It may seem odd, but when restoring an old house, the best you can hope for when stripping paint is to find more paint.
Not only does that give you some chronology of the house, but also clues as to the original color because, ideally, that’s what you want to use. (And in the 18th century, they used really bold paints, colors we would never imagine using today, like bright oranges and dark greens.)
If a family had money, though, they would strip the old paint, leaving no clues as to the original color. (There’s even a cliche that poverty is preservation’s best tool.) Unfortunately, the Coleman family had lots of money.We only found one or two old coats of paint. Under the wallpaper, they had stripped the walls cleans. And in the cabinets, where you are almost assured an original color tucked away in an inaccessible crevice, we found nothing. It was terribly frustrating.
In the third-floor hallway is a victorian cabinet that, like all of the woodwork in the house, had been painted white. We were going to repaint it white (because we are a product of our generation) but had to strip off the first layer to get to a sound surface, and under the latex they found the original paint job, in pretty good condition!
Now keep in mind this cabinet only goes to 1880 or so, but it’s still fantastic to be able to showcase something like that. So we painted the interior (so we can use it as a linen cabinet) but then left the existing paint as-is. (We encapsulated it with a clear sealant, because that old paint is no doubt lead-based).
We have a matching cabinet that’s a little smaller, which Dawn wants to turn into an armoire for the summer kitchen. Now we’re going to see if we can expose the original paint on that, too.