The California Paints Blog

Historic Colors and the Trend Cycle -- Part 1

Posted on Fri, Nov 02, 2012 @ 03:26 PM

Trends are an interesting occurrence. historic postSome can be fleeting while others often repeat themselves. Color trends tend to be a bit more timeless. Our Historic Colors are great example of this. These colors were distinctively trendy during their specific time period which made them memorable. Expert historians, like those at Historic New England, recognize this and give these paint colors their historic stamp of approval. These historic hues continue to appear in color trends even today. So what exactly makes some of these historic colors more significant than the rest?  Why do they continue to pop up in color trends even now?

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An introduction to the trend cycle

First let's discuss the idea of trends and why trends resurface. James Laver was a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum from the 1930s until the 1950s. He specialized in fashion and his work led him to create a fashion trend timeline. This timeline designates an adjective to describe the time before, during, and after a trend is popular. For example, showcasing a fashion that is 5 years before it's time is "shameless" in comparison to wearing it 1 year before, which is considered "daring". A trend that is hot at the moment is "smart" while a trend that is 1 year out of date is "dowdy". A trend that is 10 years out of date is "hideous". For the sake of our historic color palettes we need to focus on the older, and often considered outdated trends. Notice how everything comes full circle...

20 Years after


30 Years


50 Years


70 Years


100 Years


150 Years


Now, I'm sure at this point you're wondering how this is relatable to Historic colors? In my opinion, this scale reflects not only on fashion but on an array of arts; textile design, accessories, architecture, color. When you look at a 100 year old historic home painted in  Hawthorne green would you consider it romantic? I'd say so! Now when it comes to color, I wonder if it takes quite as long for trends to recycle? I think both our Historic color palettes would prove differently! Let's take a look.

Color and trends: Then and Now

The variety of hues that have been compiled to create our historic palettes span almost 400 years! That's quite a long time of trending colors. These colors were directly influenced by the social, political, economical, and cultural trends of American History. As America grew and adapted, prospered and struggled, the popular colors of the times showcased these shifts. Hence, colors coming in and going out of style. If you compare the color lifecycles to the overall feeling in American society over the past 400 years, it is apparent when and why certain colors trended in and out. Viewing the historic colors while simultaneously considering the American back story happening at that moment in history sheds much light on the cyclical trending of color. A great example of this is the color Dust Bowl. A sandy beige, this hue was representative of the dust storms in the 1930s that expanded far beyond the great plains. War Weary, Urban Prosperity, and Skyscraper are also great examples of this. Make sure to check out their bios!

20c colors

Now that we are experts on trends recycling, let's take a look at how these colors reoccur today. I think one of the most important things to consider in color trends right now is how popular retro or vintage styles are across the board. The idea of mixing the old with the new is very prominent and some may consider this idea 'trendy'.  Many of today’s interior designers look to incorporate historical accuracy and vintage ideas into modern and streamlined designs.  This combination allows for authenticity without being too over the top, touching again on the idea of 'retro' trending.  Our entire 20th Century paint color palette would be considered retro. People are especially connected to this style because it creates a feeling of nostalgia for them. We have all lived in the 20th Century and therefore have experienced some of the events first or second hand through family members. Maybe it isn't the color that trends but the circumstances under which it was created! What a cool theory!

historic colors

Trending Historic Colors: Viscaya HC, Clementine HC, Little's Landmark 20C, and Curry HC

Need More Color Chips?

Unfortuntaley that is all the time we have to discuss color trends today.  This discussion is far from over though! Stay tuned for Part 2 where we explore the idea of timeless colors and learn more about how to use our Historic Palettes in a way that surpasses simply being trendy! Craving more historic fun? Download our entire collection of 20th Century color stories here!



Topics: paint colors, 20th century paint colors, color trends, historic colors

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