Muted Heathers, Bold Mood Busters, Techy Blue: Decoding the 2021 Colors of the Year

Each year, experts at Benjamin Moore, Valspar, Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Pantone, and others release collections of colors to represent the upcoming year.

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Pantone’s annual Color of the Year announcement is always much anticipated, but what about the others? First Valspar announced its 2021 Colors of the Year,  a selection of calm, quiet, muted, even dusty colors. Then HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams announced its 2021 Color Collection, a brighter, bolder, even daring palette. Next came Dutch Boy Paints, which unveiled its selection of Earth’s Harmony—a vivid, soft blue, as its 2021 Color of the Year. Pantone released its Color Trend Highlights for 2021, which includes bouquets of floral tones, and more vibrant, saturated palette. Why such a broad range? We consulted with Lucy Penfield of Lucy Interior Design for some answers.

“Color is truly on our horizon,” she says. “We’ve been in the grays, whites, even blacks for a while now. With their 2021 selections, the color predictors, including Benjamin Moore, Valspar, and Sherwin-Williams, are conveying the message that color feels good and we should be bold and daring enough to make color our own.”

The Valspar palette is all about how we’re feeling in a pandemic with uncertainty all around and winter here to stay, Penfield says. “The muted, heathered colors are about wrapping ourselves up in a soft blanket. The colors are cozy, misty, comfortable, dusted. They’re natural colors that invite and console.”

And the daring and bold HGTV Sherwin-Williams tones? “To me they say, ‘Toss your trends by the wayside and feed your soul,’” she continues. “These colors are mood busters and spirit lifters. We’re not leaving our homes, so paint the walls whatever color you want. Let your personality shine.”

Penfield loves that “Passionate” is the HGTV Sherwin-Williams 2021 Color of the Year. “Deep red consoles you. It’s like love. This is the color that conjures feelings of family, your friends—who and what we hold dear to our hearts.”

Back in 2019, WGSN, a London trend-forecasting company, predicted a color called AI Aqua as the 2021 Color of the Year. The bold liquid blue, inspired by the blue light of our screens and the advent of 5G, was described as a “‘positive’ hue, that is ‘both sporty and trend-forward,’” wrote Dezeen. Penfield found the color “super surprising and shocking,” but still a blend of the ocean and earthy minerals that bring good luck—like turquoise, she says.

The color proved prescient, as technology is what’s been connecting all of us during the pandemic—from FaceTime calls and Zoom meetings to podcasts and videos we share. “That blue also reflects how the sky connects us all,” Penfield adds, “and how natural wonders like the ocean balance out the techy aspects of that crystalline blue.”

As for WGSN’s Color of the Year 2022? It’s a deep, rich gold, reflecting “an attitude of positivity in tough times and a desire to indulge in small luxuries.” And that’s something to look forward to.

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