20 Feb California Paints “Colors of America” Transforms the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm House Interiors
There is nothing like fresh paint to really bring a building to life. The exterior painting of the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm’s buildings began in the fall but is on hold for a couple of months until the weather warms. For exterior paint colors, we chose from the Benjamin Moore historic colors line of paint (thank you to Benjamin Moore for providing the project with a generous discount). For interiors, we looked for inspiration from California Paints’ Historic Colors of America line, which was developed in conjunction with Historic New England. After contacting California Paints about the Fowler Clark project, we were thrilled with their generous offer of free paint for the farm house interiors.
In contrast to its name, California Paints is a Massachusetts company that originated in 1926 in Cambridge, MA as an offshoot of California Stucco Products of New England. The New England company, a franchisee of California Stucco Products of California, specialized in colored stuccos and interior plasters, which remained popular through the 1930’s and 40’s. By the 1950s, company leaders at California Paints recognized that the oil-based paints that were prominent in that era were prone to fading and peeling. California Paints became one of the pioneers in acrylic latex coatings, working with the new acrylic emulsion binders being produced at the time.
By mid-century, California Paints had grown into a sizeable business in the Northeast. The name California was already recognized and popular brand name and to build on that success, they decided to keep the name and became California Products Corporation, selling California Paints. After operating for three-quarters of a century from several buildings in and around the Cambridge area of Boston, California Paints is now located in a 180,000-square-foot production facility in Andover, MA.
When HBI acquired the farm in 2015, it had not been lived in for several years and layers of grime covered all surfaces. The undersized windows were boarded and rooms were too dark to determine what colors might be appropriate. When the new, enlarged new 12/12 windows were installed, we could at last see the rooms with the abundant natural light the Fowlers would have experienced when the house was first built around 1786. The California historic paint colors are organized by period and architectural style. For the Fowler Clark Epstein farm house, we chose from the palette of colors typically used during the Federal era (1780-1830) when the house was constructed.
Post-Revolutionary war colors moved away from strong, bolder shades to lighter, more delicate colors. Linseed oils used as binders leant a yellow tint to shades of white; we chose “Jewett White” for the walls throughout. “Quincy Granite” is a light, stone gray chosen for most of the wood base board and door trim. But the wood wainscot, trim and window sash of the two main first floor rooms will be soft, the blue-green shades “Historic Morning Dew” and “Wainscot Green.” A pop of color comes from all of the interior doors, which are painted the orangey-yellow “Georgian Yellow.” Stair stringers and risers will be a deep, rich, ox-blood red called “Otis Madeira.”
We will share more before and after photos when the painting is complete, but in the meantime, here are some images of the painting in progress.