Throughout the South, there’s history behind everything—even paint colors. We’ve tracked down the seven most recognizable colors, explained the stories behind them, and recommended our favorite color to get each look. We hope you will be inspired to try one of these Southern looks for your own home.
Years ago, Southern farmers concocted a mixture of orange-colored linseed oil and rust to protect wooden barns from the elements. The mixture kept the barns standing longer and created the iconic red barns that dot the Southern landscape.
Paint technologies have evolved, but barn red is still a sought after paint color to make your home stand out. It’s a strong color that is best used as an accent or for outbuildings. Punch up your exterior with small doses of red on shutters and doors against a more neutral base such as white or cream.
In Texas, the land of wide-open spaces, it’s imperative that buildings and nature blend together seamlessly. Texas ranch homes are typically painted brown or tan to keep the focus on the landscape and the bright blue skies rather than the house.
Take this ranch-inspired color beyond Texas. A brick home painted a dark brown comes alive with charming pale blue shutters and doors. Or try the deep brown as an accent color on a beige home for a tone-on-tone color scheme.
Local legend says that Charleston Green, a green so deep it looks black, came about after the Civil War when Union troops sent buckets of black paint to help rebuild the decimated town. Colorful Charleston residents couldn’t bear the thought of their Holy City being painted government-issued black, so they tinted the paint with yellow and green, creating Charleston’s signature greenish-black accent color.
Regardless of the tale’s truth, the inky green is ideal for defining shutters, doors, ironwork, and window trim on homes everywhere. It looks especially great against a white body. For maximum impact, try it in a glossy finish.
Get the Color: Historic Charleston Green (DCR099) by Duron; duron.com.
Throughout New Orleans, Savannah, and other Southern towns influenced by the Creole and Caribbean cultures, you will find plenty of pink houses. Not a hot pink, but a more subtle hue that has been mixed with khaki.
You don’t have to live in one of these coastal towns to bring their signature muddy pink to your home. While it works well as a backdrop to Historic Charleston Green trim, consider painting your exterior Creole pink with gray trim for fresh look. If you prefer a lighter and more classic effect, update a traditional white home with pinkish-khaki accents.
Colonial settlers turned to nature for their vibrant color palette. Looking at the sky and ocean they came up with the chalky blue that covers many buildings throughout Colonial Williamsburg, most notably the Blue Bell Tavern.
This color works best on wooden Colonial-style homes. The symmetry of these homes keeps the look restrained. Paint trim a crisp white that plays up the blue.
Get the Color: Bracken Tenement Blue Slate (101) by Martin-Senour Paints; martinsenour.com.
Blue porch ceilings are prevalent all throughout the South. Pale blue is not only visually expansive, but it’s also a ghost buster of sorts. The Gullah culture of the Lowcountry believes that spirits, known as “haints,” can’t cross water. Using light blue paint to symbolize water, the Gullah people applied the shade to porch ceilings and doors preventing evil spirits from entering.
Though we aren’t sure how effective paint can be against bad spirits, we can’t resist the Gullah look. The calming shade of blue adds both culture and charm to porch ceilings. We also love to bring it inside to interior ceilings!
No roundup of Southern colors would be complete without mention of the white shade that coats the grand columned homes throughout the South. Early Southerners were inspired by ancient civilizations like the Greeks and began building homes based on classic Greek temples to represent the prosperity of their young country. Why white? It emulates the marble that composed the original Greek structures. If you live in a home that’s Gone With the Wind-inspired, bow to tradition and keep it white.
Of course, not all white houses must have columns. But to get the right antebellum-influenced shade, we recommend a white with dark undertones. It adds instant patina and keeps the home from being blindingly bright in sunlight. Shutters and doors can be a slightly darker cream color for a monochromatic look. If you prefer a more formal look, use a black to add definition.