Craftsman-Style Paint Colors

Craftsman style is a late-19th, early-20th century evolution of the Arts and Crafts movement that rebelled against Victorian excess. The decor concentrates on natural materials and earthy colors, fine craftsmanship, built-in cabinets, window seats, benches and bookcases, and plenty of wood, all showcased with natural finishing. Colors, inside and out, are from the same distinctive, muted palette that blends easily with wood and stone, variations of cream, dark marigold, terra cotta, light and dark gray, olive, leaf green, brick, tan and teal.

Comprehensive Color Scheme

Deep mallard shingles stand out against a brick chimney and stone foundation on a hilltop Craftsman home.

A simple one-and-a-half-story Craftsman bungalow provides its own clues to exterior paint colors. Sunny mustard siding is cheerful in a green landscaped setting. The worn brick red of the chimney is echoed in the terra-cotta paint on window sashes, muntins and roof brackets. Creamy white trim edging the gables, front door and sidelight, porch trim and columns picks up the light stone of the foundation and porch piers. Colored glass in several front windows adds more detail and a contrasting hit of vivid teal. The teal is copied in the curtain visible through a prominent front window, as well as on the upper siding of the covered porch that frames a trio of smaller, connected windows.

Easy Being Green

A single color, generously applied, helps a Craftsman home harmonize with its surroundings, while declaring its own individual style. A medium, slightly dusky blue-green -- emphasis on the green -- is painted over the horizontal-board siding. A much stronger intensity of that color -- teal bordering on forest-green -- picks out distinctive horse-head brackets; window sashes and muntins; and shingle detail, radiating sunburst, and half-timbering designs intricately fitted under the gables. The trim around windows, gables and the house corners gets a coat of sharp white paint. Stylized tropical landscaping contains a number of showy plants with enormous leaves the same deep green as the decorative brackets.

Gold Standard

The interior of a Craftsman home is filled with fine woodwork, stained and finished or natural and waxed, but never painted. The beauty of the wood and the careful carpentry are allowed to show through. This creates interiors that are very warm and welcoming. If you are fortunate enough to have a bank of windows opening onto a view of trees or a garden, nature inside and out blends seamlessly and determines the soft shadows and quality of light in the room. Highlight honeyed wood floors, paneling, window frames and high molding that wraps around the walls of an open-plan living space dominated by a wide, sandstone fireplace. Paint the ceiling and upper walls above the gleaming wood rail in pale buttery yellow, the pastel color of honey spilled on a white porcelain plate, to complement the wood and heighten the sense of intimacy in the space.

Not Afraid of the Dark

A color statement in a Craftsman cottage or bungalow should be muted and earthy, but it doesn't have to be dull or boring. Honor the historic style and your own modern sensibility with intensity that punctuates but doesn't pop -- pumpkin, not orange, moss, not emerald. In a bedroom aery in the treetops, with walls of classic multi-light Craftsman windows, unpainted wood shingles and light wood parquet floors, paint the window frames and muntins rich pewter-gray. The color is contemporary but as natural as mined metal or stone. It lifts the decor from the realm of historic artifact to a compatible setting for eclectic furnishing and modern art. Paint the board ceiling the same era-bending pewter, and use pale, unbleached linen for the drapes and bedding.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .