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What color is historic charleston green?

Charleston green is a dark green paint color that is closely associated with the city of Charleston, South Carolina. It has a long history and tradition in Charleston architecture and design.

The Origins of Charleston Green

The specific shade of Charleston green has its origins in the 18th century. In 1768, the Charleston City Council passed an ordinance requiring that many buildings in the city be painted using an oil-based paint called “Spanish brown.” This was done for practical purposes – the oil paint helped protect wood from damage in the hot, humid Charleston climate. The brownish coats of paint became known as “Charleston green” over time.

By the early 1800s, Charleston green had become so ubiquitous in the city that it was seen as emblematic of Charleston. Affluent families would often paint their window shutters and piazza ceilings in the characteristic green. The color came to be associated with historic homes and the antebellum architecture of the city.

The Popularity of Charleston Green

Charleston green grew enormously popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Charleston became a tourist destination, visitors would flock to see the “Rainbow Row” houses on East Bay Street painted in pastel pinks, blues, and greens. Charleston green shutters and porches were highlights of the beautiful historic homes.

Writers commented on the omnipresence of Charleston green, saying it had come to define the look and feel of the city. Author Herbert Ravenel Sass wrote in 1859:

“Shutters green / Fence posts green / Blinds green / Piazza green / Everything green”

Charleston green was also popular for interior design. Textiles, wallpapers, and upholstery were manufactured in the verdant shade.

The prevalence of Charleston green declined in the mid-20th century, as paint companies began producing a wider array of colors. But the classic shade remains iconic of historic Charleston style.

The Shade of Charleston Green

So what exact shade is Charleston green? The color has never been defined with specific RGB, CMYK, or Pantone formulas. Rather, the traditional green color is described with phrases like:

  • Dark green
  • Forest green
  • Deep emerald green

Paint companies today produce colors named “Charleston Green” based on this traditional verdant shade. They vary slightly in tone, brightness and intensity.

Paint Brand Charleston Green Color Specs
Benjamin Moore 2134-10
Sherwin-Williams SW 6253 Tricorn Black
Behr 550F-7 Carolinian Green

These modern interpretations maintain the deep, darkened forest green that makes Charleston green so distinctive.

Using Charleston Green Today

Charleston green remains a palette staple for historically-inspired Southern homes. It evokes Victorian and antebellum architecture. The color is especially suitable for:

  • Front doors
  • Shutters
  • Porch ceilings
  • Exterior window trim

Charleston green works well with other traditional Southern home colors like white, black, pale yellow, and navy blue. It can be used to make a bold statement on a front door or create a charming accent trim.

Interior designers also use Charleston green for walls, furniture, fabrics, and accents. The deep green hue adds traditional sophistication. It can be mixed with warm metallics, creamy whites, and vintage woods.

How Lighting Affects Charleston Green

The way Charleston green is perceived can change quite a bit depending on lighting conditions. Here’s how the color may vary:

  • In sun: Gleaming, rich green
  • In shade: Subtle, muted dark green
  • In morning/evening light: Deep emerald tone
  • Under incandescent lighting: Green with yellow undertone
  • Under LED lighting: Cooler, bluer green

Test swatches at different times of day to see how the shade shifts. The versatile color can read as neutral, cool, or warm depending on the lighting.

Complementary Colors for Charleston Green

Charleston green is bold enough to stand alone as an accent color. But it also pairs beautifully with other hues. Complementary colors that work well with Charleston green include:

  • Warm neutrals: ivory, tan, light brown
  • Cool neutrals: white, light grey, silver
  • Yellows: pale yellow, cream, butter
  • Blues: navy, royal blue, light blue
  • Vintage red: brick, crimson, rust

Touches of these colors lighten up Charleston green and add visual interest. For example, try Charleston green shutters against a buttery yellow home exterior. Or test navy blue porch ceilings with Charleston green trim.

Charleston Green Color Schemes

Not sure where to start with Charleston green? Here are some inspiring color schemes to try:

Charleston Green, White, Black

The most classic Charleston scheme pairs forest green with bright white and lamp black. Use it for an exterior with green shutters, crisp white siding, and black window boxes.

Charleston Green, Pale Yellow, Ivory

For a softer look, mix Charleston green with creamy ivory walls and pale yellow accents. Evoke the feeling of an old Southern home.

Charleston Green, Navy, Brick

Ground the regal green in deep navy blue and vintage brick red. Sophisticated color combination for interiors.

Charleston Green, Light Blue, Tan

Cool it down with robin’s egg blue and warm it up with tan/khaki. Use for a preppy coastal cottage look.

Charleston Green in Other Cities

Charleston green is iconically associated with its namesake city. But the historic color has expanded beyond South Carolina. It can now be seen energizing architecture and design across the South. Areas where Charleston green is gaining popularity include:

  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • St. Augustine, Florida
  • Natchez, Mississippi

From stately Natchez antebellum homes to funky Asheville Victorians, the verdant shade brings traditional character. Green lovers throughout the South are reviving the look.

How to Decorate with Charleston Green

Want to work the famous hue into your home? Here are some tips for decorating with Charleston green:

Use it sparingly

A little Charleston green goes a long way. Use it on front doors, shutters, ceilings and trim, not entire walls. The rich color is best in smaller hits.

Mix gloss and matte

Charleston green has depth. Use glossy paint on the doors and matte on walls. Varying finishes adds visual interest.

Pair with warm metals and wood

Brass, copper and bronze bring out green’s richness. Weathered wood looks right at home.

Add light colors

Prevent dark green from becoming too somber by mixing in white, ivory, tan and light blue.

Embrace eclectic style

Charleston green loves company. Mix in other vintage hues for a bold, eclectic look.

Charleston Green Glossary

Here are some common terms used when discussing Charleston green:

  • Antebellum – Pre-Civil War period when Charleston green was very popular
  • Piazza – A roofed porch, typically with a green ceiling in Charleston homes
  • Rainbow Row – The iconic multi-colored homes in downtown Charleston
  • Shutters – Window covers often painted green
  • Victorian – Architectural style (1840-1890) that embraced Charleston green

Finding the Perfect Charleston Green

Part of Charleston green’s appeal is its versatility. The exact tone can be customized for your space. Here are some tips for finding your perfect shade of Charleston green:

  • View green paint swatches at all times of day to see color variations.
  • Test samples on the actual surface (door, wall, etc) that will be painted.
  • Hold swatches next to existing colors and finishes in the space.
  • Use glosses and add-ins like glazes for a historic look.
  • Ask for older/archived paint brand greens for more authenticity.

The ideal Charleston green should be sophisticated but livable. Find a rich shade that flatters your architecture and style.


Charleston green has been a Southern classic for over two centuries, but its appeal endures. The deep forest green brings tradition and sophistication to both historic and modern homes. Charleston green can provide a bold accent or serve as a neutral. This versatile, iconic shade deserves its status as a leading Southern color.