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What’s the Deal with the ‘Color of the Year’?

Jan 18, 2021

What’s the Deal with the ‘Color of the Year’?

Jan 18, 2021

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

Do you know the color of the year for 2021? It’s hard to avoid hearing about it, if you’re on Pinterest. Or if you read hard-hitting Yahoo! News… But which color of the year matters? Pantone? Benjamin Moore? (Why would any color of the year matter – don’t we just pick colors we like anyway?) I fell down a rabbit hole with these questions last weekend, and the answers turned out to be pretty interesting. Here’s the scoop on the many different colors of the year for 2021, and how we might use them in our homes.

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pantone color of the year

What is the Pantone Color of the Year?

The ultimate color of the year is traditionally set by Pantone. Pantone is an authority on color identification, which matters for consistency across design industries. Each December, since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has named a color of the year for the upcoming calendar year. The featured color is meant to reflect world events and mood, and it’s highly anticipated in the world of design and by color enthusiasts, according to Pantone. (I had no idea that “color enthusiast” is a thing, but there you go.)

For 2021, Pantone named two colors of the year (gasp!): Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, which is a sunny yellow. The colors are intended to reflect steadiness and resilience (gray) as well as optimism and hope (yellow). Don’t those messages feel timely? I’m not sold on more gray, but I could sure use a dose of sunshine right about now. Looks like our spare bedroom is already on trend.

> Our Current House Tour – Work in Progress <

color of the year in our guest bedroom

Who Cares What Color is Trendy?

I used to think the Pantone color of the year was just a gimmick – you know, for color enthusiasts, like me. However, many industries look to Pantone to forecast consumer color trends. In effect, Pantone is actually establishing those trends – and that’s a lot of power to wield. Even if you think you’re not influenced by Pantone, the next time you want to buy a phone case or table lamp or even a KitchenAid mixer, you might be. Expect to start seeing Ultimate Gray and Illuminating across industries and in products. See them enough times, and you might just be influenced to buy them.

This is an interesting article about the surprising, far-reaching impact of Pantone’s color of the year.

Here are a few examples of Living Coral in 2019:

pantone color of the year living coral
> Image Source: 2019 Pantone color of the year, Living Coral <

Earthy Trends in Paint Colors of the Year

I also looked to the power players in paint to see which colors they’ve named for 2021. Unlike the Pantone duo, these paint colors feel nature-inspired and very soothing. It’s probably no surprise that deep greens are still popular, but warm neutrals and deep jewel tones are also in the forecast for 2021. Give me all the color!


Benjamin Moore’s color of the year is Aegean Teal 2136-40, plus a warm and earthy palette. Nailed it.

ben moore colors for 2021


Sherwin Williams chose Urban Bronze SW-7048, with two other coordinating neutral colors. They feel a bit tame if you ask me. Their website also chats about the trend of biophilia – human tendency to connect with nature – which is timely. I wonder why they didn’t choose greens?

sherwin williams color of the year


Designer paint company Farrow & Ball has chosen a palette of jewel tones and earthy neutrals to bring color back into your home in 2021.

farrow and ball colors of the year


My favorite affordable paint company, Behr, curated this collection of 21 warm and subtle colors to “elevate your comfort zone.” They know we’re stuck in our homes.

behr color of the year palette

I love love love these trends toward earthy colors. I’m debating where to add some green paint without redoing any recent work. Maybe I can work in some earth tones when we redo our “laundry hallway” – the wheels are turning now!

> Our Current House Tour – A Work in Progress <

Finding a Home for a Color of the Year

When you think about it, all of these chosen colors make sense. Pantone has selected colors to give us hope and stability, as we enter the dark days of winter. The paint companies encourage us to craft calm, cozy spaces with earthy neutrals and warm, outdoorsy hues. We need peaceful refuges now more than ever. As a newly-minted color enthusiast, I am here for it!

Do you feel inspired to paint a feature wall in your dining room? Or perhaps add a jewel tone to your kitchen island base cabinets? As I shared in this post about 2021 kitchen trends last week, colorful cabinets are making a comeback! If you love the Pantone colors for 2021, keep an eye out for more items like these in stores. I predict it will be an “illuminating” spring, this year.

And finally, this meme has been floating around the internet. Have you seen it? It’s fitting, but I’m glad the color of the year is not “mask blue.” Ha!

More DIY Inspo From List in Progress

list in progress projects

1 – 8 Upcycled DIY Craft Projects to Try
2 – Favorite Behr White Paint Colors
3 – Our New White Smart Thermostat
4 – How to Apply Gold Leaf to Glass Decor

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Hi! I’m Erin, a Colorado-based home improvement blogger and lover of all things DIY. I aim to inspire creative folks to tackle home improvement with confidence and style. READ MORE

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