By Andrea Lillo
NEW YORK–Consumers in the past embraced the boring b’s: beige, brown and blue. Fast track a few decades later, however, and colors are everything but boring as they insist on exciting choices.
From the smallest gadgets to large-ticket sofas, home furnishings have gained a spectrum of color over the past few years as consumers have no qualms with being adventurous with color in the home, as a reflection of their lives.
“Consumers are more color-savvy and therefore more demanding,” said Margaret Miele, color psychologist for the Fashion Institute of Technology. “A populous that was once characterized as chromo-phobic is now much more chromo-philic.”
Americans are now more open than ever and are asserting their “individuality,” Miele said.
That includes home furnishings, across all categories.
Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, points to lighting and lamps as an area that has “gained so much more attention because of the inventive use of color. Lamps were always one of the most colorless areas in home furnishings, with few exceptions, but today there is a much larger array and some are more like objet d’art.”
Meanwhile, the “explosion of color in home appliances large and small adds such fun,” said Jaime Stephens, executive director of the Color Marketing Group. “The remarkable technological advances in finishes and surfaces for flooring and fabrics and counters have given us a huge new range of color choices for the home—colors that change with the light as well as shimmering new whites.”
Color for the home is now “a way of life for people,” said Linda DeFranco, associate director of the product trend and analysis department for Cotton Incorporated. “Bright colors used to be used in a juvenile way, but now you see them used for refinement and beautiful accents. They’re not used in a young and kitsch way anymore.”
Companies also understand the “power of color,” said Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the U.S., which can “drive sales, generate differentiation for their competition and gain attention in a crowded marketplace.”
The changing U.S. population is also a factor. “The influx of immigrants from Latin, Hispanic and Asian cultures has brought their love of color with them,” Miele said. “As they assimilate, so do their preferences for food, entertainment and color.”
With so much recent attention on the environment, it’s not surprising that greens are an important theme in color, and the focus of “Paradise Lost,” one of forecaster Milou Ket’s six color groups for 2009. In this group, “We see the use of blues and greens of vegetation and deep oceans,” she said. “Some greens almost take the role of a neutral.” Other themes from Ket include the clean Scandinavian colors of her theme titled Nordic Light, global influences from such places as the Orient and Africa in her World Treasures group, and the feminine Sweet Memories, which has grayish, pastel colors. Ket also sees whites and vibrant yellows as important for a more modern approach, while blues will gain in stature as well.
In its just-released Pantone View home + interiors 2009 color forecast, Pantone highlights eight color palettes and 69 colors for inspiration. The themes include Wine Country, which has pastoral tones of taupe, olive and grapevine greens; Honesty, which has a recycled angle and include unbleached whites, clouded corals and tender greens; and Solar Energy, which embraces variations of mandarin and flame orange, along with a fuchsia-red and electric blue.
Harrington said that colors for both the home and fashion are becoming cleaner, and a “major shift has been away from lights and darks to midtones,” as well as less contrast between combinations of color. And “an increase in whites are stronger than ever.”
The Color Marketing Group also believes white is the hot color for this year, as it provides a background for decorating, and balances the brilliant hues of everything else, Stephens said. Besides white, CMG also sees prints that are big and bold or floral as making their way, as well as hot ethnic accent colors, the bluer pink such as raspberry and earthy greens.
Miele nominates red as “the color of the hour” though combinations are also important, including blue and white and black and white patterns, which were popular in the colonial homes of George and Martha Washington and James and Dolly Madison, and are making a comeback.
“While these patterns may seem subdued when compared to a Tuscan color scheme, it is important to remember that the patterns are busy, and especially for the black and white, the extremes of the values creates as much energy as any red,” Miele said.