History and Color
Whether it’s appreciating the best of Mid-century modern architecture at Palm Springs Modernism Week, or the re-emergence of maximalism and Victorian design sensibilities, we all know that color can define a design. Color has the ability to transport you to a different era. That’s why Dunn-Edwards created our Then, Now & Forever® Collection, a paint collection totaling 300 colors, 142 of which are historically-accurate and 158 of which are trending today. Each of the 142 historically-accurate colors were documented by architecture of the American West. To make sure of this color accuracy, we worked with Architectural Resources Group (ARG) — a group of architects, planners, and conservators who believe in the value that history adds to modern life, and work to vet each paint color.
Historically Accurate Paint Colors
To curate our Art Deco-era colors, one architectural icon of the American West we looked to was San Francisco’s New Mission Theater. “The Art Deco era stood out to me the most,” says Dunn-Edwards’ color expert Sara McLean. The Art Deco-era colors had particular significance, given their association with the start of a new century. Through methodical work, ARG pulled colors by carefully reviewing historic color cards and testing architectural resources chiseling and pulling samples from the theater. McLean worked closely with ARG to ensure each paint was truly historically-accurate. ARG’s samples were matched to Munsell Color System color chips, after which, Dunn Edwards’ color lab created paint formulas for color expert McLean to have the final say on.
Historic Colors of The New Mission Theater
The New Mission Theater may have originally been completed in the Beaux Arts style in 1917, however, in 1932 it underwent a redesign in the Art Deco style by prominent Bay-area architect and interior designer Timothy Pflueger. The New Mission Theater is one of a handful of early 20th-century theaters in San Francisco, and after languishing in graffiti, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema restored it as a working movie theater in 2015.
When it came to naming Dunn-Edwards’ historically accurate Art Deco colors, McLean notes, the era known for its excess afforded a lot of fun.
The theater’s Art Deco paint scheme was a warm one, with shades of gold, orange and brown playing against a soft pink. An amber-infused orange shade of paint which was found in the theater’s interior, was recreated as Dunn-Edwards Cognac (DET464). The name serves as a nod to the liquor-soaked roaring '20s that ushered in the gilded Art Deco age, particularly the cognac-based Sidecar, one of the era’s most popular libations.
Another interior paint color found by ARG was a soft, misty pink. This tone was re-created and named La Vie En Rose (DET416), an homage to Edith Piaf’s popular eponymous song of the day.
Another color, a midtone bold yellow, was found within the New Mission, as well as a number of other California theaters of the same era. The historically accurate color, Gatsby Glitter (DET496), is inspired by opulence of the era and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel.
While the lighter shades punch up the space, they all play against the unifying rich brown neutral of Mayan Chocolate (DET693). Found in the theater’s interior, this color is as much a reference to the Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican motifs and shapes that inspired architects in the Mayan Revival of the '20s and '30s as it is a tribute to the birthplace of chocolate.
For more background on how multiple styles in the American West have informed the colors in the Then, Now & Forever® Collection, take a look at our guide to Beaux Arts, Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture. Learn more the architecture which inspired the collection like the homes of Cliff May and the historic Mission Inn.
Images courtesy of Architectural Resources Group (ARG)