American System-Built Home, renovation

Wright Colors: Cherokee Red


A sample of Frank Lloyd Wright's Cherokee Red

We’ve put it off for the past two years but this summer we finally had to face it. The exterior trim on the house MUST be painted. There are sections of trim – especially on the south side of the house – that are down to the bare wood. If we forego painting much longer we risk damaging the wood trim. And we definitely don’t want that to happen. There are far too few of these American System Built Homes that are in as good of shape as ours. We want to preserve that as much as we can. And leaving bare trim exposed to the elements is not helping.

We’ve known for the past two years that we would need to paint the trim on the house. And almost from the very beginning of our ownership we’ve been talking about repainting the trim in a deep red color. Through a little research we came across PPG Architectural Coatings’ Fallingwater paint collection. And there it was – the first little square on the inner leaf of the catalog: Cherokee Red.


Cherokee Red is one of  the colors that seems synonymous with Frank Lloyd Wright’s name. As the PPG catalog states, Cherokee Red “is perhaps the most famous color at Fallingwater and used to coat most of the home’s metal and ironwork.” With its similarity to the red that you see on the barns that dot the rolling landscape of Iowa and Wisconsin, Cherokee Red also feels especially Midwestern. This is a thought that must have occurred to one of the previous owners of the Delbert Meier House. Not only is the trim on the carriage house painted in a color that’s very reminiscent of Cherokee Red, we’ve also found some evidence of the paint on some of the trim on the house.Cherokee Red

And so we got a little sample can of Cherokee Red. When I brushed the color over the black window frame on the back of the house, we were both smitten. It’s exactly what we had in mind! Then we went around to the front of the house…


If the house looked as it did when it was built back in 1917, Cherokee Red would definitely work. However, with the added front porch, new garage and roofline extension, the red seems like it would be, well, too much color. Just to confirm that hunch, I turned to my trusty friend Photoshop to make a quick and crude mock up of how the house would look painted in Cherokee Red.


See what I mean. That’s just too much red for one house. If it were just the house trim and maybe even the porch, Cherokee Red would be great. But with the added roofline, fence and garage trim, it’s too overwhelming. And it also draws to much attention to those added elements of the house. Thank goodness for sample cans of paint, right?

Stay tuned to the blog to see the color we DID choose!

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