The Iconic Colors of the 1950s Then and Now

The 1950s were a spectacular time for color. For the first time ever, paint colors were available in any hue. Looking back, the combination of in-your-face colors comes across as a bit garish. Creating contrast between colors was the goal, after all. A handful of hues became known as iconic colors of the 1950s due to their popularity in interior design.

Pastels and deep hues alike were popular, punctuated by the much more subtle, relaxed palette of Scandinavian Style. The kitchens and bathrooms of the 1950s were focal points in the house for bringing in fun colors.

Mamie Pink iconic colors of the 1950s bathroom

Mamie Pink

Mamie Eisenhower wore pink throughout her husband’s 2-term presidency. Constantly. Her favorite hue was quickly popularized, particularly in interior design ranging from a soft baby pink to a deeper magenta color.

The Mamie Pink Bathroom was incredibly popular but has since come under controversy. We advocate for embracing a pink bathroom, of course. Often grey tiling or paint offset the overwhelming pink situation. However, sometimes you would see turquoise or mint green as the complimentary color alongside the pink, the goal of the combination of course being crazy contrast.

Unfortunately, Mamie Pink isn’t as celebrated today. The color makes an appearance in current designs primarily on small accessories, typically more of a pastel pink and often accompanied by a metallic finish. You’ll still find the color easily accessible due to the ongoing revival in MCM design. Case in point, Benjamin Moore’s Pink Flamingo paint is very popular at present.

Turquoise one of the iconic colors of the 1950s


One of the more iconic colors of the 1950s, turquoise was the hue of many a kitchen Formica countertop. It was not uncommon to see turquoise counters, cabinets and even appliances in the same space, though often the color was juxtaposed with another to create eye-popping contrast.

Turquoise is still popular today, making an appearance in smaller doses, such as on small kitchen appliances and decor. The odd turquoise chair in a living room mixed in with neutral pieces would provide subtle, more contemporary pop of color.

Chartreuse Couch and Carpet popular MCM colors


This color gets its name from a French liqueur. The bright yellow-green of chartreuse is a hard-hitting hue that was very popular at the time. Interiors of the time certainly took it over the top. Chartreuse carpeting or walls paired with chartreuse furniture used to be a perfectly acceptable interior design combination. It was especially common in the living room, a space made for entertaining.

We’ve since realized that eye fatigue will result from overuse of such a bright color. Today, a pop of chartreuse in a single piece of furniture or on accessories is a brilliant way to incorporate the still relevant color without making your guests regret agreeing to drinks at your place.


MCM Fire Engine Red Appliances by Big Chill

Fire Engine Red

Popularized by diners, hot red made a big appearance in interior design, especially in kitchens, which were often designed to resemble diner restaurant interiors. The candy-coated red appliances of the era have staying power and are highly collectable pieces if found in decent condition today.

In addition, kitchen appliance companies like Big Chill and Smeg maintain a line of retro-inspired refrigerators, ovens, hood vents and dishwashers so you can get the look today but with built-in modern conveniences. We’ll gamble that fire engine red will never go out of style.

Mint Green

The fresh but soft hue of mint green was very popular during the 1950s, though often used in the 1930s and 1940s as well. The color is truly resilient. Mint Green is very popular today due to the current MCM trend. It is not uncommon to see mint green walls in present-day designs. The color often comes up in contemporary accessories, especially paired with metallic colors at present.

Crazy Yellow 1950s Kitchen


A shock of sunshine yellow was always welcome in a 1950s home. You hardly see this color in interiors anymore, even in restaurants. Pale yellow was also a popular color for wall paint, fashion apparel and on/in cars at the time. Softer, subtle yellows are the way to go in present day. Pale yellow often reads as farmhouse in style. Choosing the right furniture, MCM for instance, will reduce the farmhouse effect.

Baby Blue Kitchen cabinets in Mid-Century Modern home

Baby Blue

Although Turquoise and Mint Green seem more iconic of the times, baby blue did make a splash in iconic colors of the 1950s in a big way. Baby blue was also very popular in kitchens on cabinets, tile and countertops. The color is still in use today, albeit typically in décor and paint for baby boy rooms.


We’d love to hear if you’ve used any of these iconic colors of the 1950s in your home. Share how you’ve incorporated these MCM hues in a comment below!

Inspired by these interior design colors but need the right canvas? Get in touch today, our realtors are excited to help you find your dream home.

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