1954 paint colors for kitchens, bathrooms and moldings

1955 paint colors sherwin williamsI was poking around my files this weekend and found this palette of 1954 paint colors for Kem-Glo paints for kitchens, bathrooms and wood moldings. Kem-Glo was a brand of Sherwin-Williams. I’ve inserted the scan below as a very large file, so that you can click on it and see the colors enlarged. 

Click on this following file to see the palette rendered large:

paint colors for retro kitchen bath

Click on this image an it will enlarge a lot.

This Kem-Glo palette proudly promotes its latex ease. You can replicate a number of these colors today using Sherwin-Williams Suburban Modern paint palette — our favorite, go-to mid century paint collection. Note, however, you no longer can get these brochures in the Sherwin-Williams store — but, I’ve captured the brochure in my hotlinked story.

1955 paint colorsAlong with the palette for kitchens, baths, and moldings, I had a booklet from 1955 that showed paint colors for other fooms. Above: A two-tone blue look for this room, which featured very traditional decor.

1955-paint-colors033-2Above: Yes, Mrs. America had mad sewing skills and made her own draperies and slip covers.

yellow bathroomAbove: Yellow bathrooms are so… sunny. The photo is from Universal-Rundle, another of the relatively big-name manufacturers that made plumbing fixtures for bathrooms in the 1950s.

mid century living roomAbove: Sherwin Williams is promoting a paint technique called Applikay. It appears this involves using a special brush to create a second decorative layer, in paint.

decorative paint treatmentsAbove: Another Applikay finish.

decorative paint treatments

Above: Applikay, explained.

Want to consider additional historic paint collections? See my story: 20 Historic paint color collections available today.

Readers, as you complete your projects,
How have you been choosing your paint colors?
What advice do you have for others?


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  1. gsciencechick says

    Our LR is a very similar color to the ad where the woman is sitting making the yellow draperies. It is Sherwin-Williams Halcyon Green, which looks great with our furniture.

    We just painted our home office in a wedgewoody-blue grey. It is a color called Nantucket Fog from Benjamin Moore, but I had it mixed in SW paint.

    Would love a yellow bathroom when we redo it! We’ve already put in our pinwheel floor.

  2. neca says

    I was in S-W last week looking at colors. They have consolidated all their historic colors into one “historic” brochure – all the suburban modern colors are in there. The down side is it is organized by color (blues together, greens together, etc.) but they are coded so you know which color belongs to which period.

  3. Kelly Wittenauer says

    That first sentence – I immediately thought how much fun it must be to look thru the neat old stuff in Pam’s files. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Janet in CT says

    I always find old ads fascinating – thank you, Pam! That Applikay was a special two part roller, not a brush, which I think you meant to say. When I was in high school, we went over to help the neighbor kids paint their bedroom and they were doing the Applikay. It may have been a great idea but just didn’t “work”. There was a reason for the pattern being so busy; no matter how hard we tried, it didn’t match up and you could always see where each new strip of rolled paint started. I would swear I saw these rollers just lately and was surprised they were still around. I think it was a mail order house that was selling them and I thought to myself how anyone buying them would be very disappointed with the finished project. Of course we were kids – maybe a more experienced or better yet “PATIENT” adult would have gotten better results. These room scenes are so much fun to look at, especially the drapes!

      • Robin, NV says

        But it looks so easy in the ad! 😉 It looks sort of like a sophisticated sponge painting. I’m really glad that fad is over, by the way.

        I keep toying with the idea of making my own pinch pleat drapes. How hard can it be? It seems like it’s mostly time consuming. I make braided rugs, so clearly I’m capable of really OCD’ing out on repetitive, mostly mindless tasks.

        • Mary Elizabeth says


          Actually, the real thing is rather diffifult and involves precise measurement and sewing. When I made my first pair of pinch-pleat drapes, I used a “cheater” tape with regularly spaced pockets that you sew on the back top of the flat curtain. (You can get it in most fabric stores.) Then you get special hooks to go with it that have little prongs that slip into the pockets and automatically create the pleats. Besides being easy to use (they come with directions) they make it easier to wash or clean and iron the drapes.

          • Eileen says

            I tried using the pleater tape but my drapes weren’t quite the right measurements to use the tape. I measured several times and then sewed them. They weren’t that hard to make. Just be sure your math is correct. Good Luck!!!

        • Liz in Oregon says

          Pinch Pleat draperies are the most difficult of all to make. I worked in a professional drapery workroom where we did it all by hand. It helps to have a drapery sewing table 8-10 feet long, an industrial sewing machine and blind hammer, really good steam iron and strong hands. You use a drapery interface that you glue to the top edge, fold down twice, stitch and then pleat. This gives the pleats a really crisp look.

          You use a heavier thread and bigger needle to pinch with. Three pinches (French pleats) are harder than two, but I think they look much nicer.

  5. Mary Elizabeth says

    Yes, the modern housewife did have all those mad sewing skills–if they couldn’t make their own drapes, they could at least hem ready-made ones to fit. But remember that all girls back then were required to take home economics in high school. On the other hand, look at the woman in the Applikay ad–she is actually using a hammer and hanging her own pictures, something my mother and aunties had never done in my memory.

