Some Like It Grey, Some Like It Blue – What About You?


The neighbors living in this vertically divided two-family house in Namsos in Central Norway have failed to agree on the color. (Photo: ThorNews)

The Norwegian winter is long, dark and snowy. Nevertheless, most Norwegians choose to paint their houses in shades of white and gray although other choices could have contributed to a more colorful existence.

Norwegian homes are almost exclusively made of spruce and pine, partly because wood is easily available and you can save 10 to 20 percent compared to building a brick house.

One of the drawbacks is that wooden houses require more maintenance, and paint is necessary as protection against the UV radiation in sunlight breaking down the wood cells. Perhaps even more importantly, the paint also protects against moisture and rot.

Although some choose colors like blue and the traditional colors “Røros Red” and “Stavern Yellow”, shades of gray and white still are more popular.

Toxic Paint

Traditionally white and blue were very expensive colors. The earth colors red and ocher, a light brownish-yellow, were cheap and most commonly used.

At the beginning of the 1600s house paint became available in the cities, but only the upper class had the finances to buy the exclusive product.

From the 1700s it became more widespread with wood paneling, and from the 1860s when the steam powered sawmill and circular saw was introduced, the use of planks and paint exploded.

The upper class preferred the very expensive white color while ordinary people chose the far cheaper red or ocher, colors where the pigment is obtained from iron oxide in soil. The white color which contained lead did cost from four to nine times more than red.

Moreover, the lead-based white color was highly toxic, and many painters died. In the 1860s, a much cheaper white color containing non-toxic zinc was introduced.

White Farmhouse, Red Barn

In the late 1800s when the Norwegians got better economy and paint got cheaper, it was common to imitate the nobility, and on big farms the farmhouse was painted white.

(Article continues)

Typical Norwegian Farm Colors

Typical Norwegian farm colors. (Photo: Eiendomsmegler1)

The typical farm with a white farmhouse and red barn is a phenomenon starting in the early 1900s. Today it is widespread throughout Norway, with some local variations.



Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

Categories: Central Norway, Culture, History, Quirky

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