Why are Norwegian houses painted red?

Red, Yellow and White paint

Traditionally Norwegian houses were painted a strong red, yellow, or white. White is the most popular colour. The colour the owners chose depended mostly on the family’s financial situation, geographic location and profession. Certain colours required certain resources, therefore some colours cost more or less depending on the availability and access of the various resources needed to make these paints.

Red: The red colour was the cheapest to produce. It was created by mixing ochre with cod liver oil (or other vegetable oils or animal oils). As a result, many buildings in farming lands or fishing areas where incomes were lower than average were mostly paint in red. This is why so many barns in the country side were traditionally painted red.

Yellow: The yellow colour was a little more expensive than red and was also created by mixing ochre with cod liver oil.
White: White was the most luxurious of colours since it was the most expensive. In the old days the mineral zinc was needed to create white paint which was very expensive.
As a result, if one painted their house white they were showing their neighbours that they were wealthy. Some wealthier farmers would paint their family home in white but their surrounding barns or sheds in the colour red. There are stories of some families who were concerned about their image living on the west coast of Norway who painted the ocean facing wall of their homes in white and used red for the less important walls. Much like people use cars  as a status symbol in society these days, Norwegians used the colour of their homes in the olden days.

6 thoughts on “Why are Norwegian houses painted red?

  1. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this blog. I am travelling from Colorado to Norway this summer in July to work on a farm for five weeks, and I’m trying to learn as much of the language as I can before I go, and I’m hoping the text you posted on here will be of help. I’m also trying to get in touch with at least one of the three Norwegian students at my university for lessons. The little fun facts on here about house color and such are fantastic. Thanks!

  2. Also because red is not affected by the UV light as much as other colors. Then the paint also last much longer….. same with green…….

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