6 Retro Color Trends That Are Making a Comeback

Retro color trends

Illustration: The Spruce / Photo: Jo Walker / Instagram

Let's throw it back—way back—to colors that transcend the neutrals of today and are starting to make a much-needed comeback. Since trends are cyclical, it was only a matter of time until colors from decades ago began popping up in homes again.

Some of these colors are bold and bright, providing a fresh change in quieter interiors. The borderline neon hues and playful tones of the '50s and '60s (like chartreuse and orange) have stopped by for an appearance and to helpfully punctuate a room that's feeling drab. Colors like mauve and ochre feel more grounding, but bring a layer of interest that's the perfect happy medium between too bold and overly monochrome.

We spoke to designers to find out which retro color trends are emerging in homes once more.

  • 01 of 07


    Lavender office space

    Will Brown Interiors

    There are two retro colors that Will Brown of Will Brown Interiors has noticed are stepping back into the spotlight. "The funny thing is, I was around the first time these were popular in the early '90s and I used them to great effect on much of my design work then and I'm enjoying their comeback now," he says.

    The colors he's watched jump back into the picture are lavender and sage. "The lavender herb is known [to have] calming properties, so it's no wonder that the color equivalent of lavender would find its way into today's decor," he notes. "Whether you tilt the hue toward a more muted or pastel value, it works so well as a neutral, replacing the eponymous gray that we've kinda had enough of, I'd say."

    If it's not directly incorporated into the decor or textiles of a room, lavender is a great substitute for other popular paint colors on walls and ceilings.

  • 02 of 07


    Sage green wall and throw blanket

    House Nine Design

    Similar to lavender, muted, peaceful sage green is seeing a boom in popularity again. "I think we're seeing green having a strong presence generally in trends," says Brown. "Hues of celadon, sage, mint, and even olives are all greens having a retro-current moment."

    This tone also has a calming herbal equivalent, known for being a plant of renewal. "The sage herb is literally used to clear stagnant air in rooms and I use this clearing technique when applying feng shui principles to a space I design—an energetic cleanse," he says.

    Blankets, throw pillows, and even a refurbished antique desk or side table are all nice ways of tying in the color, too.

  • 03 of 07


    Chartreuse and aqua bedroom

    Forbes Masters

    On the opposite end of calming hues stands those that energize and invigorate. Chartreuse is certainly in this category, and it just so happens to be having a moment, too, according to artist O. Stephanie Beverly, who is the owner and principal interior designer at Twelve 15 Design Studio.

    "Outside of fashion, I am seeing (and personally using) this color in interiors from a bold velvet chartreuse sofa to a pop of color on cabinets in a laundry room, to drapery," she says. "Not so surprisingly, this color also pairs well with other retro colors that are making a comeback including mauve."

  • 04 of 07


    Mauve office space

    Twelve 15 Design Studio

    Beverly has been noticing mauve taking a hold over rooms, too, in more ways than one. "I love how people are using this seemingly feminine color in bold, elevated, and unexpected ways," she says, explaining that both walls and ceilings are being painted in this subdued purple color.

    "I am wrapping up a home office project where I painted the entire space a deep mauve color and it evokes a feeling that can be calming and invigorating every time I step in the space." Hints of this hue can also be worked in through curtains, poufs, or even bedding if you're not quite ready for the plunge into all-purple.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07


    Orange room with plants

    Twelve 15 Design Studio

    A third retro color Beverly has noticed making a splash in interiors is orange. "It's known that the color orange represents warmth, sunshine, and joy," she explains. "I am seeing this color, much like chartreuse, being used with interior fabrics like drapes and throw pillows, and of course paint."

    Though it's commonly used for accents, people shouldn't be scared of making it the main focal point—which includes using it on walls. It's bright in its own right but is a surprisingly versatile color when sharing a room with other flashy hues.

    "I painted my living room a deep orange and it pairs so well with the other pops of colors like my sunflower yellow drapes and fuchsia curio cabinet," she says. It's welcoming, playful, and serves as a fantastic tone that works well in boho spaces and modern rooms alike.

  • 06 of 07


    Wallpapered room with ochre bed frame

    Shawna Underwood Interior Design

    Bright colors and tones are often associated with maximalism or more eccentric and colorful styles, but some have a magic power of sorts and uniquely feel earthy despite being brighter than the average beige. One such color is ochre, and Shawna Underwood, the founder of Shawna Underwood Interior Design, is happy to see the resurgence of this shade in homes.

    "The golden tone color coordinates beautifully with neutrals and can also make a bold statement on its own," she says. "Try using ochre on rich velvet or textured linen for a timeless look."

  • 07 of 07

    More Chartreuse

    Chartreuse chair in corner

    Jo Walker / Instagram

    When colors are mentioned more than once by knowledgeable designers, it's clear that a trend has formed and will have staying power. Leah Alexander, founder of interior design studio Beauty Is Abundant, also recognized the renaissance of chartreuse, noting that it's "re-emerging in new, sexy sheens and shapes."

    Paint and wallpaper are both fun ways to bring it, but for a major refresh, there are more creative ways to incorporate the yellowy-green shade, whether structurally or accent-wise. "We’re using a chartreuse stacked subway tile as a kitchen backsplash—with green cabinets no less," says Alexander. On top of tiles, she says, "Acrylic chartreuse coffee tables, side tables, and decorative objects have also been catching my eye these days."