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How paint colors and finishes can accentuate the architecture and businesses under your roof!

Relax! The historic architecture and buildings in downtown Madison can take on many different colors of paint. The enduring character and taste of your historic building will look great in a variety of colors, just look around Madison for inspiration.

The starting point should always be with colors that appeal to you, it is your building after all. Local color consultant and Design Committee volunteer, Kim Nyberg, has helped Madison owners enhance their buildings with great colors for decades. She has probably already pulled colors for your building! Kim advises steering clear of blue undertones as they can fade quickly from the weather and sun. Whatever colors you choose, it is key to consider color placement and contrast for your final look.

By using contrasting colors you can accentuate the unique architectural details like window hoods, sash or window jambs, cornice brackets, and medallions. For example, using three colors on one building will let the historic structure be the star of the show. Consider how your color choices will look when compared to surrounding structures; aim to complement rather than copy or compete. Check out these inspirational pictures below!

Despite rumors, there are no regulations about paint color in our Historic District ordinances. You are free to choose your building colors! Painters in Madison are in great demand, so book early! Everyone knows preparation is 90% of any painting job. See below several excellent resources with topics specific to the care and maintenance of historic buildings.


Locally, Lowes & Sherwin Williams have painting supplies and several brands of paints. Sherwin Williams Paints can match any paint, no matter the manufacturer. The National Park Service's Preservation Briefs have several excellent resources on topics specific to preparing your building for painting.

Masonry & Cleaning:

Exterior Paint & Woodwork:

It is also never a bad idea to consult other local historians before continuing work on your historic building. See our video on RESEARCHING YOUR BUILDING'S HISTORY IN MADISON, INDIANA where you may have the opportunity to learn more about what colors your building has been painted throughout history and who painted them! Here are a few more examples and painting projects in the process!

We can’t wait to see you downtown!

Written by

Happy Smith

Madison Main Street Program

Design Chair & Board Member


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