COLOUR TRENDS: A Short History of Colour in our Interiors
Colour has always been important in interior design. It’s one of the main components of decorating any room, and it is the thing that is considered before anything else. Over the years different colours have proved popular, creating their own fashion and design styles. What different hues have influenced design over the years?
In the early twentieth century there wasn’t much choice when it came to colours. Paint companies didn’t have the sophisticated mixing tools that they have today, and yet the colours that were on offer were enough for those late Victorians and early Edwardians to make some really rather impressive interior designs from. Colours revolved around natural hues such as clay, salmon, sage, forest green and cadmium blue. Deep red was also popular, although that was really as far as it went in terms of straying from the colours of nature. Along with these there were variations on white such as cream, ivory and canary. Just a century earlier and you would have found the interior of houses awash with vibrant yellows, reds and blues – but the staid Victorians kept things more muted. It was much more sensible and respectable, after all!
By the time we reach the 1930s, things had moved on. Modernism was creeping in. Women were becoming more independent. Times were, indeed, a-changing. And so were interior designs. The 1930s was the age of the stunning Art Deco movement, and much of this was featured within houses of the age. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the advances in technology and society, the colours used were strikingly similar to those of the Victorian age – lots of sea-foam greens and golden highlights were used. There was one big difference though. Whereas the early 1900s saw these colours in deep, dark hues, in keeping with the dour image that we have of Victorian life (even if it isn’t entirely accurate), the 1930s saw a brighter, lighter version of things. Everything became lifted and more joyful. Everything was clean and clear and crisp.
Those heady, joyous days of the 1930s were soon eclipsed by World War II. Rationing, air raids, make do and mend… these were the terms that had become part of British culture. By the time the 1950s rolled around, the economy was on the up, and so were the spirits of the nation, and this was reflected in the interior design colour choices of the time. Pastel colours were particularly popular, and hues such as pink, purple and blue were used to good effect. Chrome was another new look that was becoming increasingly seen in 1950’s homes, albeit in small doses. If the feeling in the country was that the outlook was positive, the colour choices certainly made that clear.
Twenty years later and blues and greens were out. They were seen as old fashioned and part of the previous generation, and the young movers and shakers of the 70s favoured orange, yellow and brown for their interior design schemes. They also liked big, bold designs – flowers and geometric shapes were pasted onto innocent walls everywhere. It was bright, it was loud and it was there to be noticed. The 1970s was about stepping out from the shadow of the war years and proving to the world that the future was where it was at.
Once the excitement and showy nature of the 70s calmed down a little, the 80s arrived in a flurry of big hair, big shoulder pads and big egos. The decade of ‘me’ had begun, and it was something to behold. Houses were scrubbed of their flowery, bright interiors and harsh lines and corners replaced the big beanbags and soft furnishings. Red, white and black – perhaps with a side ordering of grey – was the pallete du jour of the 80s, along with an injection of fluorescent colours and angles. Angles were important. Comfort was, apparently, not.
2000 and beyond
Since the beginning of the new millennium we’ve been keen on looking back. The past had some beautiful fashions and interior design ideas, and today’s popular choices are a mixture of them all. We will embrace pinks and yellows, enjoy deep reds and greens, and although there may be a preference for white walls and light furnishings, we still enjoy showing our personalities with splashes of bright colour wherever we can.
WHY CHRISTMAS COLOURS?
Red, gold, green, silver, sometimes a splash of blue… the colours of Christmas. But why? These colours have been traditionally associated with the festive season for centuries, but what is it about them that makes them Christmassy? What began the tradition? Each colour has a reason and a story behind it.
The colour red is perhaps the most well known and most used Christmas colour (along with its partner, green). Red is the colour of holly berries, which are a staple of Christmas decorations now and in the past. And why are holly berries so important? It’s because they are meant to represent the blood of Christ (it is also the colour of bishops’ robes, which is why St Nicholas – Father Christmas – is always wearing red).
Green is all about nature. For thousands of years, mistletoe, holly and ivy were used to decorate homes for the yuletide season (even before it became Christmas). The Romans often exchanged evergreen branches at this time of year, and the ancient Egyptians brought palm fronds into their homes during the midwinter celebrations. This tradition has remained with us (we decorate Christmas trees), and the green is a representation of that natural element. But there is a dual purpose for the green colour to be used at Christmas; it is a reminder that spring is on its way.
For Christmas, gold is meant to represent one of the gifts that the Three Wise Men gave to baby Jesus. But in pagan festivals it was a symbol of light and represented the sun. This was extremely important – it was another reminder that warmer, lighter, better days were coming.
Silver is a more modern addition to the palette of Christmas colours, but it has a story nonetheless. Silver is meant to represent the star that the Three Wise Men followed to find little lord Jesus.
Finally, there is blue. It is used much less than the warmer, cosier reds and golds of tradition, but a touch of blue tinsel around the tree and, more recently, blue twinkling Christmas lights, always looks beautiful. It’s about more than looks though – this ‘new tradition’ comes from the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, and represents the colours of the Israeli flag.