Traditional Mid-Century Paint Colors (for Cars)

When I found out that the 1956 Ford Thunderbird paint colors were the inspiration for the modern paint colors of one of my favorite modern lights, I started thinking, there's a whole set of people as obsessed with mid-century paint colors as mid-century housing fans: classic car fans.

It took me a little while, but I found where they're hiding all their mid-century color pallettes: The DuPont Historical Color Chip Library. You can search for nearly any year or model and it will give you back the mid-century color chips for that car. For example, the 1952 Cadillac color chips:

I think this could be a really helpful tool if you're looking for mid-century exterior colors. Not that houses and cars were painted exactly the same colors, but they'll give you a good idea of the general color palettes and color trends of the time.

And the right set of mid-century paint chips might give you a good set of similar colors to play with, like the blues on this 1955/1956 Chevrolet set:

Reproduction Art Deco Door Knobs

I've mentioned the art deco door knobs in our mid-century home.

Sure, it's mixing time periods a bit, but with all the clean lines of mid-century, it's nice to throw in a little elegance and flamboyance in the mix. All the interior doors in our mid-century ranch have these art deco door knobs. I know they're not original to the house (I'm pretty sure they were put in sometime in the '90s), but I still love the look. And you can get the look too with these reproduction art deco door knobs.

From Rejuvenation

From House of Antique Hardware

Suburban Mid-Century Paint Colors

Sherwin-Williams has the Suburban Modern line of paints as part of their Historic Collection. This mid-century modern color palette comes in both interior and exterior shades.

Sherwin-Williams explains the entire Suburban Modern line:
The optimism that followed WWII is reflected in the colors of the era. Bright, clear colors made a strong and upbeat statement that went hand in hand with the clean, simple lines of the mid-century modern homes springing up in suburbs throughout the nation. Offset the rich ambers, avocado greens and inky blues of the Suburban Modern Palette with neutral tones and aluminum or stainless steel accents for a sleek, contemporary style.
The interior Suburban Modern colors
With clear, cheerful colors, the 1950s exhibited a new American outlook. The exuberance showed up on the walls as striking shades like chartreuse and organic shapes like boomerangs.

The exterior Suburban Modern colors
The war was over and Americans were ready to settle down and enjoy the simplicity and prosperity victory had brought. Homes became smaller, more alike and more easily produced. And the brighter, sunnier colors they were painted reflected a newfound optimism.
The interior color palette is a little bright and pastel for my taste, but I can see a lot of them working as a highlight or accent colors.

Mid-Century Furniture Rentals

YEAH! rentals have a great business idea, and a cute ad.
YEAH! rentals is a boutique event rental company based in LA that specializes in mid-century modern, industrial, southwestern and native american pieces for events of all kinds.

Starting a business like that is good justification to buy everything that I want at an estate sale. Hmmmm.

Eichler Tear Downs

Mid-century homes and Eichler houses make a guest appearance in this NPR report on housing in California. I don't like the statement that homes built after the war need to be torn down, they don't. I live in one, and with some upkeep and a little luck it will still be standing long after I'm not. But if they are going to be replaced, I'm glad to hear it's with something that's in the same vein, stripped-down modern, and energy efficient. And I'm glad to hear the Eichler homes are still considered sacred by some.

Mid-Century Paint Matching

If your spouse/significant other isn't a graphic designer, you might not know the name Pantone. And even if they are, you might be surprised to find out that Pantone has a line of paints.

For those who don't know Pantone, they are, in their own words, "the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries. The Pantone name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer."

In understandable terms, they're a color matching system, a dictionary for colors. When people say "purple" they can mean all sorts of shades, but if someone says Pantone purple, they mean this:

And if they say Pantone 253 they mean this:

It's a very slight shade shift, but when you're telling a printer across town or a manufacturer in Japan what color something should be, there's no question if you're using Pantone.

So why is this important to mid-century paint colors? For a few reasons:

1) If you have a Pantone book, you can pretty easily match any unknown paint color in your home. Which is great news for those of us with a Pantone book and a house that has walls that were last painted in the 1950s.

2) Say you want to paint your wall the exact shade of aqua sky as your Eames molded plastic chair.

Well, because Pantone does plastic colors too, aqua sky is also known as Pantone 14-4811

Purchase that shade of Pantone paint and you'll have a perfect match.

You can match all your mid-century paint colors here, on the Pantone paint color selector.

Mid-Century Modern Lighting Replacement

I haven't given up on finding a pair of reasonably priced Moe Light Honeycomb tangerine-gold pendants, but if I ever do, I think the Rejuvenation Corona pendant light would make a perfect modern light substitute. And while I'd personally go with orange, there are plenty of great modern color options available.

The Corona is based off of a truly mid-century pendant light, the EJS Lighting Fiesta (boy, that name sounds familiar).

From the Rejuvenation Corona page:
Ever heard of EJS Lighting Corporation? Neither had we.

Then we acquired a 1959 catalog from this Los Angeles manufacturer and realized that not only did they offer an astounding array of awesome mid-century modern lighting, but we had quite a few of their original fixtures hanging around in our product archives. The EJS line included hip hourglass chandeliers, classic pull-downs, elegant Swedish-glass shades, and the iconic "Glow-Bal" sphere pendants - but it was the Fiesta series that really caught our eye with its distinctive cylinder-in-a-cylinder design, mix-and-match color palette, and creative configuration options.

