Explore paint colours through centuries

Today’s post is about adventure and journey. But I want to take you on a slightly different one. A journey through the time and colour evolution in our homes.

It was believed that Romans were the first to introduce colour into their homes until archeologists revealed in 2010 that it was actually the Neolithic men back from 5000 years ago who started to decorate their Stone Age dwellings with colours. The evidence found discovered that people decorated their homes in bold colours such as red, yellow and orange using pigments from ground minerals to brighten up their interiors. Even pattern started to appear in form of chevrons and zig-zags.

Fast forward 2000 years and you land in Roman time where paint colours were experimented with. Used predominately on walls and ceiling the painted designs were complex. The colours were mostly red, black or white which formed the background that was decorated with hand painted architectural or vegetal details. By ca.54 the colours were warmed up a bit with soft yellows and beiges forming the backdrop for methodological scenes in pastel colours. These were drawn or made from various resources available at that time including  burning pine chips (black), cinnabar (red) or mixing and baking sand with copper (blue).

By the 15th century not only pigment paint was used to decorate the interiors. Materials such as wood and decorative panels were covering the walls and ceiling to bring in texture and pattern. The first evidence of wallpaper was also seen in single decorative sheets designed to be as stand-alone or part of a small group.

The colour palette also grew dramatically with the influence of famous artists and painters who started to use mixed oil paint. Red, blue and yellow where accompanied by browns, greens, white and black. Early wallpaper designs from mid 18th century also shows dark colours such as dark blue, grey and ruby.

Clearly wider colour palette gave more opportunity for pattern designs. Towards the end of the 19th century wallpaper was used in large palaces but also in Victorian townhouses. Some designs were more geometric such as pink and being stripes, others were more exotic such as jungle themes with monkeys, birds, exotic flowers and plants.

Little Greene Paint has a range of periodic colours which they researched and identified with English Heritage as typical in that particular era. Let’s have a look at them closer starting with the Georgian time from 1714.



As you can see the majority of the colours are pretty neutral with pale blue and hint of dark rich green. But in the next period there is a slight change. The colours seem to be more richer, fuller, deeper. In Victorian times a new set of colours shifts the interest away from neutrals.






Notice how completely new hues are being used from the 1950s onwards. They are much more bolder, brighter colours yet some of them are soft pastels. This trend progresses into the 1970s.



Pantone, the world renowned colour authority, started to release their colour of the year from the Millennium onwards. It sets the trend for any creative industry being graphic design, fashion and interior design. It’s very interesting how, when you look at the progress through out the years, the colours are kept very rich, bold and bright.



However, this year’s colour called Marsala is heading in completely different direction. It’s an earthy, red wine / burgundy colour which I think goes really well with pale blue. I would also pair it with teal and gold.


Pantone suggest some colour combinations how you can mix Marsala with other colours as you can see below.


I wrote about Marsala earlier this year where I created a moodboard of a living room with this colour as accent and as feature. Here’s the reminder below. For the full article click here.

Marsala accent colour in living room Karolina Barnes


living room with marsala Karolina Barnes



The most fascinating thing I discovered while researching colour evolution in our homes over time is how we started with very earthy colours provided by the Mother Nature, went to neutral and dark colours but then embraced really bold, bright and cheerful colours before taking a completely different direction this year and possibly some years ahead. Dulux, for example, predicts that “future will be black”. I can see this already happening with black being used in our interiors as a backdrop or accent. I’m not sure whether I’m converted yet though.

Are you?

Karolina Barnes Studio

Credits:  Little Greene Paint (visit their website to see the full details of their colour chart) / Pantone
PS: I think that Little Greene Paint is very good quality and I really like the colours they offer. I’m just in the process of specifying a colour scheme with Little Greene Paint so stay tuned!