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Trend of Painting Houses White?

  • 1.  Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 14 days ago
    I'm curious to know if anyone else is noticing a recent trend of painting houses, regardless of age or style, in monochromatic white/off-white color palettes? My theory is that it's a reaction to the global pandemic and a desire to present a clean, pure, and sanitary aesthetic, not unlike a hospital. Is the "Pandemic Paint Job" becoming a thing?

    For example, the 1950s ranch house down the road from me recently received this paint job (before and after):

    Devin Colman
    State Architectural Historian
    Vermont Division for Historic Preservation
    Montpelier VT

  • 2.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 13 days ago
    An interesting observation concerning the pandemic and there may be some truth to it. But for quite awhile pre-pandemic, I think many people associated white with clean, modern, and airy when it came to residential interiors and exteriors vs. the dated look that comes with color schemes that were once considered fashionable. To me, the after version is better for several reasons. It appears longer, because it isn't chopped up horizontally by the different colors; it appears higher and lighter because the large chimney structure and light-colored roof carry the eye upward; the large garage door doesn't call as much attention to itself; and, the colorful front door is allowed to become more of a compositional focal point.

    Also, in an era of rapidly increasing single-family home values, house flippers tended to paint houses white in order to offer potential buyers a blank canvas on which they could project their preferred color palette.  But, also, like you say, it does have a hospital esthetic about it, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out going forward.

    Jim Sparks
    Sparks Architecture
    Glasgow, KY

  • 3.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 13 days ago
    The trend in painting houses some shade of white has been happening here in the Midwest for at least the past year, if not more. 1920s Tudor Revivals - white. Brick houses from any era - white. New houses being built in a "farmhouse chic" style with faux board and batten siding - white. Usually all with black accents somewhere. I blame Pinterest and HGTV myself.  

    Laura Sadowsky

    State Historian

    Historic Preservation Specialist

    State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa

  • 4.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 12 days ago

    Interesting that this article popped up in my newsfeed today: 2020 Exterior Color Trends


    When generally-available articles and big-box retailers tell the American consumer that this is the "current thing to do," it will happen more frequently. However, a few professional design journals claim that the "white farmhouse" trend is over and that exterior color is the emerging trend.


    The painted masonry trend (either white or dark gray) is striking both residential and commercial buildings in our Historic District. Our review is limited to work requiring a permit; exterior painting does not require a permit. So-beyond my best efforts to educate and apply SOI Standards (codified locally), the Commission has no ability to curb this trend which is altering the character of our local district.  


    Michael A. Lambert

    Preservation Planner

    City of Geneva, Illinois

    22 South First Street

    Geneva, Illinois 60134

    Phone: 630.938.4541

    Fax: 630.232.1494



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  • 5.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 13 days ago
    Yup. You can blame these people

    Kathryn Leonard
    Arizona State Historic Preservation Office
    Phoenix AZ

  • 6.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 13 days ago

    I've only seen one example of a house being painted white. But as you pointed out, it's been within the time of the pandemic. (I think it was back in April or May.) 

    But a trend that seems to be continuing is to paint houses gray or black. We've had several older brick houses painted gray with the grout either left visible or painted white. (I haven't walked up close enough to any of the houses  where this has been done to figure out what's going on with the grout. But the brick has definitely changed color... and it always seems to be to gray.) Wood and stucco houses are also being painted gray. (We do have a couple that have been painted black, but dark gray really seems to be the favored color these days.) 

    We had a landmarkable 1960s church come before our commission just last month with a request to paint the brick and wood faux mansard siding gray.

    Everything's gray, gray, gray. I'm getting really tired of gray. 

    I'd be willing to bet that a white trend is related to the gray trend. What's with the monocrome, peeps? What's with  the stodgy colors? Let's enjoy our buildings! Let's have fun with them!

    Meg Dunn
    Fort Collins CO

  • 7.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 12 days ago
    Edited by Kathryn Schwartz 12 days ago

    If it makes anyone feel any better about it, the most consistent house paint color trend in American history is white, preferably with green shutters! When I researched residential painting trends and paint colors in grad school, it became clear that from the very start, Americans have loved white houses, even in the periods when more elaborate color schemes were common. If I remember correctly, Lafayette even wrote about it after his 1824 visit to America.

    Kate Schwartz
    Historic Resources Planner
    Fredericksburg VA

  • 8.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 12 days ago
    Interesting observation. Of course, more than a century ago the trend for painting residences white was coupled with the reknown classicizing influence of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  It was also a reaction to what Lewis Mumford coined as the Brown Decades following the American Civil War. Other historians have shown that the early 20th century Modernists employed white in both residential and insitutional facilties to convey  asense of cleanliness, increased sanitation, and recogiition of public health (1918 pandemic).
    One final thought on the current craze - perhaps unconsciously owners are making White their "safe" choice.  In our suburban Washington DC area, white and gray seem to be the colors of choice for both new residential construction and the tear down rebuilds that are increasingly changing the face of non-register eligible, but distinctively Post-War tract developments.

