Paint as a means of protection, and to a lesser extent of identification, has been in general use since the introduction of softwood in exterior joinery in the mid-seventeenth century.
A recent legal case in Windsor involved the prosecution of a house owner for painting a listed building deep pink and black resulting in ‘a most unfortunate aesthetic result’. The DoE subsequently laid down specific guidelines for paintwork on listed buildings in their Circular 18/88 (superseded by PPG 15): ‘Listed Building Consent is required for the painting or repainting of the exterior or interior of a listed building which would affect the character of a listed building’.
In particular, old brickwork should not be painted. Modern paints are generally not vapour permeable and can cause drainage to the brickwork as well as looking unsightly. Stucco-work in London, however, is traditionally painted and since the nineteenth century a cream colour has been the most popular shade, though stone colour is more authentic. Brilliant white paint is best avoided, and a deep cream is usually preferable. The Crown Estate and the Grosvenor Estate both use Buttermilk in Regents Park and Belgravia (BS 08C 31, British Standard Colour) and this gives a good effect.
A good rule of thumb for old buildings is that stucco, woodwork and ironwork were always painted, but external brickwork and stone rarely were.
External ironwork in the early eighteenth century was painted from a limited variety of available colours, the finer houses perhaps having blue, while the majority would have had blue/grey or stone colour. Green, particularly that resembling patinated bronze, became popular at the end of the century, and remained a favourite for a number of years. The late nineteenth century saw the widespread use of a purple-bronze colour which gradually gave way to the black, which is still the convention today.
Georgian window frames and sashes were usually painted white, but darker colours, even black, were also common at the end of that period. Reds, browns and greens were found on doors and shop fronts, though the latter tended often to be more brightly painted to draw attention to the goods on display. Rich, dark, strong colours are preferable to paler for the joinery on listed buildings.
Painted graining is an appropriate traditional finish for both doors and shop fronts, and the pilasters of the latter were sometimes painted to resemble marble, a practice mainly restricted now to pub fronts but which could be more widely adopted.