Historical Exterior Paint Colors from the 1940s
As the major historical and cultural event of the 1940s, World War II era-thinking produced distinctive tends in U.S. home design and decor. As nonessential extras were quickly traded for a more simplistic style, American homes relied less on glitz and glamour and more on basic style. Likewise, exterior paint colors followed a simplified trend in the decade's popular Cape Cods and new suburban tract homes.
In every decade or historical period, a variety of societal factors influence how people paint homes. From popular trends to the economic climate and the availability of materials, exterior decor can range from bold and bright to drab and subdued. During the 1940s, World War II was at the forefront of many cultural and societal changes from political thought to aesthetic choices. With a large number of men fighting overseas, women became the decision makers for many families and household decorating. As GI's returned home, suburban tract housing grew in popularity.
Famous Architectural Colors
Depending on the specific architect, certain 1940s homes had slightly different color palettes. For example, the numerous ranch style Eichler homes of the mid and late 1940s had exterior colors including rich browns, burgundy and gray-blues as well as lighter mauves, tans and beiges. The more unique and expensive home designs by famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Eames included palettes ranging from Wright's earthy nature tones of tans and beiges to Eames' distinctive vibrant blues and reds set against a stark white backdrop.
Not every 1940s dwelling was an architectural masterpiece. The post-war building boom featured a variety of mid-century manufactured homes such as the Aladdin Kit Homes and others in single-story arrangements. Traditional ranches and tract homes also shared in the neutral range of colors. Exteriors of the 1940s were typically light and earthy, with tans, beiges and other brown hues. The clean blank slate of white was a common color of this time along with bright brick reds as accents.
Whether you are looking for an oak brown or a grayish blue, many companies that manufactured paint and built homes during this period have long gone out of business and so have their basic color hues. If you are looking for a modern day version of a 1940s palette, try a historic edition or collection of paints from a contemporary company such as California Paints. This company's mid-century modern color palette features earthy neutral tones from the 40s with titles such as Casablanca and Wonderful Life.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images