Retro Paint Colors

Updated November 21, 2016

Retro decorating borrows its looks from the popular home design styles of the 1940s through the 1980s. Each decade had its own distinct flavour. One important element in capturing the retro style you want is your colour palette choices. To create the vintage look and feel that you desire, use colours that were synonymous with the decade you love.

1940s Paint Colors

Early 1940s colours were simple with the country in wartime. New items were on hold due to rationing and shortage of materials. People were busy, either off to war or working on the home front, so decorating was simple. Plain white walls were very common, though red and blue may also have been incorporated in a patriotic theme. With the late 1940s, trends moved away from utilitarian and more toward fashionable colours. While wallpaper was the new rage, paint trends turned toward bright colours of yellow, red, and pink, and deep greens and dark blues came into vogue.

1950s Paint Colors

The biggest influence of this decade was availability. Paint became widely available and, for the first time, manufacturers were able to offer every shade of the rainbow. In the 1950s, for some people, colours got bolder. Deep plumb, cherry red, turquoise and sunshine yellow were mixed with black for drama. For others, colour got lighter as pastels caught on. Light pink, powder blue and mint green were found on the walls of a lot of homes, both indoors and outdoors. Another paint colour trend in the 1950s was to use a wider variety of neutrals: white, black, tans and greys.

1960s Paint Colors

In the 1960s, earthy colours that were kicked up a few notches into vibrant, vivid hues became the style. In particular, primary and secondary colours like yellow, orange and green were favoured. Day-glo colours like lime green and hot pink were beginning to catch on, even used in combination, especially with the youth and mod crowd. Interest in neutrals continued, too, but with a more stark contrast, particularly black and white. Gold and browns were for the more sophisticated palette.

1970s Paint Colors

Brown, white and black were used liberally in the 1970s, but the bright colours of the earlier decades had not yet declined. The vivid hues of the 1960s deepened a bit as more people opted for tertiary colours over primary and secondary colours. For example, avocado began to nudge out kelly green and burnt orange was favoured over the formerly preferred bright tangerine. Colour combinations like yellow and white, pink and purple or blue and green became popular.

1980s Paint Colors

Colours became more subdued in the 1980s. Robin's egg blue and muted greens could be found, but tastes seemed to be turning more toward a warmer palette with coral, mauve, lavender, peach and dusty rose. Neutrals were shifting from high contrast black and white to softer shades of beige and grey.

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