Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Original Kitchen Colours

In most instances the original colour schemes for Balintore Castle are not hard to fathom. Most of the castle was decorated once in 1860, immediately after construction, and then left. This is the glory of lead paint: it stays on woodwork forever. The powdery high opacity 19th Century paints used on walls also have an impressive tendency to stay attached.

However, in the kitchen, the woodwork is painted a battle-ship grey colour, which looks rather industrial and is not to my taste - though I have come to love it. The curious thing is that when wetted this grey paint looks rather brown, in fact very similar to the colour the kitchen ceiling beams are painted. Wetting a pigment is a good way to find out what it might have looked like when freshly painted. 

Hmm, so was this grey paint actually brown before weathering, and how come the paint on the beams has not weathered in a similar way. It was a conundrum. When I paint the kitchen again do I use a grey or a brown?

However, one day Andy spotted that in a worn region of door lining there was brown paint under the grey. Aha, so the original colour was brown. 

Later I found woodwork where there was just a single coat of grey and no underlying brown. Hmm, so was the original scheme grey and brown, and then regularised to grey? This seems very unlikely. Perhaps the grey woodwork with a single coat was replacement wood? This again seems very unlikely. Curiouser and curiouser.

When I was washing down the timber framing over the serving hatch, a section of brown paint was revealed. This was where an electric cable was installed around 1900. This implies the grey make-over is 20th Century - perhaps when deep Victorian browns went out of fashion? Another possibility is that they thought they were matching the original paint colour, but did so when the new paint was in the tin and still wet.

Given this definitive dating evidence, the balance of probability is thus very highly in favour of original brown woodwork, which does indeed coordinate well with the original yellow/orange colour of the walls.

Before I repaint the serving hatch woodwork brown, I thought would photograph the "before" for the record under CFL lighting and under smart phone LED flash. Hopefully the absolute colour can be inferred, if required in the future, from the two different illuminations.

grey (+ some underlying brown) paint on the serving hatch woodwork under CFL illumination

grey (+ some underlying brown) paint on the serving hatch woodwork under white LED illumination


  1. Just this week I was working ascertain the original kitchen colors in my 1894 house!

    All the trim and wainscoting appears to have been a kinda nutmeg brown.

    I am going to have samples scientifically tested to assure an accurate match (and for the wall color, too).

    I admire all your progress. Thank you for blogging about it.

  2. Good luck with the paint matching! I tried the B&Q paint matching service for a yellow-ish wall colour. The wet paint matched perfectly, when it dried it didn't. At the end of the day I did it with those paper cards to find the best match. I used the B&Q matching service for a purple/brown colour. The small tester tub looks a lot better this time, but I have yet to put it on the walll. I have back-up cards just in case it is wrong! :-)

  3. Makes me think of the old lady who lived in Ardross castle and needed to paint its interiors and she bought a job lot of silver battleship paint and used that ! When the roof needed redoing she took a small painting off the cloakroom wall, sent it to London for sale and redid the roof with the money ! those were the days !