• Retro Renovation’s 2014 Color of the Year: Harvest Gold

    vintage formica

    Alas, it has now become a cliche, this time of year, for all manner of manufacturers doing business in the color arena to declare their Color of the Year. As a result, I am now evolving to dislike this tradition — seems to me yet another way that marketeers are trying to convince the mass of America to dislike what they already have for grass that is greener (or purpler, or whatever). Nonetheless, I will give this a try for at least one more year. My annual Color of the Year selection is a bit of a different stripe: I like to show how colors of bygone days are just fine, very pretty, thank you very much. So, for 2014, our Retro Renovation Color of the Year is one of the most disparaged of vintage colors: Harvest Gold. I like this color very much. This is a wonderful color. Phlew on you, marketeers and interior design fascionistas, who try to convince us that harvest gold is h***** and d**** and must be banished in favor of (the baloney you are trying to sell us today). Above: Formica selected a harvest gold shade for both the walls and carpet in this 1966 advertisement. See how harvest gold plays so nice with others?


    1966 Formica advertisement, from my personal collection

    Harvest Gold as we know it catches fire in 1967

    I have not done all the historical research to back this statement up, but: I believe that what we now call harvest gold — a somewhat muddy lightish gold — has always been a popular color in home decorating. A tarnished brass is not too far off from harvest gold. And before polymer lacquer was invented, brass tarnished. Linen takes on a lovely gold patina, all the more so when it oxidizes.

    Gold has the effect of bringing a bit of yellow sunshine into a room. I think of it as a neutral. I have a harvesty gold wall to wall carpet in my basement, which has cherry paneled walls and overall, an early American feel, and it is a wonderful, warm base for the space. My bedroom walls are gold.

    harvest gold dishwasherOf course, today we associate the color Harvest Gold with the 1970s, when it became a very popular as a color for kitchen appliances, in particular.

    Important history of Harvest Gold for kitchen appliances: According to reader Patrick, who has done a lot of research on appliance colors, GE introduced the color Harvest (never officially know as Harvest Gold) in 1967 Spring 1968. “This color along with Avocado,” he said, “catches on like wild fire and is offered until circa 1984.”

    In an updated comment (originally posted in comments, below), Patrick says:

    General Electric introduced the color Harvest (GE never called it Harvest Gold) in the Spring of 1968 and soon other manufacturers followed suit. In 1976 all the appliance manufacturers picked a standardized color palette to begin being offered in 1977. Prior to this decision the colors offered by one manufacturer did not exactly match the colors that an other manufacturer offered, ergo if you wanted to mix and match appliance brands your only choice was to pick white so the colors would be harmonious. At the end of 1976 General Electric started running a campaign introducing its New Naturals color palette in home magazines of the day. The new colors were Harvest Wheat, Fresh Avocado, Coffee, Onyx, Snow White, and a new color called Almond……. Harvest Gold as it became known was offered into the mid 80’s.

    Above: Maribeth’s kitchen came with a harvest gold dishwasher. Golly, I couldn’t find any more photos of harvest gold appliances on the blog. Readers, if you have them, I’d love to see them and possibly add them to this story! Contact me. 

    harvest gold laminateAbove: Wilsonart put this color on to laminates in the late 1960s, although I squinty squinty cannot see what they named this color.

    st charles kitchen cabinetsAbove: St. Charles kitchen cabinets in harvest gold. I’d call the trim treatment on the wall cabinets “provincial” as in French Provincial.

    colonial living room crib couchAbove: The color was popular on upholstery and as an accent color in earth-toned interiors popular in the 1970s. But HEY, pretty much this same color can be found on sparkly frieze upholstery back in the 1950s, too. Okay, maybe the old gold has a little less green in it, but it’s darn close. Both photos from: 10 Kroehler sofas from 1976.

    Why did Harvest Gold fall from favor?

    In a consumer-driven society, these big color trends eventually collapse under the weight of their own popularity. Actually, it’s a testament to the fact that through the 1980s, we were so less consumer-driven that color trends like harvest gold even lasted as long as they did. Today, I think that the color cycles of what’s “in” and what’s “out” are turning faster and faster. Beware buying according to trends!


    I love all colors.

    I am saying “harvest gold” in a wide sense. Warm golds and even yellows that tend toward the warm gold — like ripened cornfields… the leaves on sugar maples in the fall… and Sting’s mesmerizing fields of gold:

    Readers, do you have fond harvest gold memories?
    Do you use this color in your house today?

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    1. My mother still has her 1978 harvest gold double oven and cast-iron sink when she moved into her home in 1978 in TX. The double oven and cooktop still works today.

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