Wednesday, December 19, 2007

DOWNTOWN 101: What Color Should I Paint My Building?

We have had several inquiries from business and property owners about improving the appearance of their building, most specifically about the color the building should be painted. This article is intended to present some guidance to help you make that decision based on information gathered this past year to help lead us to the successful revitalization of downtown Clayton.

Over the last six months, a number of property owners have repainted the facades of their buildings. Most updated the former color of the building and others have taken, or may be contemplating, a more radical approach. Upgrading the way our buildings look is an important step in the revitalization process, but doing it with a consensual purpose is equally important.

In August, the North Carolina Main Street Resource Team provided the Town with a report to assist the Downtown Development Association with its efforts to revitalize downtown Clayton. That report, in conjunction with the Downtown Clayton Vision Statement, provides the direction we need to move to achieve that vision in the next five years or so.

Lauren Malinoff, the NC Main Street Designer, conducted the Downtown Clayton Design Workshop in mid-November. One of the topics addressed was: painting. She said that there are “lots of historic colors.” Most of the downtown buildings are brick. She cautioned that if your building is natural brick then don’t paint it! If you are painting brick walls that are already painted, she suggests that Clayton building owners “pick out brick colors…there are so many different brick or masonry colors. She also showed examples of buildings that are painted white, off-white or gray that just “blend in with the sky, but when painted with a masonry color they stand out.”

The following recent statements relate to building appearance and the revitalization of downtown Clayton. Please use them as a guide to help make informed decisions about building color.

“The Main Street program’s design philosophy is that the architectural fabric of your downtown is your heritage, and it is worthy of preservation. Downtown was built over time, one building at a time. We are not, therefore, recommending the restoration of downtown Clayton. Instead we encourage property owners to respect the architectural character of their buildings. We believe in conservative rehabilitation, i.e., removing inappropriate additions (such as shingled mansards, flat metal canopies and oversized signs) and enhancing a building’s positive features with reasonably priced elements like cloth awnings and new signage. Clayton has a rich fabric of late 19th and 20th century commercial buildings. The citizens of Clayton should recognize, protect and celebrate the physical assets in downtown.” – NC Main Street Resource Team Report

“If your building is currently painted, leave it that way. Painting…leads inevitably to maintenance, and you will find yourself having to repaint every 5-7 years. If you are trying to add some color to your façade, you can do this by repainting windows, doors and frames, and by adding new awnings and/or signage.” Removing paint (emphasis added) though costlier than repainting, is actually more economical in the long run, since your masonry need never be painted again. You should consider this if you are weighing paint removal against repainting.” – A How-to Guide for Downtown Building Rehab, Rescue & Repair

““Now a diverse business center, Clayton retains its small town charm as it steams toward its progressive future. Trendy restaurants offer sidewalk cafes and entertainment for all tastes. Every storefront is occupied and restored to its original architectural glory accented by attractive landscaping.” – Downtown Clayton: Vision 2012

As a benefit of Clayton being in the NC Main Street Program, Lauren is available to help property owners with façade design planning. And, the Town has a downtown façade improvement grant program that can be used to improve the appearance of your building. Just give me a call at 553-1545 or send a note by email at and we can arrange it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its great to see that Sign Age painted their building. The color is wonderful and makes downtown Clayton seem so alive. Such an asset to the cityscape of downtown Clayton.

I would enjoy seeing a more colorful dash add to exsisting buidlings vs the dull white, brick and brown buildings...let's make downtown Clayton gleem!

Thanks sign age for making downtown Clayton more enjoyable!

Kirk Adam