Every winter, the world’s design authorities share their color choices for the upcoming year. One of the top firms in this space, Pantone, is naming two for 2021: A vivid yellow called Illuminating (13-0647) and Ultimate Gray (17-5104). What difference do these color declarations make? Simply put, they’re the colors you can expect to see well-represented across a wide range of products, from fashion to beauty to home decor.
Since color scientists point to the importance and influence our environmental hues have on our well-being, Pantone’s 2021 Colors of the Year 2021 announcement is an opportune moment to look at where and how you might want to use its two selections and, perhaps more important, where they might not work as well.
Here’s how Pantone describes its COTY pair for home décor in its announcement release: “Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a great combination to set the mood in any room in the home adding a dose of sunshine and positivity.” But should you really use both in any room? Color scientists suggest this is probably not the best idea.
Experts attribute happiness and optimism to this primary shade and point to its associations with sunshine. However, in its brightest tones, (like Illuminating), yellow can also cause irritability, they report.
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Some great places to include it are hallways that don’t get enough natural light, breakfast rooms and kitchens. Some places to avoid it include large-scale bedroom applications – especially nurseries, since babies can be particularly color-sensitive.
If bright yellow is a must-have for your own bedroom, consider using it for a small accessory, like a vase, accent pillow, planter or throw, rather than for an entire set of bedding, a wide swath of draperies or wall paint.
Bright yellow can also be an appealing background for your Zoom meetings or video projects in a home office, but if the room gets extensive sunlight, its intensity can create a feeling of overheating.
Pantone suggests that Illuminating “heightens awareness and enhances intuition, lighting the way to the intellectual curiosity, originality, and resourcefulness of an open mind.” While being potentially accurate, its irritability factor may also exacerbate work tensions. Keeping it as a background, perhaps as an accent wall behind your webcam view, rather than slathered across the wall you gaze at while working all day, may be the more wellness-inspired option.
Since yellow works well in breakfast rooms and, in many cases, kitchens, Illuminating can be a fun choice for countertop appliances, table linens, dishes, cookware and décor items. These can provide a festive element to typically neutral big ticket kitchen elements like cabinetry and appliances, and complement the greys and whites often selected for marble look counters and contemporary wood or tile floors. Yellow also contrasts smartly with stainless steel.
Pantone describes Ultimate Gray as a “firm foundation for Illuminating,” meaning a cool grey space sparked with bright yellow accents. Cool grays have grown extremely popular in recent years for wood (and wood-look) flooring and cabinetry, as well as for the veins in marble-inspired countertop styles.
Thousands of kitchen cabinets are now topped by marble-look quartz or porcelain slabs that look like real stone, but offer fewer maintenance requirements. In this application, the grays are accents on a white background, so less impactful than a row of cabinetry or roomful of flooring in the same tones.
The Ultimate Gray selected by Pantone for 2021 is somewhat lighter than the saturated shade often chosen for upscale, traditional dining rooms, libraries, living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. That lightness helps a room feel more casual than serious, making it a healthy choice for living spaces, bedrooms, even offices, and allowing a neutral palette for the sunny accents of Illuminating — or for your own long-time personal favorite accent color.
After all, there will be a different COTY for 2022 and comfort and joy, the fifth facet of wellness design, means personalizing a space for your delight.