2021 Colors of the Year

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2021 Colors of the Year

Towards the end of each year, some companies forecast what colors will be most popular in the design world in the coming year. These colors cover a gamut of design – from trends in fashion, art, graphic design, and entertainment industry. They even take into consideration environmental influences around the world and the cultural moment we’re currently in. Experts land on these colors after months of research, travel, and trend analysis.

The Pantone Color Institute was one of the first companies to create an annual color of the year. For 2021, they selected two colors instead of the typical one: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.

Illuminating     Ultimate Gray

Two other companies that establish a Color of the Year are Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore. Both companies not only select a Color of the Year, they also create palettes of other colors that work well with their main color choice.

Pantone 2021 Color(s) of the Year

According to Pantone, these “two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to support one another . . . Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating is one of strength and positivity. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly.”

While complementary, these shades are quite different. Ultimate Gray is “emblematic of solid and dependable elements,” according to Pantone—like pebbles on a beach, rock formations, and other natural elements that can stand the test of time. This color “quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness, and resilience.” Meanwhile, Illuminating is a bright shade of yellow that captures a sense of vivacity, warmth, and power.

What These Colors Mean for 2021

The folks at Pantone were feeling optimistic when they chose these two colors. While they knew we needed a sense of dependability after the tumultuousness of 2020, they also felt like we needed a sign of hope. That’s what they believe these colors will represent in 2021: Fortitude and happiness; Dependability and hopefulness; Strength and joy.

How Some Designers are Using Illuminating and Ultimate Gray

Look #1: Sophisticated and Cheerful

One designer interviewed said: “Yellow can be seen as a youthful color, but I wanted to make it feel a bit more sophisticated. This shade of yellow is very bright, cheerful, and energizing. But, because of its boldness, it can easily take over a room. So, I wanted to balance it with navy blue, a more subdued and grounding hue.” This designer went for more classic furnishings while keeping the overall space colorful and cheerful. Since the yellow is so bold, she kept the patterning very simple so nothing would clash for attention in the space.

Look #2: Bold and Moody

Another designer interviewed wanted to capture the energy of this color throughout the space, while only using the color itself in a small area of the room. While he wouldn’t recommend using Illuminating as a color for a full wall (it would be far too intense), he did have fun placing it in an unexpected accent area—the interior of the archway. Painting an archway is a great way to bring in a bright and bold color that you may not want to commit to on a whole wall. The overall vibe of this space is fun and moody, with the bold patterns and pop of yellow bringing energy and color throughout.


Look #3: Calming & Understated

You can also play Ultimate Gray up with lots of rich neutrals, like leather, deep brown wood, stark blacks and whites, and even some tans—embracing a neutral color palette, but creating a space with a ton of depth.

This space is full of texture but has a simple color palette which makes it very calming. Gray is an understated color—so by adding depth to it with other neutrals and textures, it becomes more of an integral part of the design instead of just another color on the wall. You can easily pair this with brighter and bolder hues. It has undertones of warmth, making it an excellent color choice for any style.


2021 Benjamin Moore Paint Color of the Year

The 2021 Benjamin Moore Paint Color of the Year is Aegean Teal. More subdued than what might immediately come to mind when you think of teal, this color is almost a robin’s egg blue.

Why Benjamin Moore Picked this Color

The team at Benjamin Moore wanted a color for 2021 that celebrates life’s simple pleasures. In 2020, we’ve all learned to find joy in small and mundane moments, and this color is the embodiment of that spirit. A blend of blue-green and gray, Aegean Teal has an interesting tone that helps create a sense of harmony, together with the other colors in their 2021 Color Trend Palette. According to Benjamin Moore, the 12 hues in the palette radiate warmth and wellbeing…which make your home feel even more like home.

What This Color Means for 2021

The idea behind Aegean Teal is one of comfort and presence. The color is balanced and deeply soothing, and is meant to nourish our spirits – which we can all use now – and bring a sense of brightness but familiarity into our homes.

How Some Designers are Using Aegean Teal

Look #1: High-Contrast and Curated

One designer interviewed elevated the shade of light blue, which can easily be written off as a color just for a children’s bedroom or a bathroom. She proved it could hold its own in a curated living room. For her, the design was all about creating contrast. A warm mustard sofa helped to offset the dominant cool tones of the wall color. By layering the space with art, objects, and furniture, she was able to create a curated take on the Minimalist Maximalist trend, but with a fresh and unexpected color palette.

Look #2: Youthful and Coastal

According to another designer, the color has a beachy and youthful vibe to it. He wanted to capture the fun and youthful energy of a teenage summer, so he also used shades of pink and other shades of teal which made it feel even more youthful. The use of blues and pinks also helped to contrast and create a pretty soft glow. Additional youthful elements were played up – things that a teenager or adolescent might be drawn to—like the canopy-esque bed and the trendy campaign-style nightstand. White and brass pop against the saturated color, making it even more vibrant.



2021 Sherwin-Williams Paint Color of the Year

Urbane Bronze, the 2021 Sherwin-Williams Paint Color of the Year, is a color that’s all about simple sophistication and a sense of tranquility.

Why Sherwin-Williams Picked this Color

Sherwin-Williams chose this nature-inspired hue for its energy and simplicity. As they noted on their website, “Now more than ever, our homes have become the backdrop to our lives, reminding us that the moments worth cherishing have always been right in front of us. As we’re looking to create the ultimate retreat for reflection and renewal, we’re turning to a hue whose natural simplicity and nature-inspired energy cultivate a sense of calm from the ground up.”

They also noted that, because of the way this color is rooted in nature (it has very muddy brown undertones) it goes well with foliage and other earth-toned hues. Sherwin-Williams feel Urbane Bronze “has a unique ability to ground a room through organic appeal. Whether it’s accentuating window trims or accent walls, this warm hue draws from nature for a feeling of relaxation and serenity.”

What This Color Means for 2021

Urbane Bronze—along with Sherwin-Williams’ other colors of their Sanctuary color palette, which is part of their Colormix® Color Forecast 2021—are intended to nurture wellness and calm. This can be done by pairing it with neutrals for a minimal and relaxing look. But, because of its undertones, you could also pair it with the bold room trend and pair it with saturated earth tones or jewel tones.

How Some Designers are Using Urbane Bronze

Look #1: Sleek and Industrial

One designer interviewed state that he was inspired by industrial spaces, like train stations, lofts, and factories, and wanted to incorporate that with metal and natural materials like marble and stone, but in an unexpected way.


This designer feels the color is inherently moody and industrial, and it leans slightly masculine with its dark hues. Since Urbane Bronze is ultra-saturated, he used furniture and decor that contrasted with and softened the color. The stone accents feel organic, and even the display cabinet has curvatures that soften the use of the material a bit. The white pops and the linen of the desk chair add a textural element, too. The chair feels feminine and soft in nature which makes this space feel more approachable.

Look #2: Organic and Modern

One designer said she loves the color because it has somewhat muddy undertones, which helps to craft an organic and nature-inspired space.  She used the natural and organic nature of this color to inspire the shapes and decor of this space. 

The designer played with the warm undertones of this dark and moody color when designing this bedroom. The combination of light and dark—light airy furniture pieces combined with earthy and natural materials such as linen, jute, sea grass, and wood – helped to offset the dark wall color.


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