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Then, Now & Forever Collection Highlight: Architect Cliff May

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Color can have the power to transport you to a different time. Each of the 142 historically accurate colors in our Then, Now & Forever Collection® were inspired by the architecture of the American West, and their accuracy vetted by Architectural Resources Group, a group of architects, planners, and conservators who believe in the value that history adds to modern life, and work specifically in preserving historic structures. One such architectural inspiration was architect Cliff May. May’s contribution to historic California architecture has lasted from the time he landed in Los Angeles in 1936 and carries on to this day, long after his passing.

A rancho style home exterior

A rancho style home exterior


May is known as father of the postwar era suburban ranch home in California, a dwelling type that is quintessentially southern Californian. In 1936, May arrived in Los Angeles and began building his residential designs, and by 1943 he became nationally known as custom designer of so-called California Ranch Houses. During that time, May also worked closely with Dunn-Edwards Paints; he even had his own color collection. It’s no surprise then that when it came to drawing historic color inspiration for our Then, Now & Forever Collection® we looked to Cliff May, and particularly, his correspondence records with the company (the collection of May’s papers, which includes his correspondence, architectural drawings, photographs and more, is housed at the University of Santa Barbara).

Cliff May Ranch home exterior

Michelle Qazi’s Cliff May rancho home


The correspondence reveals a 1955 custom collaboration between May and Dunn-Edwards that resulted in a soft, grass green paint color among many others. A similar green hue located in our historic color research was also uncovered in multiple other Mid-century era paint color references. As a historically accurate homage to May’s custom green collaboration with Dunn-Edwards we introduced Mow the Lawn (DET520) into our Then, Now, & Forever® collection. This soft green paint color pairs well with warm neutrals. The color’s name is a reference to the time, place, and context of May’s architectural designs, American suburbia. With more and more people migrating to the suburbs, post-war, the lawn mower quickly became a staple of Mid-century
suburban life, and of the American dream.

May’s home

Suburban lawns are a highlight of May’s homes


Cliff May Ranch home interior

Cliff May Ranch home designed by Rochelle and Doug Kramer


Like his historic paint colors, May’s ranch homes are also experiencing a revival. As the homes he once designed get scooped up by new buyers on the real estate market, many are getting modern makeovers. Fittingly, Dunn-Edwards has had the opportunity to again grace the walls, halls and exteriors of a number of Cliff May-designed residences. Homes like this one owned by 6th and Detroit Founder Michelle Qazi, and also this Long Beach, California home revamped by real estate agents and Cliff May enthusiasts Rochelle and Doug Kramer.

Curious about the inspiration of more of our historically accurate Then Now and Forever ® paint
colors? See which colors were influenced by the by the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

Images by and with courtesy of Bethany Nauert Photography