Color By Decade: The 70s

Color By Decade: The 70s

Mark Chamberlain
Jul 21, 2011

I've been meaning forever to write a series analyzing popular uses of color by decade, starting with the 90s and working backward to the Victorian or Federal eras, but the prospect always seemed so daunting. Then suddenly last week the key to opening that door appeared before me: what better place to start than the perfectly accessible and iconic home of the Brady Bunch?

Sherwood Schwartz passed away last week—he, the creator of Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch, and the internet was lit up with discussions of the era. I even found a "blueprint" of Mike and Carol's split-level home in L.A.

And there it is in the first pictures, what I'd call the opening salvo in any discussion of the 70's palette: Harvest Gold, Avocado and Pumpkin. I'm an expatriate of 70s suburbia, and I came into cognizance when every hausfrau craved this color combo, especially in kitchens and especially the enamel stove. I wonder, did this palette exist so thoroughly in urban centers like Manhattan or Paris as well?

If I had to guess, this earthy triumvirate appeared as a muted antidote to the cupcake colors of the 60s, and perhaps in context these new colors read as "sophisticated." And before you start typing your comments, I know The Brady Bunch debuted in 1969, but that set changed over time and this palette is indelibly associated with the early 1970s, and there it shall remain.

To our 1970s palette, we should definitely add a brown, though it's not the wenge or espresso bean color in vogue the last few years, it should be drier and earthier. Part of me thinks also that once the disco balls dropped later in the decade, there should be a purple or a lilac added, but let's save that for the 80s. As I flip through old books on interiors, I see a lot of Emerald Green. And lastly, I wonder if we need a little cool Mary Tyler Moore Blue, or should we slot than in with Star Trek Blue and the 60s? You tell me.

Possible color matches: Benjamin Moore Marblehead Gold HC-11, Olive Tree 392, Pumpkin Spice 126, Whitall Brown HC-69, Brazilian Rainforest 651, Wedgewood Gray HC-146.

Images: Mark Chamberlain, from Interiors For Today, Whitney/Studio Vista; except Images 1 and 8:; Image 2, Apartment Therapy

Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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