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Dark painted houses.

Historic facade in Cape Town
(Historic facade in Cape Town; via House and Leisure.) 

How do you feel about dark painted houses? Charcoal, navy, black, graphite, slate…? In case you hadn’t guessed: I’m into them. Dark colours recede nicely into their surroundings, and cool dark tones look SO GOOD against warm timber. (The interior walls of our house are in blues and greys for that same reason.) A dark blue or grey exterior would suit a coastal climate, and it’d feel classic, yet fresh, on tired old weatherboards. And in case you’re not convinced… allow me to present my case.

Dark house paint inspiration
(Colorbond Australia; Chezerbey, Farrow&Ball, I Don’t Wear Black)

The case for a dark colour:

See above. Beautiful, right? All those dark walls in one spot are so soothing to look at. And I’m pretty sure that Colorbond picture features Ironstone, the colour in their range that we’re using. Nice.

The Chezerbey house has been on my mind for a while now, ever since I saw their renovation on Apartment Therapy ages ago, and they kindly responded when I asked if the dark colour noticeably warmed up their house at all. Answer: no, but they did insulate the bejeesus out of their house, so. (If you like reno blogs: do yourself a favour and read through their archives, and then cry bitter jealous tears because your household doesn’t have a talented husband-and-wife architect team turning your own crummy house into a modern marvel.)

White weatherboard house

Quick reminder that this is what we have right now, circa last spring. It’s a giant blank canvas if you’ve ever seen one; heritage-listed it is not. Stripping and painting is slow going, but the few painted patches so far look GREAT. I’m thrilled!

Houses in Hobart

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS, and my counter-arguments:

Surroundings. Here’s a neighbourhood in Hobart, and here’s a typical suburban colour palette. (Not necessary, but this sort of thing does interest me; it varies so much from city to city!) Most houses are weatherboard or brick (solid or veneer) with painted Colorbond steel roofing. A dark, cool neutral might look questionable in the desert, but here it’ll fit right in.

Fading. One traditional reason why houses were painted in light colours: dark paints are renowned for fading quickly. Paints are better than ever with UV stabilisation, but we’re still anticipating that the western side of the house, which cops all the weather, will need a touch-up coat before the rest of the house. That’s doable.

Heat/insulation, and the lack thereof. Oh hey, my pet topic to piss and moan about: the un-insulated iceboxes that we call homes in Australia! Needless to say, there’s a real worry about dark-coloured paint making our lives miserable in summer. I’m not so delusional that I think it won’t have any effect whatsoever, but here’s why we’re willing to give it a shot anyhow:

  • Roofs absorb more heat than walls. It makes sense: roofs get direct sun all over while the walls don’t.
  • We have some of the mildest summers in Australia. There’s a reason why so many dark-painted houses I’ve seen on the internet have been in temperate climates.
  • On the flip side: energy benefits in winter. We use a considerable amount of energy in winter for heating, and if having a dark house helps abate that in any way, sign me up.

It’s trendy and you’ll hate it in three years

It’s just paint.

Paint progress

Progress! I’ll share more details on the paint job once this section is done. (Which should be this weekend, god willing.) The path to a dark painted house has been a slow, messy one, but once it all comes together… IT’S GONNA LOOK GREAT.

9 thoughts on “Dark painted houses.”

  1. OMG this is gonna look amazing. Also ” Oh hey, my pet topic to piss and moan about: the un-insulated iceboxes that we call homes in Australia! ” I KNOW RIGHT?! It’s much colder inside in winter in melbs than it ever is in winter in BOSTON.

  2. We do go to lighter colors in the desert to reflect the light and keep the house cooler in the heat of summer. We did the research on that several years ago when we had the house painted. Same reason we put in a small bit of grass lawn in the front and back: cooling. I’ve noticed the same thing about car colors. Black up north and white in the south and desert southwest. Don’t know if you remember, the tops of the buses here were all painted all white. So if it works to keep the house and car cooler, it should also work in the opposite way to warm your house. That being said, I must note that the cooling effect was only supposed to be 1 or 2 degrees. I hope it works better warming and retaining the heat for you house

  3. We’ve got three houses – two are rentals – a 1906 with very little insulation, a 1978 with no insulation that are both in Oregon and now a 1972 with no insulation in California. It is so hot in the summer here. Oh, I don’t think it has to do with Australia, I think it’s more about the time it was built and the cost of fuel back then. Probably also the “technology” that was available and the mind-set too. I am beginning to be very interested in a super-insulated brand new house for our next project. We just went to visit the prefab modular homes made by Blu Home in Vallejo CA, the insulation was 5″ thick. Heaven!

    1. Cool, thanks for clarifying for me! Hooray for new technology. 🙂 I had a look at the Blu Homes gallery and those houses look NICE – I love the ones that have spacious, well-connected indoor and outdoor living areas.

  4. Steph it is going to look amazing. Dark houses all the way. I love this look. Sexy as. I also agree that historically Aussies have been generally crap at insulation/heating. Our house is freezing in winter without the fireplace going, and we are getting double-glazed windows put in at the moment to help maintain a more comfortable indoor temperature.

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