    Mrs. C: I loved the color just fine until Jane Doe down the street chose to have her house painted the exact same shade of Capertree! How can we stand out in the crowd if our house looks just like everyone else’s?
    Mr. C: Susan dear, they just finished painting the house. We can’t have them start all over again. It just doesn’t make sense.
    Mrs. C: I don’t care, Harrison. Our new house is going to be the most beautiful and unique in all of Emporia. I want it painted a different color. Something darker and richer, I think.
    Mr. C: Susan dear, you are going to send me to an early grave.
    Mrs. C: Don’t be ridiculous Harrison. You will outlive us all. Now have the house repainted immediately.
    Mr. C: Fuck.

    • Brandy Mulvaine on May 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      OMGosh, OMGosh, OMGosh, Tamara, that’s priceless!

      • MikeE on May 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm

        LMAO @ Tamara!!

  17. Elin Noller on May 13, 2016 at 6:26 am

    I’m confused. The samle you got from Frank looks nothing like what you painted (twice). In fact the sample Frank sent you looks a lot like the paint you picked out. I’m starting to feel like this is a blue/gold or white/silver dress situation.

    Maybe, just maybe. They had the same problem? Liking the color in the can and then getting in on the house and it just don’t look the way they thought it would? So they picked a different color that came out right when painted.

    Don’t fret Ross. I’m sure Frank can figure this out if you send him some more stuff to look over. Being a paint detective and all 🙂

  18. Elin Noller on May 13, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Oh btw, can you climb up with the sample that Frank sent you and hold it up next to the bits you painted and take a pic so we can compare?

  19. Chad's Crooked House on May 13, 2016 at 8:10 am

    But the second paint job is part of history, too, isn’t it? We lost huge amounts of history to mid-20th Century historic restoration projects in my neck of the woods.

    And having preserved a digital record of the second paint colors for the ages, you can come back with the first in 20 years, right?

  20. Michael Bazikos on May 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

    If you look in the reprint of the book “A Century of Color” you will see several Victorian-era homes painted in very light shades, one of them very similar to ‘Capertree’. Frankly, given the size of your house I think it needs the more intense color. The lighter shade could be jarring on a huge house.

  21. Steve H on May 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Frustrating, yes, but hardly the end of the world – and this is coming from a fairly compulsive person. Had you not learned that it was the “wrong” color, you would have been totally happy with it. It’s not like the spirit of Susan Cross is going to come back some night and drive a stake through your heart for painting her house the wrong color. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but try this on for size: I once bought a fairly pricy 1880 date plaque for my house only to learn later that it was actually built in 1881. I never changed it because in the whole scheme of things, what difference does it really make?

    Now man-up and be happy with your beautiful house.

  22. Merryl McRae on May 13, 2016 at 10:50 am

    OMG Ross!!! I love getting up everyday and reading your posts? However entertaining your posts are, I’m so sorry for your misfortunes on the color. You’re right, I love the colors you’ve already painted. All I can say is, those painters back in 1894 must have been drinking and they just mixed the colors wrong!

  23. Chris Fetzer on January 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Today is Jan. 16th, 2017 and I’m obsessed with reading every detail and catching up to date on your blog. Here’s a thought I had about the paint color in the upper porch. What if IT was originally painted Capertree to add lightness into the bedroom? Maybe it wasn’t even painted the olive gold color you’re painting the house. Of course, I’m reading this chronologically and I’m 7 months behind. Sorry, if I’m sounding goofy.

    • David Gervais on January 3, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      It’s now January 03 2019.
      The shingle you sent to Frank did not come from the exterior body and does not necessarily bear the exterior body colour.
      I’m reading sequentially, so I’m looking forward to more posts on the subject.

      • Ross on January 3, 2019 at 10:08 pm

        Hi David!

        The shingle was an exterior shingle.

        I have no reason to think that all the second-floor shingles were not the same color originally.

        Moroever, I have now found trace bits of the same color all over the house.

  24. David McDonald on April 3, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    I feel almost as obsessed as you are about this house! Ive been reading your articles and commenting for almost 3 or 4 hours now! Ive lost track of time! Lol… ok, on with my comment…..
    Please dont take offense, and i know you have to live with what you like, its its YOUR house now. But i am very familiar with the earth tones the Victorians used to paint there homes. The idea was to “ground” or “root” the house into the landscape. I LOVE what you have painted it. I think the slightly dirty mustard looks fantastic!
    Just sayin…
    And, someone commented about this other issue-from the photo from the 1930s–about the columns being painted lighter withe capitals being darker and the bases being darker. Also, the frieze over the front porch entry in the( forgive me, dont know what its called) pyramid shape- that too is painted darker and the background lighter. I think it makes those features not only stand out more but they look more elegant and delicate at the same time. But, again, you must do what you like. And I applaud you and your efforts! You are truly gifted! Bravo! Again, looking forward, greedily, to following you!! Maybe one of these days , I’ll come and tour all of your painstaking care and hard work!

  25. Chamqual on January 7, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    Does that color match the limestone bases on the porch? Is that why??

    …years later catching up here

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