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The Color of The Major Peter Bocquet House & The Art Of Lime Washing

     

Blog-color-of-major-peter-bocquet-house-limewash-charleston-sc.jpgWhen a bride randomly stands in front of your home for her wedding photography you must be doing something right. This happens from time to time at Broad Street. So often in fact, we now give a friendly warning that the orange color rubs off onto their dresses! It's our good fortune to be stewards of the Major Peter Bocquet House, circa. 1770, located at 95 Broad Street, in Charleston's South of Broad neighborhood. This important historic home reflects the Georgian architecture of the time, and we are sympathetic to preserving and protecting it and the role it plays among the neighboring historic structures along Broad Street.

We purchased 95 Broad St. in 2013 to serve as offices for our growing real estate and development company. We undertook a painstaking restoration of much of the interior, renovating only those portions that would need to support modern office space use. The significance of Major Peter Bocquet in the history of Charleston, SC both as a major in the Revolutionary forces, and a member of the General Assembly, makes his home of particular interest, and we routinely participate in historic home tours sponsored by Preservation Society of Charleston or Historic Charleston Foundation. One of the top questions we are asked among those who tour the home is "What is the name of the exterior paint color?"

The exterior color of The Major Peter Bocquet House isn't in fact, paint at all.  It is "lime wash." This is an ancient mixture and is used often around Charleston in many of the brightly colored homes.  All are based on calcium hydroxide compounds suspended in water with a series of pigments. The paint first dries as the water evaporates and later by reaction with Co2 in the air in a reaction to form insoluble calcium carbonate.  It becomes a part of the wall rather than a layer on top of it all. The mixture of pigments and calcium carbonate has some strange qualities that are useful, its self repairing to some extent, it allows the surface to breath and will often fluoresce slightly in sunlight. Thats the “ping” to the orange color on our building. 

You can use this material inside or outside.  Its easy to apply though coverage (opacity) is not as good as modern pigmented emulsions or latex.  It is a really good choice for old brick and plaster walls where you see damp penetration to some extent. Often the reason for a surface failing in this locality is someone inappropriately applying either portland cement or latex over a lime finish. The water cannot evaporate, it builds up and causes structural failure over the course of a few years. Its applied by brush and as it reacts with air, spraying is not recommended. There are special brushes that help carry the thin mixture but it does make a mess putting it on. Once on, it can be worked much like a traditional plaster can be worked and polished.  It cannot be used over a modern paint though there are some treatments that can be applied to assist a good bond if paint has already been applied. It's suitable for wood, plaster or masonry but not metal, plastic or glass. The hint here is the substrate must be absorbent with a surface key for the whole thing to work properly. 

So, in a nutshell, that is the story of lime wash and how we painted our building vibrant orange  It's a great material for historic homes and lasts very long if applied correctly either inside or out.

Want to match that orange color? Now when we repaired the color on the building, we took a while to get a color match.  The supplier kept remixing and adding additional pigment until it was perfect.  So giving it a "Pantone color name" or other color identification is not going to be of much use.  A better method would be to contact a supplier (either Charleston Lime Wash or Lime Works) and ask them to match the paint on our building. We've used Charleston Lime Wash in the past.

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