Along with bleached cow skulls, Georgia O’Keefe repros and packs of faux coyotes, no self-respecting urban casita during the frenzy for Santa Fe style was complete without walls covered in Navajo White. Now that the mighty muted beige--the avocado/harvest gold of the ‘80s--has gone the way of all flash (though plenty of it lingers, which is more than can be said for Drexel Burnham Lambert or the films of Charlie Sheen), we asked some folks who know their paint to eulogize.
HOW POPULAR WAS NAVAJO WHITE? Everybody had it. It moved to the top of our exterior chart in the ‘80s, replacing Oxford Brown and Padre Brown. It’s what we call in the paint business a “dirty color.” It would go up and hide in one coat. It coordinated well with home fashions and other kinds of furnishings--in that era, almond appliances were popular. Navajo next to any of the other whites looks so dark. There are people who keep track of what’s going on who say it’s time to lighten up.--Donna Seaton, architectural division director, Frazee Paints
WHO HAD IT FIRST? About 1960, a contractor in Phoenix wanted an off-white. We came up with one that had a little touch of red oxide, yellow oxide and lamp black in it. The beauty of that particular color is that whatever you put against it, it worked. A fellow by the name of Charlie Stanbach named it Navajo White because of the Arizona connection. Swiss Coffee, another off-white that’s a little more on the tan side, is now our most popular color. --Ken Edwards, corporate secretary, Dunn-Edwards Paints
WHY WAS IT SUCH A BIG HIT? It’s a very nice, creamy, versatile off-white. Plus the name--the suggestion of being oriented to the Southwest. The general trend now is to choose off-whites that are more delicate, like Cameo Cream, Simply Neutral and High-Style Beige. Navajo White is not as much a ‘90s off-white, but an ‘80s off-white. --Linda Trent, color and design marketing director, Sherwin-Williams