Historic Paint Analysis

Historic paint analysis
Historical paint studies and investigation

As a restoration is planned for a historic interior, one of the greatest thrills is discovering the original appearance of the space. Most historic buildings have had numerous renovations over the years, and the original decoration is buried under layers of paint, dirt, and in many cases under entirely new surfaces, such as false ceilings and drywall.

Historic research is one useful tool in identifying earlier decorative schemes. This includes searching for old photographs, newspaper articles, records of past work in the space, and anything else that might reveal clues as to the historic decorative schemes. Vintage photographs often contribute to a better understanding of past decor and can assist in clarifying areas of contrast and reflective surfaces.

Beyond this, the most reliable tool for guiding an authentic decorative restoration is an investigation, analysis and documentation (I.A.D.) of the original decorative scheme. This archaeological approach to artistry is a thorough scientific investigation that produces a permanent record of the most historically significant designs, colors, materials and techniques that have been used in each area of the space.

Historic Paint Analysis Phases

The I.A.D. consists of the following phases:

  • Noting the areas of loss and identifying the previous materials used
  • Exposing the original decorative paint layer
  • Capturing the design elements
  • Analyzing colors through historic paint color analysis, along with types of material and application techniques for various finishes.

A full materials analysis can be provided to identify existing materials and ensure compatibility between past and future coatings. The depth of investigation needed is determined on a project-by-project basis.

All of the results from the investigation and analysis are compiled and bound into a permanent record of the original or period decorative scheme and a guide for the decorative restoration. Copies of these documents are held by the owner, the local historical society and CSS.

Paint Investigation Projects:


“I think what most impressed us was the enormous care that you and your firm took at every step of the process. No detail was overlooked and no aspect of Sacred Heart Church’s history was too insignificant for your study and analysis…Thank you for your talent and skill.”

— Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. Basilica of the Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN