Historic Colors of the Mount Vernon Estate

Historic Colors of the Mount Vernon Estate

Mark Chamberlain
Nov 17, 2009

Fine Paints of Europe recently announced its new historic color palette packaged as "George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate of Colours." My eyes popped as I flipped through first pictures, and I suspect this could quickly become a go-to source of daring colors for smart people with traditional homes.

The Fine Paints of Europe palette itself in part was derived by examining actual paint samples and other artifacts at Mount Vernon estate, and apparently President Washington had much to say about the design and décor of the sprawling compound he built for himself out of a simple farmhouse.

The main building contains elements of both Georgian and Federal architectural styles — and that's King George, not our George. When I think of Georgian color I think of cautious and conventional colors plus portrait gallery red. Federal style goes further and celebrates post-revolutionary pride and identity, and adds brighter reds and blues.

According to Steve Mallory, head of restoration at Mount Vernon, the colors used in early America were not necessarily as timid as we might think. Verdigris and Prussian Blue were valued by the upper classes for the statement they made, and this is where Fine Paints of Europe enters the picture con brio.

This historic palette fully embraces rich color and hits many of my favorite buttons: underwater blues, green greys, off-black, useful putty colors, the always impossible-to-get-right pinks and purples, plus one or two surprises in the saffron/coral department. Furthermore, there are a couple of the most assertive Verdigris greens this side of Madame de Pompadour, which, as my friend Benjamin would say, "For the kind of people that like that kind of thing, that's the kind of thing they like."

I'm already carrying Mount Vernon around with me everywhere I go and suspect it will be a useful antidote to the Champagne beiges and buckskins of other historical collections. Give it a whirl, and keep us posted.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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