    Something spooky for me about these colors: Our whole 1959 house was freshly painted in something like Princess Ivory when we bought it. Then, although I never saw this color chart before, I chose retro kitchen curtains with a Sunbeam Yellow. Then I painted my new kitchen island in Apple Green. We added a dining room and painted the wall below the chair rail Linden Green and the chair rail Sandalwood. There isn’t a single color in my house that isn’t on this chart. When the late owners’ daughter came to see our improvements, she said, “The whole kitchen was once that yellow color, and another time my mom painted it that green.” I am a poet, and I am currently writing a series of poems about the possibility that my ranch is haunted and the former owners are directing all our design decisions. Has annyone else had that feeling about their house? BTW, as a poet, I cannot claim to be totally sane, but I am otherwise a person who functions quite normally in the world. 🙂

    • Jenny says

      The same thing happened to me. I chose a color scheme of a yellow just like the sunbeam yellow, and a blue just like the skyline blue for my 1957 kitchen. We had to rip out the ceiling because of a leak, and found that the kitchen had been painted the same yellow at one time, and the same blue another time. The weird thing is, I chose these colors years ago, before I even got interested in the whole retro thing. I had no idea they were retro.

    • Chutti says

      Yes, sometimes there is a mysterious thing going on with houses. When I was a toddler, we lived in a 1920’s craftsman house that was sturdy, nondescript and well loved. My Dad wanted to move to the ‘burbs, and Mom never really got over leaving that house…which later turned into a very desirable neighborhood.
      When house hunting a few years ago, I saw that home was on the market. The pictures blew my mind- they had lovingly restored so much of the home…..and chosen almost the same things my Mom had in the 1960’s. Same linoleum in the kitchen, same paint in the dining room, etc. etc. I think that house just knows what it wants to be and the owners maybe have to (happily) comply.
      I didn’t have the heart to show Mom the pictures, as she sold the house for $26,000 and it was REDUCED to $980,000.

    • lisa says

      The same thing happened to me! My daughter wanted a pink bedroom, so I bought some pink paint from the mistint rack. After one wall it looked all wrong — had kind of a purple undertone. So I went back to the paint store and instead chose a light shell pink that had a bit of a salmon aspect. Perfect! Then I painted our bedroom very pale green and the hallway between the two rooms greenish taupe. During my prep I discovered all the rooms had already been painted those same colors under the white that was there when we moved in!

      • Robin, NV says

        For me, my house has little spots here and there where the original wall paint and flooring peek out (the previous owner clearly had a thing for lime green). It’s probably little things like that give us subliminal messages.

        There’s a building near my favorite fabric store that has the same yellow, orange, and turquoise diamonds I painted on my soffit. I wonder if those colors and that pattern got stuck in some weird niche of my brain and then grew there until one day, I had the urge to paint diamonds on my soffits. I never put the two together until just the other day.

    • says

      Not me. Every room in this house but one has been pink at some point. Pepto bismol pink, mauve pink, shell pink, pink rose wallpaper, fuschia pink… I have absolutely no urge to paint any of it pink.

    • says

      Same thing happened to us. When we moved into our 1956 home, it was all “landlord white”. We repainted the living room in a pale yellow and the hallway in a light peach. When we pulled up the carpet to put down hardwood floors, we found old paint splotches on the subfloor. It was evident that living room and hallway were originally pale yellow and light peach.

    • Kelly says

      Yes! I bought a house built in 1925. I have left most of the house alone because I love it the way it is – but I just did not like the 1980s wallpaper in the dining room, so I planned to have it removed and painted a boring off-white. I am not one to be adventurous in wall colors. My contractor offered to bring me some paint samples. I kept saying no, I don’t need to look at samples, just buy some basic off-white paint. He encouraged me to look at samples anyway, so I glanced at them a bit. I saw a very, very pale pink that appealed to me somehow, so I abandoned my off-white walls rule and went for it. When the contractor stripped the walls down to the original paint, guess what? Pale pink, nearly identical to the new color I chose. So I like to think I brought the room back to what it was. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone, because the pale pink looks perfect.

  6. Alice says

    Pam, as always you are a wonderful resource. Thanks for sharing!

    I too enjoy looking at old ads and photos. In this case, for example, I am particularly fascinated by the wardrobe. When painting is happening in our household we certainly don’t look as nice as the folks in these ads. Additionally, a small little mat directly under the work area would never do for us. We will put plastic over an entire room and out into the hallway and possibly an adjoining room whilst we are painting. Ah, how I long for the good ole days, when home repairs were more glamorous!! 🙂

    • Steve H says

      I was just about to say that men certainly dressed well for painting back then. They were obviously a lot neater than I am when I paint!

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Yes, indeed, they do look dapper in their trousers and casual collared shirts. And although they are nearly finished, they haven’t got a spot of paint on them. Meanwhile, DH and I are deliberately choosing outfits that already have paint on them–not difficult, because about half of his T-shirts and shorts already have paint, driveway sealer or caulk on them.

