The introduction of modern design schemes in the 1950s included dynamic colours in paint, flooring and fabrics. Sometimes referred to as the atomic age, designers of the 1950s celebrated the emerging technologies by dressing homes and commercial enterprises in bold, space-age colours. Traditional design styles were still prevalent, however, and included colour schemes distinctly different from the modern sensibility.
Blue and Green
Whether traditional or modern, blue and green were commonly used in design in the 1950s. In traditional design, these hues reflected colours found in nature. Sky blue, robin's egg blue and lilac were popular colour choices and were paired with eggshell white or sunny yellow. Forest green and avocado green were paired with punches of sunset red or dusty pinks. On the modern side, these two shades burst forth in a neon glare. The blues were metallic, almost shiny, and seen in everything from linoleum flooring to shimmery rayon fabric. The green was slick and edgy, often a lime hue. Paired with scorching shades of yellow and white, the blues and greens were indeed atomic.
Black and White
The checkerboard of black and white in linoleum and tile flooring played as inspiration for design schemes of black leather furniture and white walls. This modern colour scheme included the steely greys of chrome and smoked glass; only the occasional piece of art or sculpture would break up the high contrast. In more traditional schemes, black and white would play supporting roles as photographs, throw pillows or paired pottery.
Red and Gold
Blended design schemes, those pulling elements from each side of the gap between traditional and modern, included bold reds tempered with soft gold in woodwork and flooring. In a breakfast nook, for example, the chairs may be upholstered in a red colour more closely associated with a fire engine than a sunset. The table and chairs, though, would be stained a shade of golden pine. In the modern designs, the colour gold held a place in accessories such as sunburst clocks and lamp bases, while red took a more dominant role as wall colour, in fabrics and in flooring.
Avocado Green and Harvest Gold
These two shades are iconic of midcentury design and have the dubious honour now of being held as both vintage and modern. Originally cast as trendy and hip, the avocado green and harvest gold colours were a cut above the old-fashioned and outdated white traditional kitchen appliances. But these two colours weren't exclusive to the kitchen. Harvest gold walls with avocado trim set the background for knotty pine woods, earth-tone fabrics and wide-planked hardwood floors. In contemporary retro design schemes, these two colours are paired with sleek leather furniture in sunny yellow or bright white, chrome and glass furnishings, and linoleum flooring.
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