Modern Bathroom Sconces

The next item on our to-do list that I'm planning on tackling is replacing our master bathroom mirror-side lights, so I went on the hunt for modern bathroom sconces. I thought I found the perfect chrome wall sconce right away, at Home Depot.

I bought two of them and started installing them. That's when I remembered it's always good to measure before you buy things. The hole in the wall for the electric box/wiring is 5" wide, and this particular modern bathroom wall sconce is 4.25" wide. In theory, I could patch part of the hole to make it smaller, but that would mean a lot more work and repainting the whole bathroom because we don't have the master bathroom paint color (the old owners painted it).

So the hunt began, and I thought I'd share what I found.

The Essex Bathroom Light

The Maxim Lighting Silo Wall Lamp

The George Kovacs Cubism Collection Wall Sconce

The Kenroy Home Mezzanine Sconce

The Sea Gull Lighting Bliss Light

The Alico Industries Moderno Bathroom Light

The Hinkley Ashley Sconce in Chrome

The Ellery Single Bath Light

The Kichler Lighting Cylinders Bathroom Light

The Murray Feiss Riva Bathroom Light

The Lite Source Wall Lamp

But in the end, the winner was: The Hinkley Midtown Wall Sconce

They're on their way now and I'll be sure to share before and after photos once they're installed.

Mid-Century Austin Estate Sale: 11601 January Dr.

It looks like there's some well-loved Broyhill Brasilia furniture for sale at an Austin estate sale this weekend.

They even have a Broyhill Brasilia Manga dresser.

And it looks like there are some other mid-century goodies to be had.

Here are the details:
11601 January Dr.
Austin, TX 78753
Feb. 17: 10am-2pm
Feb. 18: 9am-3pm
Feb. 19: 2pm-5pm

More Mid-Century Stock Art

I mentioned using CSA Images stock art as mid-century art the other day, but I forgot that they already have a partnership with French Paper, so you can buy decor-a-boards and posters (like the one above, which used to hang in our bathroom). French Paper also has free CSA images, if you print them on French Paper, which might be cheaper than buying your own stock art.

I have to say, the decor-a-boards look pretty sweet for only being $14.

Vintage Ads for Mid-Century Stains

I mentioned Cabot stains back when I wrote about mid-century paint colors for Eichler homes. And I recently ran across these vintage ads for Cabot, featuring Joseph Eichler and Eichelr homes.

The ad reads:
[Cabot's Stains]
"...go on better, look better, and last longer than any other stains"
...says Joseph L. Eichler
Leading Western Builder

This ad reads:
Stain... or paint?
Often a new home is simply painted with no consideration given to staining. Experienced builders find it pays to know the advantages and limitations of each... the effect, performance, and cost on wood surfaces inside and outside the home. Cabot's Stains, for example, answered all requirements for the home shown at the right. Here's why more and more builders are specifying...
Cabot's Stains
  • Economical — 1/2 the cost of paints.
  • Require no priming coat; are easier to apply and maintain.
  • Need no thinning; surfaces need no scraping or sanding.
  • Trouble-free — no cracking, blistering, or peeling.
  • Penetrate deeply, dyeing and preserving the wood fibers.
  • Enhance the beauty of the wood grain; leave no brush marks.
  • Offer unique color effects in a wide color range.
  • Grow old gracefully, may be stained or painted over later.
For best results, the best in Stains...
Cabot's Oil-based or Creosote Stains.

And this ad reads:
Cabot's Ranch House Hues®
Endorsements from leading builders such as Mr. Eichler are your assurance that with any Cabot product you get the finest quality, greatest economy and longest life.

Cabot's Ranch House Hues
  • cost only 1/2 as much as paint
  • won't crack, peel or blister
  • are easy to apply and maintain
  • give years of protection
  • can be used on all types of wood — siding, shingles and trim
  • need no thinning — no priming
  • need no sanding — no scraping
Choose from 18 modern colors — many exclusive with Cabot including Alcazar Brown, Mariposa Redwood, Mimosa Yellow, Spruce Blue.

A quality product from Cabot Laboratories
...manufacturing chemists since 1877

Mid-Century Stock Art

With a day job as an advertising copywriter and a wife who runs a graphic design studio in Austin, CSA Images being available on iStockphoto is big news.

Quick definitions for those of you who might not be advertising nerds: CSA Images is, according to their about us page:
Considered one of the world's leading modern design resources for the creation and preservation of print and pop culture. CSA Images capture the authenticity and detail of hand-drawn illustration, and digitally preserve the legacy and artifacts of ink printed on paper. CSA Images contain tens of thousands of illustrations and design elements, including icons, ornaments, patterns, borders and illustrated words.
And iStockphoto is one of the least expensive, royalty-free stock image sites.

So why should the mid-century design world care? Two reasons: 1) Hopefully vintage and modern design store advertising will get a lot more interesting and 2) While not being the cheapest pieces of mid-century-style art, CSA Images are pieces of art. And with over 5,000 CSA Images available for use, you might be able to find something for that blank spot in your hallway.

FYI: iStock licenses allow for "Prints, posters, stationery items and other reproductions for personal or business use (but NOT for resale or license)."