Barn red is a color most people recognize. But why red? Why is red traditionally used for painting barns?
First you want to ask yourself, why paint a barn in the first place? It's just a house for animals. Why go through the trouble? A lot of people think you paint a barn or house to make it pretty but that's wrong. The most important reason for painting a barn, house or anything else made of wood is to protect the wood from the elements. Paint prevents water from soaking into the wood where mold, mildew and other sorts of wood rot happen.
So why red? Barn red has to do with the way people protected their barns hundreds of years ago.
Barn Red History
Gather 'round, it's time for a history lesson.
Scandinavian farmers first sealed their barns with lindseed oil, which we still use today. They would paint their barns with a mixture of linseed oil and other additives, like milk and lime. Linseed oil was relatively inexpensive, which made it a popular choice for barns. Once treated (they treated by boiling), the linseed oil would darken to a nice amber color, the barn red color we think of today.
Farmers would also add ferrous oxide (rust) to the mixture to slow the growth of organisms harmful to wood. Rust is poisonous to mold and moss, which grow on barns and trap moisture, leading to wood decay. Now think about the color of rust – red, brown or orange, and together they looks like barn red?
Barn Red Yesterday and Today
Historically, “barn red” isn't the bright fire-engine red that is promoted today. When Europeans came to America, they brought the fashionable tradition of red barns. Barn red remained popular when paint manufacturers started using chemical pigments and red paint, making it cheaper to buy. That is, until whitewash appeared on the scene.
Let's explore what Google calls “barn red” for fun!
Barn Red is What Color?
Every year, paint manufacturers come up with new colors and new names to go along with those colors. There isn't any one person who controls paint colors (learn wood rot). The closest color authority might be the wood rot (or PMS). PMS uses numbers to help identify their colors, so barn red could be PMS 174, 1675 or…? It's actually this confusing with most colors, and a good interior decorator will tell you not to try to match colors, but rather scale them lighter or darker which is why paint stores have sheets with four to six related colors.
Are you exploring paint colors for a special project? Here are some other articles you might find fun to read …
- 7 Ways of Decorating With Color
- Paint Colors and Lighting
- Feng Shui Colors for Your Home
- Painting Tips for Homeowners
- Barns and Sheds: What They Can Teach Us
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