Soft colors, pastels gain ground

The Kansas City StarJanuary 23, 2013 

Hard times call for soft colors.

Although Pantone recently proclaimed Emerald its gem of 2013, American paint companies chose soothing pastels as their go-to hues for the new year. For Sherwin-Williams it’s Aloe, a minty green with a 1950s-vibe. Benjamin Moore selected Lemon Sorbet, a citrus shade slightly brighter than cream that also has a nostalgic look.

“Now we yearn for colors, designs and simplicity of the past,” said Sonu Mathew, senior interior designer for Benjamin Moore. “It’s not only a softening of the palette, but a softening of the lines in design. There’s more tactility in fabrics and surfaces. We’ll find things that shimmer and shine next to things that are dead matte.”

So perhaps “contrast” should be the design word for 2013, because it applies to texture and color. These pastels won’t look wimpy.” They’ll be paired with edgier brights and deep saturated colors. Lemon Sorbet with peach and raspberry, Mathew said.

“It’s this partnering of extremes that catches our eye in 2013.”

Color trends in recent years have seen richer, darker, more saturated and jewel-toned colors on walls and in furniture, as well as in accessories. 2013 will see additional lighter pastels.


The thought behind the color: Yellow always has represented optimism, “and as the world seems to be gradually turning the corner on recessionary times, this whispery tint of the color is timely and evocative of the uptick,” says Sonu Mathew, Benjamin Moore’s senior interior designer.

This shade of yellow works as an economical neutral.

“We are certainly redecorating, but in smaller ways,” Mathew says. “We are celebrating the idea of reusing or reinventing what we have rather than starting from a completely blank canvas.”

How to use it: Mathew says those who want to repaint should create a palette of three to five colors for their home, and allow one or two colors to take the lead in each room or space. Many rooms can be Lemon Sorbet, which can serve as a backdrop for striking color.

Or, in a gray room, Lemon Sorbet could be used on the ceiling for an unexpected punch. It also could be used to paint chairs, tables or bookcases for pops of welcoming color.

Best bet: The kitchen

Other good spots: Dining room and playroom

How Kansas City designer Lisa Schmitz is using Lemon Sorbet: “We are currently working with a color palette containing a soft yellow like this,” she says. “While Benjamin Moore shows it as the main color in rooms, we are using it as an accent with warm gray and muted gray-purple. The soft yellow adds brightness without being too bold.”

Schmitz says the room will include yellow draperies against sophisticated gray walls, and wing chairs in stripes of yellow, gray and cream. Metals of antique brass and bronze continue the balance of warmth against the cooler gray. The softness of this palette remains a somewhat neutral background to a bold art collection.


The thought behind the color: Green is the most abundant hue in nature … the human eye sees more green than any other color in the spectrum, says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

“Emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world. This powerful and universally appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors.”

How to use it: Mostly as an accent

Best bet: Feature wall in a living room

Other good spots: Entryway, dining room or study

How Kansas City designer Lisa Schmitz would use Emerald: “This is a bold color,” she says. “Painting the inside backs of built-in shelving would be a great pop, setting off pottery and books in white. A room painted this color would be fabulous.” Fresh and sunny with crisp, white furniture and contrasts of cobalt blue. Or a dramatic powder room in high-gloss emerald green.”


Yellows (such as Lemon Sorbet) go well with greens and oranges. Blues and yellows — complementary colors — create a classic interior combination for an upbeat, fresh environment.

Green (such as Emerald or Aloe) is often used like a neutral color to balance a room since certain shades of green can go with almost any other color. BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO A SHADE

1. Grab a stack of paint chips from the store and take them home with you. Fan them out and weed out the ones that don’t appeal.

2. Stand in the mirror and hold paint chips near your face. Some, especially those with too much blue, don’t complement skin tones.

3. Buy a sample can and paint a test board. Move it around the room at different times of the day to make sure it’s what you like.

Source: “The Color Scheme Bible” by Anna Starmer (Firefly Books, $19.95 for 2012 softcover)

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