Tudor Rules - How to Paint Your Tudor Revival Home

I think people either love traditional tudor homes (tudor revival) or they hate them. There is no doubt they are unmistakeable in their architecture. The bold lines and trim details often contrasted with some form of black and white leave some people seeing stripes. Personally, I think tudor revival homes are classic and I find choosing the right colours for them a joy.

However much I love choosing colours for them though, they are the houses that seem to challenge the homeowners the most. I think it comes down to trying to fight the style of these homes instead of embracing it.

Here some tips and rules I use to make choosing exterior paint colours for a tudor home easier:

First… A Quick History on Tudor

The late 19th century was the beginning of Tudor Revival architecture in the UK and the style spread throughout the commonwealth over the next two centuries.

Original Tudor revival houses were half-timbered construction, which meant load bearing wood beams provided the structure and foundation of the house and the walls were filled with stone, plaster, brick or other materials. The wood frame was visible as part of both the interior and exterior of the building. Today, Tudor revival style houses are generally built with more modern methods and trim boards are added to the exterior to mimic the original wood frame structures.

Why is knowing this important?

Understanding the architectural details of your house help you in deciding what to feature when painting your house.  When it comes to Tudor revival style homes, the trim boards mimic original support beams the house. Chimneys, steeply pitched roofs and dormers and often arched entrances are also important features in Tudor revival homes.

Tudor Rules

The rules to follow when choosing the exterior colour scheme for your house:

1. You Can’t Ignore the Architecture

I’ve seen Tudor houses where the owners have tried to minimise the Tudor details by painting the trim and the siding the same colour. It doesn’t work. What happens is that it looks like the painter was lazy. If you want to minimise the trim details, using a more subtle colour combination is the way to go, not pretending the details don’t exist. The only time I spec that the trim boards get painted out in the same colour as the field is if the trim boards are very narrow and the field is either clapboard or wood. If the field surface is stucco, it’s always a colour change between the trim and the field.


2. Don’t Get Busy

On the other side of the spectrum, I want to cry when I see a Tudor style home where the homeowner has gone crazy with trim colours, trying to be creative by using multiple trim colours on the house. It’s overkill. Remember, Tudor revival houses are about the architecture first, not the colour. I wouldn’t consider ever having more than three colours at most on a Tudor style home. Most are perfect with two (not including the front door).

.3. The More Traditional the House, the Bolder the Contrast

The more historical the house, the more dramatic the contrast can get. Black and White Tudor revival homes are a dramatic contrast of dark brown/black trim with a white field. Ornate trim details are further highlighted with the black (or very dark brown) trim. These houses are rare here in Vancouver but they provide a guideline for how much contrast you can use on very traditional Tudor style homes.

With newer homes, it’s likely that more subtle colour combinations are preferred.

4. Trim is (almost) Always Darker than Field

Remember, the wood trim is mimicking a wood frame. You simply would not have seen a house in the 19th or 20th century where the wood was painted out in white. The very traditional brown/black trim you on Tudors is emulating the original wood beams that would have been oiled and darkened over time. So when choosing your trim colour, if your goal is to stay true to the house style, plan for it to be darker than the field of the house. Even if it is one shade darker.

Of course, there are exceptions and times you definitely want to break this rule. If the field of the house is largely brick or stone, you can go lighter and if you are dealing with the situation of a Tudor style home with white vinyl windows, you are likely going to break this rule too.

5. Don’t Install White Vinyl Windows

If you don’t want to break the previous rule for painting your Tudor revival home, when it’s time to replace the windows and you are choosing vinyl, don’t choose white. In most Tudor revival homes, the windows are trimmed in wood, but that is an expensive option when it comes to replacement. If you choose white vinyl windows, you are going to have a stark contrast between white windows and a darker trim and your traditional house will scream white vinyl windows. There are so many good options for windows colours today, there is no reason to default to white. Choose a dark oiled bronze colour even a black.

If you have a home with wood windows your options open up and depending on the design and size of the windows they can be painted in a complimentary accent colour, or even the field colour. One of the luxuries of wood windows is that they have a very different profile from vinyl windows.

Remember, these are rules for traditional Tudor revival homes, not new homes that have a Tudor styling and details. A traditional Tudor revival home is just that – traditional. That doesn’t mean that you can’t update the house and give it a more today feel but part of its charm is in choosing colour that honour your home’s architectural design.



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