Even now paint charts for colonial-style paints virtually always show the colors from the period as muted. In fact, colors were actually nearly always quite deep and sometimes even startling. The richer a color you could get, the more you tended to be admired. For one thing, rich colors generally denoted expense, since you needed a lot of pigment to make them. Also, you need to remember that often these colors were seen by candlelight, so they needed to be more forceful to have any kind of impact in muted light.
Bill Bryson, At Home* quoting Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon curator
*In the chapter "The Stairs" which also explains my propensity for falling down them.