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Barn Color Choice Matters

By Content Admin, 01/22/2019 - 7:57am

Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith


There are many decisions to make when purchasing a new custom horse barn and one of the less thought about is often the barn color.

The selection of the perfect exterior color for the new barn at your property doesn’t just hinge on what already exists structure wise in the vicinity that it should complement. Color can also affect the use of the building and the comfort of your horses.

Originally horse barns and agricultural buildings in general, weren’t painted at all. In the North-Eastern U.S.A. early settlers were just happy to have wood to build the barn and have their shelter for grains and livestock completed. Naturally the weather took its toll on the untreated wood and by the 1700’s farmers were figuring out they needed to provide some sort of protection for the structure from rain, sun and snow.

We have all seen the traditional red/brown barns across the United States countryside. How did this color become so common? Barns in Scandinavia and Europe in general, were painted in rusty brown/red colors. Perhaps to create the appearance of red brick, which was considered a building material of the wealthy. The early settlers, whether of Dutch, Scandinavian or other origins, devised their own red paint utilizing what was readily and cheaply available to them.

Horse Barn

The paint mixture was made of lime, red iron oxide and skimmed milk! Red iron oxide is more commonly known as rust. Amazingly this innovative product was later improved by the addition of linseed oil, which transformed the plastic-like coating into a product that could actually soak into the wood and thus further protect it.  

This cheap and effective paint was consequently in widespread use as the first paint option for large structures such as barns. This is not surprising as farmers, both then and now, are generally not a wealthy lot. Cost is a significant factor in their decision-making.

The burnt red paint was not only effective at keeping the wood of the building protected from the weather, it also made the barn warmer. The dark color absorbs heat from the sun and while this may be an advantage in colder climates, in warmer regions of the country it was not as beneficial for the comfort of livestock.

Today of course we enjoy a huge array of color choices for our horse barns. Whether we choose paint or stain, the perfect color to complement our home or stable is readily available. We also have the option of wood, metal or vinyl as the base component of the siding. Similarly for the roof we can select metal or shingle. All offer a wide variety of tones and hues when it comes to color choices.

It is important to think carefully about your barn paint color choices. You don’t want to wake up one day and say to yourself, “ I don’t know what I wasn’t thinking when I picked those colors!”

So what should you choose for your barn paint colors? Should you choose a different upper and lower color for the siding? Here are a few simple guidelines:

Popular colors such white or light gray, will provide a reflective quality in regard to light and heat from the sun and therefore provide the best option for keeping your horse barn cool. So if you live in a desert region or hot climate, light colors are therefore the best choice for your horses’ comfort. Light colors also enhance the presence of a structure by making it appear larger than a darker colored building.

Barn Color Choice Matters

Greens and browns will provide the maximum blending benefit to most landscapes, especially in areas of forest, fields and mountains. Dark colors such as black, dark reds and browns will absorb heat. Dark colors will also show every bite mark, kick, nick or chew point on a building, so use these colors carefully if the exterior of the building is wood and is accessible to pastured livestock.

A contrast of colors, with a darker color on the base of the building and a lighter color above will ground the building, and make it appear more sturdy and set it more ‘in place.’ A split color scheme on the side of the building will also make the building appear less tall. A darker color at the base will also mask mud splashes from the roof of the structure if it doesn’t have a gutter system.

A sharply contrasting trim color to that chosen for the siding, will enhance the architectural lines of the structure. Doors may be painted a different color to the siding to highlight their location.

Horse Barn

When choosing barn colors, it is not important that you are a master painter and know the difference between tones, tints, hues and shades. But it is important that you start with a color profile that makes sense for your climate and particular location to ensure the temperature in the building is as comfortable as possible, and does not provide an eyesore for you or your neighbors.

Resale appeal for your property can be largely affected by your choice of colors. So it is prudent to resist making a bold color statement with something as large as a barn!

Nikki Alvin Smith

Nikki Alvin-Smith is a seasoned freelance writer who loves to share her lifelong experience with everything horse, farm and travel. Her work has been printed in more than two hundred equestrian magazine titles worldwide and her published articles number in the thousands including travel and lifestyle press.

A Brit who has called New York home for more than 37 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to her writing.

Her experience as an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician, with a youth spent showjumping and foxhunting, provides lots of educational truths and fun moments to share with the reader. Additionally she has been a horse breeder/importer of Hanoverian, Dutch and Iberian horses for 25+ years.

Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard. She is the proud mother of three children, Tristan, James and Chelsea (twins), and the latter two have kept with the horse riding as adults.