Why It's Time to Retire This Whole Color of the Year Thing


It's that time of year again. No, I'm not referring to the season when cheesy holiday tunes start prematurely blasting through TJ Maxx (although I did experience that just a couple of days ago.) I am referring to that time of year when the ubiquitous Color of The Year is announced. Again and again. And again. 

This is not a conversation I generally participate in, ironic as that may be. The Color of The Year happens and I nod or shake my head, depending on the particular chosen hues, but continue going about my business. Because, honestly, it doesn't really matter. 

Yep. I said it. It doesn't matter. Not to me, not to you. Unless you are a color forecaster whose job it is to select these hues or are part of the marketing team of a major paint company. Then it matters. It gives you something to hang your hat on. And it has the potential to make lots of money. Let's face it - the Color of The Year is a big marketing gimmick. 

And why is that a problem?

It's not really. It just doesn't have much of a point. And it doesn't really help anyone with anything. I struggle to find a purpose to it all.

I'm not saying the Color of The Year is a bad idea. I think it's actually rather ingenious. It creates a lot PR buzz that lasts year-long...and then can start up all over again the next year. And the year after that....and the year after that...and the year after that. It can really go on forever because there are an infinite amount of colors that can be featured. (I think this is true. I might need a color scientist to step in here and correct me if I'm wrong.) But infinite, as far as you and I are concerned, especially if we're introducing just one color a year. This could pretty much go on forever.

So why does it need to be retired? A little strategic marketing never hurt anyone, right?

It's not that it hurts anyone. In fact, the crowning of a particular hue as the Color Of The Year can be validating. This year, with two whites (yes, I'm calling them whites because that's what they are), is EXTREMELY validating for gazillions of us. White has been making the decorating world go round for at least the past five years and arguably since the dawn of man. Or at least the dawn of paint.

And it may make some people very happy. "Yay! White! I love white. Now it's The Color of The Year! That makes me happy." And I'm happy for you. And I was happy when "your" color was chosen last year. And the year before that...and the year before that. And I was right there with you that year it wasn't your color, and you were very upset. I was upset, too. Then I had to ask myself why. I was upset because I didn't like it. And because I didn't think I would be able to use it. I was upset because I felt left out of the color party. Because the Color of The Year can be very ostracizing if you happen to be one of those people that just doesn't "get it." (You've been there, right? Hello, Marsala! For me, anyway. )

Before I am deemed a color forecast hater, I should clarify that I think color forecasting has a very useful place in this world. Color forecasters track the pulse of color trends over time and it's important information from a historical, cultural and sociological perspective. So I'm totally on board with general color forecasting. 

But the Color of The Year? Again, I struggle to find a purpose. Because what are we supposed to do with it? If a paint company calls out a single color as their favored hue for the entire year, what are they saying about all the other colors in their paint deck? And what if we just don't like this year's Color of The Year? Do we have to wait an entire year to see if we'll like the next Color of The Year before we paint our homes or buy a new sofa? Does this mean we'll be seeing more white, for example, in 2016? I'm not sure how that would even be possible. 

So maybe we can just do away with this whole Color of The Year thing and celebrate all colors, every year. Or at least you can celebrate the colors you love. Because when it comes down to it, it just doesn't matter. Let's have a color party every day that everyone's invited to. And Simply White, you can totally come, too. You can even bring your friend Alabaster.








Everyday Home Magazine: Paint Color Trends for 2014

Have you picked up your copy of Everyday Home? It's a new publication that just launched with its Spring 2014 issue. (Candice Olson fans will be thrilled because she's featured on about 25 pages!) And I'm thrilled because I got a little real estate in the article "Paint Color Trends for 2014." Big thanks to my design blogger friend Kristie Barnett, otherwise known as The Decorologist, for reaching out to me to for my color insight. If you haven't checked out Kristie's blog, you really need to. She does a lot of great work in Nashville, TN and specializes in staging, an art all in itself!

"I think, in general, we'll be seeing more saturated hues as well as deeper hues. Some of my clients have been asking me 'Can we go brighter? Can we go darker?' It's been catching me off guard, but I'm thrilled! After the past few years of playing it safe, there seems to be a movement towards bigger color. Color that really says something." - Kelly Berg, Story & Space 

You might recognize this bedroom. This photo has had some major mileage! I'm happy to see it published again, although every time I look at it I realize how much I need to get working on my current bedroom, which looks absolutely nothing like this right now.

Anyway, Kristie wrote a great article on paint color trends for the year, sharing her own insight along with mine and David Bromstad's. (I love being in great color company!) Now, if you've been following me for awhile, you know that my general perspective on color trends is that we really shouldn't worry about them when designing our homes. However, that's not to say that we shouldn't pay attention to them and that we shouldn't have a little fun with the "new" colors that we see each season, year and decade. It's important for me, working in color and design, that I understand color trends and am open to using "trendy" colors when appropriate.  And, to a certain degree, it's impossible NOT to use trendy colors in design. When we shop at home decor stores we are essentially shopping all trends, colors included. 

With that said, I do try to take a more philosophical approach to color trends, rather than focus on colors that are "all the rage" or "must haves". I don't believe that a color should be used in the home just because its trendy. There are other more important reasons to bring new color(s) into your spaces. But using color trend articles and insight like this is helpful for several reasons. 

First, we get to learn about designers' perspectives on the colors their clients are gravitating towards. Sometimes these colors will be very similar, pointing to a bigger movement culturally, as different colors have different symbolic meanings. A movement towards ravishing reds carries a very different meaning than a movement towards pale beige. 

Second, we also get exposure to differing color perspectives. While we may see huge similarities with some color trends, simultaneously we can also see smaller micro-trends that can vary tremendously both regionally and globally.What's popular in one region or country, might be quite a bit different from what's happening in another region or country, depending on the cultural, social and political influences at that time.

And, last... the super fun part of all this color trend talk? 

We get exposure to new ways of using the same old colors. Because really, no individual color is ever "new". There's no color that's "never been used before." No color that's "never been seen before." (Ok, maybe there is if we start to get super scientific...like the color of microwaves or gamma rays or something else beyond the visible spectrum, but we'll save that for another conversation. And I won't be leading it, so I'm taking volunteers. Anyone?) 

Color is all the same as it ever was. But maybe it's new to us, in the moment. And sometimes we need reminders to have fun with color again. Color trends can do that. And talking about color - keeping it at the forefront of our day-today conversations - is beyond important. It's what keeps color alive. 

If you need a color consult, I'm here to help.  Send me an email at kelly@storyandspace.com or give me a call at 650.867.3896. And I promise not to talk about gamma rays.