Color Palettes Through the Decades

We're going to dive into some history - color history. Take a walk back through the decades, and see how color palettes have changed and evolved over the years.

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The Roaring Twenties was a time of immense prosperity, as well as cultural exploration and celebration. Women's fashion was front and center, and the emergence of jazz led to nights of crazy dance parties. There was a feeling of lightness during most of the decade, which is reflected in this blue-and-green color palette. To get a similar look, try (from L to R), Glidden Bright Bay Blue (13BB 17/399), Behr Mown Grass (M370-7) and Valspar Crafted White (3007-6C).


The stock market crash of 1929 led to The Great Depression throughout the '30s. Many lost their fortunes and were struggling to make ends meet, so movies like Gone With the Wind, with its dramatic sets and sweeping love story, made quite a splash. Rich colors, like this palette of gold, deep Scarlett and elegant black represent the luxe life that most people during that time could only dream of. For a similar look, try (from L to R), Behr Bear Rug (S-G-790), Sherwin-Williams Black of Night (SW 6993) and Valspar Heirloom Red (1010-3).


The 1940s was a scary and uncertain time for many around the world due to WWII. Casablanca was one of the most popular movies of the decade. It managed to intelligently address the challenges of war while reaffirming the idea that each of us hopes is true - love conquers all. This color palette expresses the rumblings of hope that started to bubble up in the '40s as many envisioned the end of the war. An elegant light blue, a deep, rusty orange, and a honeysuckle yellow feel graceful and unexpected. For a similar look, try (from L to R), Valspar Gloaming Green (6001-6A), Sherwin-Williams Hearty Orange (SW 6622) and Glidden Wheat Stalk (30YY 52/515).


Marilyn Monroe is tthe poster girl of the 1950s. The cultural upheaval during the '60s were already developing during this decade, with movements such as the beat poets and writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The '50s were a bit more reserved and cautious, and Leave It to Beaver was one of the most popular TV shows of the decade. The decade's color palette feels staid and thoughtful. To get a similar look, try (from L to R), Sherwin-Williams Cooled Blue (SW 6759), Behr French Rose (HDC-CL-04) and Valspar Savoury Beige (3002-10C).


JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., The Vietnam War and Woodstock; The '60s were a decade of cultural upheaval, experimentation and personal growth. Hippies were born in the '60s as youth culture took over the country and Beatle-mania swept the whole world. This image of singer Barbara Streisand at a fashion event speaks to the fun, no-rules approach many embraced during the time. Her bright color palette is all about being yourself and not being afraid to be bold. To get a similar look, try (from L to R) Glidden Raspberry Pink (21RR 36/354), Valspar Peek-a-Boo Blue (4007-10C) and Sherwin-Williams Izmir Purple (SW 6825).


Much of the experimental upheaval of the '60s continued to unfold during the 1970s. The Vietnam War was unpopular and set the backdrop for Nixon's Watergate scandal. However, John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever was endlessly entertaining. This color palette is slick and cool. To get a similar look, try (from L to r) Behr Eskimo (M480-5), Valspar Classic Red (1009-2) and Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black (SW 6258).


"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it. That's all." John Hughes movies are some of the best relics of '80s culture, and The Breakfast Club is one of the decade's favorite films. Video games, MTV, and the very first Apple computer made it a decade of excess and technology, though still tied to traditions. This color palette represents that dichotomy. For a similar look, try (from L to R), Sherwin-Williams Intimate White (SW 6322), Valspar Treetrunk (3009-10) and Valspar Indigo Streamer (4010-4).


Grunge, hip-hop, and former President Bill Clinton playing the saxophone: Welcome to the '90s. Let's not forget the OJ Simpson trial, Lollapalooza and, oh yeah, the Internet. This decade saw some of the biggest changes in technology and entertainment, but one of the decade's defining movies was Pretty Woman, featuring a crisp, intentional color palette. For a similar look, try (from L to R), Behr Midnight in Ny (N440-7), Sherwin-Williams Caviar (SW 6990) and Glidden Winterscape Blue (30BG 76/107).

The Aughts

The 2000s was the decade the Internet truly invaded every part of our daily lives and changed the way we connected with the world and each other. The music industry was also turned on its head with the introduction of the iPod. Remember Y2K? Thankfully, the onset of the new century arrived without much of a bang, but the same can't be said about Beyonce and Jay-Z. The two began dating during this decade and are still one of the hottest power couples. This decade's color palette is modern and fresh. To get a similar look, try (from L to R) Sherwin-Williams Trinket (SW 6685), Behr Creamy Mushroom (PPU5-13) and Valspar Dark Kettle Black (4011-2).

Present Day

The only color rule these days is there are no rules. This street-style image perfectly captures the eclectic, more casual styles we're seeing in both fashion and home design today. There is an appreciation of vintage on both fronts, too. Reflecting this, the present-day color palette is unfussy but stylish and chic. To get a similar look, try (from L to R) Valspar Rose Dust (1002-1B), Glidden Pool Party (79BG 53/259) and Sherwin-Williams Olympus White (SW 6253).

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