    Phillip W. Neuberg, FAIA
    Federal Preservation Officer
    National Institute of Standards & Technology
    Gaithersburg, MD 20854

  • 9.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 12 days ago

    This is an exciting topic, so thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with what has been said in response. I am a freelance furniture designer by trade, and this national trend of going from gray to white has been happening for several years. And I think COVID is giving it a significant boost in energy. I live in a town that has a 19th-century mental hospital that was built during the "clean air" theory, and it was thought that clean air was essential in making someone healthy, so I am interested in your thought process about white in the era of COVID. RH is the source for the "gray wavy" that hit several years ago, and gray is an effortless color to work around and goes with anything like a little black dress.

    I had tried to promote gray back in 2001 while working on a furniture licenses project for an incredibly famous stylist, and we developed a color called "draftsman gray," which I loved. Unfortunately, we were ahead of the curve even with the nationally known name of the slyest behind it. BTW, I cannot name the stylist because of contracts that I have even thought it was a long time ago now. I picked up on this transition to white several years ago, well before COVID, and designed a collection of furniture for American Drew called Litchfield, and it has sold great! It has an English coastal feel but has sold all over the US, so I can say "white works"! I have since followed up with two other white groups, and they have also sold well and were marketed before COVID. We are getting ready for the October home furnishings market in High point right now with pre-market next Monday and Tuesday, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well because the April Market had to be canceled.

    It has been a hard, hard road since the housing crises of 2008 for the home furnishings industry because I feel people lost interest in their homes and did not see them as a good investment because of the fall out at that time. Many people were underwater in value and just handed in their keys to the banks, which left a bad taste in the mouth of many Americans. My personal feeling is that COVID is going to be great for the HOME. It is the only place that you cannot get the virus unless you bring it there, so it is a safe heaven. Also, people have been in there home more than they have in a decade and find that they want to make it more attractive or get a new one, which has shown up in retail. So, I think the home is getting a real boost in popularity right now, which was very needed!

    I will include a few images of homes in my neighborhood that I walk by every day with my dog that were all painted pre-COVID and a photo of my Litchfield group.

    D. Coley
    Historic Burke Foundation LLC
    Morganton NC

  • 10.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 11 days ago
    I was told by a client that it was an effort to adopt the Scandanavian midcentury (?) modernist aesthetic. Their house was a similar 1950s ranch that was "whitewashed" like those that have been shared here. This was pre-pandemic. 


  • 11.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 10 days ago
    This has been an awful trend in Nashville for many years. The painting of unpainted masonry has led to the loss of character for many of our homes. The one good thing is that it is reversible with paint removers. I will be glad when this design expression is over. 

    Phil Thomason

  • 12.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 11 days ago
    Hello Devin et al,
    Laura and Kathryn have nailed it:  HGTV, Fixer Upper, Christina on the Coast, Farmhouse Remodel, etc etc. Repeatedly in TV and in print Fresh, clean lines, modern aesthetic is touted.  I have cringed watching them whitewash chimneys, masonry (in and out), woodwork, and anything they can reach with a paint sprayer.  My daughter has coined the verb, to "Chip and Joanna" a house:  Paint everything white, add some natural wood and iron elements.  Presto: cable fashionable.  And by the looks of Home Goods, we can't get enough of it.
    This too, shall pass.

    Mary O'Neil, MS, AICP
    Principal Planner
    City of Burlington
    Burlington, Vermont
    802.865.7556 direct

  • 13.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 11 days ago
    Edited by D. Coley 11 days ago

    I hope this link is usable that I am attaching, but it is for the upcoming Home Furnishings Market in High Point and beautifully illustrates "White" as a theme in home furnishings now. But I see warmer tones on the way!

    D. Coley
    Historic Burke Foundation LLC
    Morganton NC

  • 14.  RE: Trend of Painting Houses White?

    Posted 6 days ago

    Pre-market is over in High Point, and it was a great success thought to be the most important pre-market that the industry has had, and Furniture Today titled it the Mother of All Pre-Markets… Guess what finish my next primary collection will be in for April 2021, White! Yep, it will be in Indonesian Mahogany that is plantation grown and will be wire brushed in a white stain so that the gran of the wood will be apparent! The industry works on a 3 to 5-year life cycle with collections, so the anticipation is that white will be important for the next three to five years. So yes, this too will pass but not very quickly.

     Just a heads up!

    D. Coley
    Morganton NC