        And the women! High heels, dresses or skirts and blouses and strings of pearls (wonder if they are pop-beads or add-a-pearls?) for sewing. BTW, I do sew, and it’s almost impossible to run the presser foot on the sewing machine wearing heels.:-)

        • Robin, NV says

          The sewing machines at my middle school had knee bars that you pushed to run the machine. It was just a metal bar that you pressed to the side with your knee. I suspect that the foot pedal was under the table somewhere and the bar just pressed on the pedal. I really don’t know how they did it. But anyway, that’s how I learned to sew and I still think it’s a nifty idea. You don’t have to worry about tripping over cords or finding the foot pedel (or wearing heels!). I’m sure for the school janitors it made vacuuming easier too. If I ever get my dream house with hobby room, I’m going to make my husband rig up my machine with a knee bar.

          • Jeanne says

            I remember using a knee bar on my mom’s sewing machine when I was growing up! I totally forgot about that!

            And pinch pleats aren’t that difficult – just a little mathematics involved. I made lined pinch pleat valences for my dining room with a piece of vintage bark cloth from ebay. Drapes would be identical, just sewing longer pieces of fabric (which is sometimes a bit awkward). I bought a book on sewing window treatments at Joann’s Fabrics. There are several different types of pinch pleats and also methods to sew them.

          • Katie B. says

            I am 30 and have never used a sewing machine without a knee bar. 🙂 My mother’s sewing machine was probably a 60s era machine that I learned on and the machine my hubs brought to the relationship is probably a 50s or 60s era machine. I always thought it was how all sewing machines were growing up!

        • MarilynH says

          I learned to sew on a Singer 401 Slant needle model and I bought a vintage 306 from 1954 when I moved out on my own. Still sew with it and have never used a foot pedal. My mother is willing me her 401!

  7. MCM is Grand says

    Someone needs to send these ads to Anne Taintor..the potential for hilarious captions is enormous!

    Seriously, I want to thank Pam once again for sharing a wonderful find…and I too have discovered some pink and mint green under layers of newer paint, now I have the chips as reference!

  8. says

    I used Appleblossom & Holiday Turquoise for the interior walls & exterior of my bake shop in New Hope, Pa. Our town has strict rules for historically accurate colors and Sherwin Williams Suburban Modern palette was perfect!

  9. Catherine says

    Awesome! This is just what I needed. Thanks for posting!!

    And I also think many of these shades are very currently popular now, too, which is interesting. Isn’t the Pantone Color Institute’s shade for 2013 deep emerald green? I see lots of green tones on this chart.

  10. J D Log says

    I’m glad I’m not the only who had that experience inside the house it was painted white, grey and pea soup green. Before I stripped back the paint I would choose a colour somehow I managed to match the original blue in the master bedroom, pink in the kitchen, mauve in another bedroom and green in the loungeroom

  11. Carole says

    Odd to look at this….because strangely (or maybe not so strangely – maybe I was guided by the house lol), my kitchen is a dark green similar to Forest, the bedrooms are somewhere between Linden and Melodie, the family room is two tones of yellow, the main color similar to Princess Ivory, and although our living room is currently blue (not as dark as the one pictured, but still blue), it’s slated for red or terra cotta, colors that echo Monterey or Sunset Rose.

    A lot of people think I’m nuts painting my walls anything but white in Oregon, but we have a lot of windows, so even on dark, damp, cloudy days, light comes in, and I love my painted walls. 🙂

    When we viewed this house, ten years ago, the inside and outside were painted a very drab brown. Kind of depressing in our climate honestly. When we bought it, the inside got a clean slate of white (until I could figure out what to do), the outside a dark red. We loved the outside color so much that when the house was resided last summer, we went with the same color.

    We’ve loved all of the colors we’ve chosen, and ten years later, we still do. They’re very livable, very comfortable, and they still make me happy.

  12. MarilynH says

    I have a box of these old rollers in my basement if anyone is interested. I will put a price on them and put them in my Etsy store. I don’t have the holder/frame, however. The PO’s father brought these from Germany.

  13. ChrisH says

    The colors remind me of 1950s automotive colors. Not all of course, but many of them. There was a time when cars were not greige.

  14. Tom says

    I wonder if Sherwin Williams stores have any kind of cross reference chart behind the counter for older color palettes. An older store especially might have something that could translate these colors to the later numbered colors.

  15. MaryM says

    Love all the comments – my first reaction to these fab ads was “aannd she is hand-sewing…in heels…and he is painting with a tiny stepladder in nice trousers!” Wow. Did ANYONE ever do those things? MY mom refinished furniture all the time in the early 60’s wearing shorts that melted in spots when her cigarette ash dropped on them – no organic cotton back then, I guess. Or anti-smoking ads:)

  16. KBF says

    My parents’ living room was sandalwood with turquoise accents, including a turquoise Kroehler sofa, from 1959 up until the 80s when it was updated with a then-current terra cotta and teal color scheme. I understand the kitchen had a short-lived sandalwood and yellow 1959 paint job, replaced by “celery” for most of the 60s and 70s.

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