The History of Paint Color in Benjamin Moore Palettes

1880-1910 Paint Colors of the Industrial Revolution by Benjamin Moore

I recently attended Benjamin Moore‘s 2020 Color Forecast event in Nashville. Presented by my regional designer rep, Candice Carter, at the House Beautiful Whole Home Concept House, the lecture was about the history of paint color in residential settings. As a devoted lover of old homes (and great paint colors!), I was completely thrilled to be present at this event.

Candice explained that the general mood of the culture has great influence on color trends. She graciously allowed me to use some of her slides to share this interesting information with my readers!

1880-1910 The Paint Colors

These are the years of the second Industrial Revolution. House Beautiful magazine begins publication, and the Arts and Crafts movement pushes back against the Victorian era of decorating. Interior decorating becomes an actual profession, with early influencers including Edith Wharton and Elsie De Wolfe. William Morris’ fabric and wallpaper designs feature organic patterns and nature themes, like the one below:

1880-1910 History of Paint Color, Industrial Revolution by Benjamin Moore

1910-1930 The Paint Colors

World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the stock market crash dominate this era. The proliferation of cars, movies, radio programs, and jazz music influence culture. Art Deco and Style Moderne emerge, with buildings being erected of glass, steel, and concrete. The Bauhaus movement in Germany influences American building and design, and heavy-hitter influencers include Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius.

1910-1930 History of Paint Colors by Benjamin Moore

1930-1945 The Paint Colors

This era ushered in the New Deal and World War II. Women began entering the workforce, as the men were at war. Out of necessity, things were more streamlined and practical. Depression glass had an impact on the hues of interiors, where “safe” colors were being chosen. In contrast to these more reserved interiors, Dorothy Draper’s bold colors and designs provided a hope that good times would come again . . .

1930-1945 History of Paint Color by Benjamin Moore

1945-1960 The Paint Colors

This is the postwar era, when hope does return. Indoor/outdoor spaces gain emphasis in residential buildings, and material innovations are popping up like linoleum, stainless steel, plywood, and plastics. Design is more functional and attainable by the general public. Colors becomes brighter with Scandinavian influence, shapes are organic, and America is patriotic. Design influencers include Eero Saarinen and Charles & Ray Eames.

1945-1960 History of Paint Colors by Benjamin Moore1960 to 1980 The Paint Colors

This is the era of the Vietnam War, the moon landing, the Civil Rights Movement, and big changes in music. Travel becomes a popular pastime, psychodelia is a thing, and decadent, lavish design prevails. I read an article recently calling the 70s “The Decade that Taste Forgot.” Who can forget the shag carpet?? Bold abstract patterns become more prevalent, and materials like lucite, metal, wood, wicker, and rattan show up in home decor.  Design influencers include luxe designers like David Hicks.

1960-1980 History of Paint Color by Benjamin Moore

1980 to 2000 The Paint Colors

Reagan-Bush, the Persian Gulf War, and the Clintons dominate the news. This era is marked by materialism, mass construction, and McMansions. Popular fashion and interior design styles include preppy and country, and Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley are the rage. MTV is born and Al Gore invents the internet (sorry, couldn’t resist). Faux finishes gain popularity and nature-focused colors are big.

1980-2000 History of Paint Color by Benjamin Moore

2000-2020 The Paint Colors

Ah, the New Millennium and Y2K! This era is all about technology, communication, and the environment. The recession, terrorism, and 9/11 impact our sense of security. Social media booms with influencers that impact design through blogs, pinterest, and instagram. We move from warmer palettes to cooler ones, with result in the rise of gray colors, tinted neutrals, and deeper hues.

2000-2020 History of Paint Color by Benjamin Moore

2020 and Beyond – Now What?

Benjamin Moore predicts that this new era will be marked by increased focus on imagination, community, authenticity, beauty, comfort, privacy, optimism, and self-expression. The color palette for 2020 contains fresh, light tints and dark, contrasting shades.

2020 Benjamin Moore Paint Color Palette

If social unrest is associated with muted colors, and optimism is associated with bright, upbeat colors, it looks as though Benjamin Moore predicts a more positive era to come. I hope you enjoyed this little trip through the history of paint color. Please share which era is YOUR favorite in the comments below!

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Molly
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Molly

Fascinating! I love history and I love color and design. Putting the two together is great. But, where is the palette for 1910-1930? My house was built in that time frame and I’d love to see what colors were most popular during those decades.

Rhonda Knoche
Guest

Kristie, absolutely love historical pieces like this one! Good refresher on perspectives of the time. Glad to see rosy future. Well done and thanks!

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

You had me at William Morris. Too bad there isn’t really a place for Morris prints in our homes just now. I have to be happy with a scarf. As for the rest, I love it all — except — isn’t your lecturer forgetting that Charles and Ray Eames were a design team? Another “too bad” – women are often overlooked.

Kira Kegg
Guest
Kira Kegg

I love this post! It really underscores for me how much I really really disliked the design trends from the 80’s (when I was born) to more recent times. It’s only been in the last handful of years that I actually like what I see when I walk into home decor stores. Apparently it wasn’t in my head that I disliked everything I saw now that I can see it in an overview like this! I am also struck by how even though I love the color palettes of other times arrangement really makes a difference. I love the colors… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

I’m kind of loving the palette of 1880-1910! But I have to admit, I’m also loving 2020. Great blog post, Kristie! The history of design fascinates me 🙂 I wish the speaker touched upon Victorians though, “where more is more!” lol I’ve always been drawn to Victorians.

Paula Van Hoogen
Guest

Kristie, I can imagine how excited you were to attend this lecture! It right up several of your allies!
I’ll bet you will incorporate this in one of your classes soon!
Candice was kind to share these slides with you, as well.
I enjoyed it too!
So…… what do you think of some of the 2020 colors?
♥️Paula

Keri Creed
Guest

Love color theory/history and seeing how cultural and societal trends impact design. Thanks!

Linda Merrill
Guest

Kristie – such a great trip through the history of popular colors as they relate to the events of the times!

Lisa Peck
Guest
Lisa Peck

Love seeing the history and the color palettes associated with these periods of time.

Janet Lorusso
Guest

I have always been fascinated with how culture and history influences design – this is such a great overview and fun to see the color associations laid out by time period. Great post!

Diane
Guest
Diane

You had me at 2020. I’m all about the light and bright.

Mary Ann Benoit
Guest

Wow such an interesting article and great to know the palettes of bygone days in case you want to recreate a look. I think I like the 2020 palette best of all!

Leslie Carothers
Guest
Leslie Carothers

Kristi:

I love posts where I really learn something… thanks for this one. I enjoyed seeing the historical progression of paint colors, because historical progression adds context.

And my favorite era is the one we are going into right now: 2020. That deep blue green is speaking my name… but so are the lighter, fresher more optimistic colors.

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

Really cool! I laughed out loud at “the decade that taste forgot”! Hahhaaa

Damon
Guest
Damon

Kristie,
Whoa! Thank you so much for sharing this history! There isn’t a color I don’t like, but the bold palette – 1960-1980 – speaks to me! (…no taste I guess 🤣) I think every design should have an intentional splash of bold color to remind us we’re ALIVE. I’m trying to convince my better half that two “clearest ocean blue” metal and wood etagere bookshelves will BAM!! our muted space!

Sheri Bruneau
Guest

This was such a fun trip! I really enjoyed reading the history and walking through the eras.