20 Historic Paint Color Collections — from colonial to 20th century — available today

crazy-paint-chip-ladyCall me authentic or call me lazy, but when looking for a paint color for an historic house, I look first to — historic paint colors. I noticed a variety of one-off stories, but no big list, so I did the research and found 20 historic paint collections available today. The list is dominated by way-back-time-machine colonial, Victorian and arts & crafts paint colors authenticated by museum-trained conservators … but for we 20th century midcentury design enthusiasts, there is a growing list of historically authenticated colors, too. Do you need “just the right midcentury off-white” to show off your art, for example? You can get a recommendation straight from Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright, as just one example. Click on through for the list of 20 historic paint color collections on the market today –>

Historic paint colors for 20th century midcentury homes

historic paint colors guggenheim collection

1. First up, The Guggenheim Collection from Fine Paints of Europe was introduced in 2011. This collection has two palettes. “Classical Colors” are color-colors derived from works of art at the Guggenheim. The “Gallery Collection” is full of neutrals, including whites and off-whites, taken from colors put onto the walls to display art: “50 hues favored by generations of Guggenheim Museum curators, artists, and designers—including Frank Lloyd Wright himself.” The Gallery collection, in particular, sounds pretty cool. Lots of people want to display art… artfully. So why not take the lead from professionals who must agonize and OCD over shades and hues and saturation like we can’t even imagine.

2. The Sherwin-Williams Suburban Modern Collection — with two palettes, one for interiors, the other, for exteriors — is a longtime favorite here at Retro Renovation. If you’re looking for classic 1950s pastels like aquamarine and flamingo pink and even pearl gray — go here, these are great colors. This Sherwin-Williams palette also had a wonderful avocado, harvest gold, beige and pinky beige. This company gets major props from me for being first on the midcentury bandwagon. Goodness, they were a lifesaver for me when I started my house 10 years ago.

3. California Paints in 2010 introduced a huge collection of 20th Century Colors of America, researched in partnership with the nonprofit Historic New England.

4. Pittsburgh Paints has the Fallingwater Collection — paints inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, authenticated by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

5. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1955 paint palette for Taliesen, specified in Martin Senour paints, is shown in this artifact. If you can blow up the image enough to read the chips… then triangulate to Martin Senour formulas today, you’d have another authentic Frank Lloyd Wright paint palette.

6. Eichler colors — The Eichler Network has matched historic Eichler colors with Benjamin Moore Formulas. Go to pages 6 and 7 in this article to see the chips.

Historic Paint Colors pre-1950

7. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has partnered with Valspar to offer a pretty big historic paint palette. “There are over 250 historic colors, documented from historic sites and places across the country, in the Valspar palette.” Price on this paint is going to be pretty competitive, I think, as this is a very accessible brand found at Lowes. I also think I have read that Valspar paint does well on a certain magazine’s annual quality tests.

8. Benjamin Moore’s historic paint palette has legions of fans.

9. Rodda Paint has an historic paint color collection.

10. Union Village has two very focused palettes of classic Early American paint colors. You can buy small cans if you are painting furniture.

11. Finnaren & Haley has an Historic Colors of America collection. Created in collaboration with the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities — which is now known as Historic New England, this collection of both interior and exterior paint colors from early America history. It seems to be the predecessor to the California Paints collection with Historic New England.

12. Finnaren & Haley also has Authentic Colors of Historic Philadelphia. There are 31 colors in this line, all uncovered from historic buildings and many authenticated by the National Park Service.

13. Pratt & Lambert offers an Historic Williamsburg Palette.

14. Duron Paint does Historic Charleston.

15. Historic colors of Spanish St. Augustine — St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, and the preservation community there has matched original Spanish St. Augustine paint colors to Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams paint colors. So cool! Hey, aren’t you impressed how deep I dug for this story?

16. Fine Paints of Europe covers historic paint colors for Mount Vernon.

17. Fine Paints of Europe also gives us historic paint colors of Nantucket.

18. The Fine Paints of Europe team is all over the historic, with British Standards, too.: “470 colors… in existence for more than one hundred years for residential, commercial and military use. Broad range of strong full colors’ contains no pastels or off whites. Very useful for the specification of strong accent colors.”

19. Little Greene also has an English Heritage paint collection.

20. And, Fine Paints of Europe has a RAL collection of historic paint colors from 1925 Bonn, Germany: “210 distinctive ‘full’ colors first catalogued in Bonn, Germany in 1925. Colors were originally developed for commercial/industrial specification but have recently been rediscovered – broadly specified for smart, contemporary interiors.”

Wow, that’s some list isn’t it? I am quite proud of myself.

If you want to republish this list in part or entirety,
please email me for permission first.
This research and story are copyright Retro Renovation 2012.

  1. Melanie says:

    Thanks for this post! It’s very timely for us. We have been trying to find a color combination for my daughter’s 1915 cottage. She has to have a new roof and can’t decide on shingle color. If we can’t find a great color combo with all these links, we should just give up!

  2. Jay says:

    Wow! I’m impressed by your list. In Philadelphia, the paint leader was MAB with stores in every town. They were bought out by Sherwin Williams, so I look forward to seeing what they have to offer.

  3. Lynne says:

    I bought a Sherwin Williams Paint and Color Style Guide book at a flea market years ago. Its a great BIG binder style book, kind of like a big wallpaper book. I wonder if maybe it laid on the counter in the store? It has huge (like 18 x16) full sized color pics of of various rooms and exteriors. Some even fold out. Each page tells what color the room was painted, what type of paint, and gives ideas for combinations. There are full sized color chips attached to the pages in the back of the book. I would be curious to see if any of their reproduction paints mimicked these colors. It’s an awesome reference book.

  4. Emilie says:

    I really love you guys and these colors. Lots of good info, thank you!! I just have to say something…

    St Augustine is not the oldest city in America.
    1. It is the oldest consistently occupied European settlement
    2. in the United States

  5. Tamara says:

    Hi Pam,
    May i please use this article for my design students in History of Interior Design?
    It is used for educational purposes only.
    Thanks much,
    Tamara Hadley

  6. ellie says:

    I am painting my kitchen in a classic French Country/Provence theme of buttery yellow and Van Gogh Blue. I want to paint my hallway a classic red. Which reds would you recommend?

  7. Jessie says:

    I live in Saint Augustine, FL and was so excited to find the link to the Historic Colors of Spanish St. Augustine. Thank you! The hubby and I are putting an offer on a 1977 Spanish style ranch today. Fingers crossed!

  8. Robin, NV says:

    I just discovered, after pulling the faux brick off my kitchen walls, that my kitchen was originally painted pink. I’m going in a different direction than that but so fun to find little clues to my house’s history.

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