Move over Classic Blue

By Amelia Bell on

...There’s a new guy in town (and he’s brought a friend).

The experts at Pantone have done it again. In fact, this year they‘ve done it twice.

The start of 2021 brought the announcement of the Pantone Colour of the Year and, for only the second time in its 20-year history, the world-renowned institution has declared it a shared accolade; two complementary colours that work hand in hand, giving us light and shade, hope and fortitude, in a year that is set to bring challenge and reward. Introducing: ‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’.

Okay, so grey and yellow aren’t exactly new colours to a lot of us. The classic magnolia walls have been replaced with varying gradients of grey, whilst sunny yellow has been a go-to accent colour for soft furnishings since 2016, but Pantone have put their unique spin on the colours and created a partnership of shades that work effortlessly in the home, but perhaps it’s the message behind them that’s even more important this time round.

Pantone Color of the Year 2021

The colours are chosen by a panel of experts at the USA headquarters to represent what is seen as the twelve months ahead – the driving force here is of course COVID-19, the pandemic that has impacted all corners of the world. Laurie Pressman, Pantone Colour Institute Vice President, expressed how one colour just couldn’t do justice to the life-moment we are in, and that something as prevalent as COVID needed two stand-alone colours to come together, reflecting the Corona-coaster we are still very much living through this year.

“In any given year, there are certain things that may influence the decision more than other years and, with that, COVID certainly had an outsized role in what’s taking place in the world,” said Pressman. “We had an idea where we wanted to go with the colour, but as time went on it became abundantly clear.

"Here we are in our lives; everything is altered. Our mindsets have had to completely reset to what is taking place. I think as a result of the pandemic, we moved to this slow life from a fast life. We moved to less, not more, local creativity versus efficiency, quality versus quantity. We sat and we evaluated our lives. And we re-evaluated what was important to us because all of a sudden our life became very limited.”

The blend of yellow and grey is such an easy one on the eye and indeed the soul. There is no fighting between hues and you can match almost any shade of each to the other. You can stylishly pull out a bit of a geometric-retro feel if that’s your vibe, but my word does the colour combo make for a gorgeous country-chic kitchen too. A backdrop of grey is so versatile, adding a warm comfort to a room without the starkness of white and, by injecting flashes of yellow, you can create a contemporary colour palette that’s easy to live with and won’t go against the grain of the existing interior.

Having said that, you might go bolder than most and make yellow your headline colour, toning that down a touch with neutral greys where appropriate. Yes, for all the practical and delightful design reasons, we do love this year’s Pantone selections, but the reasons behind these colour choices run much deeper than that for us.

Pressman went on to say: “If we’re looking at Illuminating, you’re looking at uplift and optimism and positivity. And yes, we absolutely need that, but is that enough? Do we need more? And then you look at the grey colour, it’s all about resilience, it’s all about something that’s been able to stand the test of time. It’s all about solid and dependable. You can be strong and determined, but if you don’t have a positive outlook, how will we get to this other side? So, it’s really, to us, this combination of strength and hopefulness, endurance and uplift, resilience and positivity, thoughtfulness and forward thinking.”

Powerful stuff, and it’s not just in 2021 that the guys at Pantone nailed it. Year after year they have brought us thought provoking colour choices, often focusing on the environmental or social issues of the time. The stunning Living Coral of 2019 and 2017's Greenery were both strongly influenced by the climate crisis, whilst a new shade of bold red was launched in September 2020 to highlight the stigma around menstruation.

Props to Pantone, flying the banner and banging those drums, paving the way in fashion and design, but more importantly, reflecting the mood of the masses, and trying their best to uplift us all.

Okay, we know that two colours aren’t going to change the world. We wouldn’t dare be naïve enough to think that a shade of yellow is going to solve our sorrow and some grey walls in our house are going to help us feel strong enough to bounce out of bed each morning, because sometimes all the colours of the rainbow couldn’t paint a smile on our faces. And that's ok.

What the Pantone Institution has done is give us easy options. We are all juggling life, work, families, sadness, FOMO and a myriad other issues which have been highlighted by the 'rona, but, by adding something colourful and beautiful to our homes we can feel comforted and joyful in our surroundings, and a little bit of joy goes a very long way. As the saying goes, you only need one light to brighten the dark, and that light could well be 'Illuminating'.

The uncomplicated combination of yellow and grey is a trusted one and with Pantone’s endorsement it is the partnership that you can depend on to just simply work.

So, whether you’re going for a lockdown overhaul of your interior, or just wanting to inject some fresh design appeal to your home, use these two carefully selected colours as your inspiration. From behind the grey clouds comes the bright sun, with strength a new hope will blossom. Thanks Pantone, you’ve smashed it again.

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