1980s: Primarily bright
After we were done hibernating in the earth tones of the 1970s, we looked toward brights and primaries to wake us back up in the 1980s. Cobalt blue, lacquer red, and sunflower yellow dominated over white backgrounds, while neon pinks, teals, and purples glowed in the dark, glossing over any negativity with a consumer-ready optimism.
“More than anything else, in the ’80s, we are seeing a huge boom of consumerism, really guided in by the onslaught of new TV programming,” says the designer Sophie Collé. “Americans especially are spending money like never before. We see bright colors creep into TV, sports programming, and advertisements. We also see bright colors on TV echoed in real life, and vice versa. I think bright colors can definitely be a shield from a lot of sad and scary things happening in the world! In general, design thrives on income inequality, and colorful or not, these trends have a way of hiding real issues going on in society.”
1990s and 2000s: And it was all yellow
The interior colors of the 1990s and 2000s varied widely. Some of them went for understated, relaxing neutrals, while others unapologetically played with bright, energetic hues. Yellow, in particular, was especially emblematic of the sunshiny optimism and excitement for the future that came to a head at the start of the new millennium. Since then, people have shied away from painting their walls such an assertive hue.