Interior Color Trends

By Tim Wright, Editor | March 29, 2010

More than ever paint companies must serve a diverse palette of color options.

Interior Color Trends & Forecast

More than ever paint companies must serve a diverse palette of color options.

By Tim Wright, Editor

Every year color experts at paint companies develop color trend forecasts for consumers and industry. There are many variables that affect the direction of design and color. Trends develop over the course of time. Demographics, changing consumer desires, social and economic changes and technology all converge, or come together, to influence color themes.

When it comes to designing interior living spaces color is arguably the most important aspect of an interior design scheme. It helps coordinate all of the design elements together to create one mood that is trying to be captured in a particular space.

Nothing changes a room faster than color. Especially during hard economic times with an unhealthy housing market. Regardless of the purpose, a fresh coat of paint remains one of the most economical ways to change our living environments.

Color trends for 2010 take inspiration from a variety of social and economic influences. For this year’s article, Coatings World asked a panel of experts to address the key trends influencing color design at the moment.

What does color mean to you as a color design professional and to consumers?

Debbie Zimmer, director of communications and alliances, Paint Quality Institute (PQI), Dow Coating Materials: Color can be a catalyst for change or a backdrop. By simply changing a room’s hue, the mood of the space can be altered. Consumers either embrace color change or are fearful of it. They need to be reassured that their choice will work in their space. This applies to both those that change hues often and those that may change color with the change of the decade.

Photo: PQI
The Paint Quality Institute’s Good Morning palette offers color recommendations including honey-like hues such as Tan or Pale Gold, Coral, Yellow and Mineral Grey. “With consumers continued desire to create both warm and functional spaces the Good Morning palette consists of hues that are fresh, clean and comfortable,” said Debbie Zimmer, director of communications and alliances, Paint Quality Institute (PQI), Dow Coating Materials.

Mary Lawlor, color stylist for Kelly-Moore Paints: Color is very dynamic. It is essential in our lives and does more than just beautify. Marketers have tapped into the power of color to sell their products and services. The consumer can be manipulated into buying products when marketers team known color appeal with demographics. Con­sumers look at color as a representation of who they are. They will have little difficulty selecting a color for their cell phone case, a relatively low cost item, but when tasked with selecting a color to paint their home, they experience great fear. They fear making a mistake they will not be able to live with.

Sue Kim, color trend and forecast specialist, Valspar: Colors are visual and environmental essentials that express our life style. Valspar consumers often share their life stories with us and ask which colors would be best to capture moments. As a color expert, I feel the same way but I’m in the position to see the emotive side of colors and provide the best option for each consumer.

Maryellen Mantyla, director of marketing, California Products Corporation: Color is the consumer’s way to take control of their surroundings. From the clothes they wear to the color of their iPods, color truly reflects the consumer’s personality. Paint color is no different. It allows a consumer to take control of a design project and showcase their preferences with permanence—displaying their personality on a larger scale.

Richard Prime, communications manager, NCS Colour AB: Color is an incredible tool for a designer. It’s probably one of the only aspects of a design or project that can be translated to the viewer, audience or market in seconds, which is often the amount of time it takes for a customer to make a buying decision. I’d go as far as saying it is the single most important aspect of the design process for anyone wanting to create a commercially or critically successful item.

Dee Schlotter, brand manager - The Voice of Color, PPG Pittsburgh Paints: Paint used to be all about function and quality and a little about decoration. Now, especially for the consumer, it is all about color. When consumers think of how they can transform a room wall color has the power to do that. The right color can have an emotional reaction and stimulate the senses.

What are the trendsetters influencing color today?

Zimmer, PQI: Color trending is driven by a number of influences including pop culture, the economy, along with technology. For example, given today’s economy and the state of real estate, many homeowners are freshening a space with a much more neutral scheme, with an eye towards resale.

Photo: California Paints
California Paints’ partnership with Historic New England has resulted in a newly developed exclusive historic color palette focusing on the authentic colors of the 20th century and will be released this April.

Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: Color trends are the result of very careful observation of what is going on in our world including social, technological and economic issues. There are several global organizations that track color trends. I am a member of the Color Marketing Group, an international organization of color marketers who meet twice a year to track color direction. While consumer demand and the designer both influence color direction, sometimes it is a matter of marketers predetermining a palette of colors that are utilized by various manufactures in varying industries. This ensures color coordination for consumer and commercial goods. Prior to the recession, color trends changed rapidly. While color still remains a very important determinant in a purchase today, manufacturers are selecting from palettes that will enhance their existing products. This versatility is key to profitability and salability.

Karen Warman, marketing manager, Resene: We are seeing paint colors extend beyond painted walls and more into being part of a broader solution. For example complementary surfaces such as laminates, home furnishings and flooring actively offering recommended color schemes that include paint to help customers put their look together much faster. Consumers are increasingly expecting suppliers to give them a more holistic solution – i.e. how does your product/color fit into a total look for me, rather than just one company selling one portion.

Kim, Valspar: First, color trends are a reflection of where our consumers are and mapping out where a majority of them are driving. I find color trendsetters in furniture or interior décor industries but more often, I find our consumers inspire each other. I love navigating blogs and pictures of everyday people with keen eyes and creativity showing more appealing color designs. We are a creative generation that seeks personalization around us. As a color designer, I capture the movement of colors based on the macro trends that impact our consumer—housing, education social conscience. For 2010 color trends, Valspar shared four trends that reflect what’s on our consumers’ mind. The key word is “transition” and reflects back into outrtimeline and sets an ideal picture forthe coming years. Valspar’s Vintage Romance and Retro Retreat collections show the bridge colors from the past. On the other hand Watercolor Impression and Peaceful Ambience paint an idealistic picture of the future.

Mantyla, California Paints: Color is about trends, but also authenticity, and technology. It is important for us at California Paints to make sure all fronts of color are covered. Working with London-based Global Color Research allows us to stay on top of all influencers of future color trends. In addition, our partnership with Historic New England has resulted in a newly developed exclusive historic color palette focusing on the authentic colors of the 20th century. We feel it is important to pair our color matching technology with organizations that have passion and expertise in all aspects of color.

Million Euro Investment in new technology By Evonik

In developing custom-designed color solutions for customers in the global paint and coatings industry, color accuracy is the first priority—but speed is also of the essence. Evonik’s Colorants Product Line is now responding to customer demands for an increasingly shorter time to market by means of a million-euro investment in high throughput experimentation (HTE) technology. This highly automated experimentation at its Maastricht facility to service its global Colorant business, will increase the quality of the results as well as reduce the development time for colorant design. Apart from greater flexibility and quicker results, HTE technology offers the additional advantage of further improvements in product quality.

Prime, NCS Colour: There are a number of key influences in terms of color trends. Number one is still fashion, which influences the rest of the creative industries and indeed the tastes of the consumer. Granted there are always brands and individuals operating outside of these areas but they have niche markets, which can be difficult for an outsider to access. That said, in terms of individual trends I would say that surface texture is important at the moment, with designers exploring the inherent beauty of a raw material. I’d also say that accent colors are quite pure and chromatic at present, while fruity, natural colors are popping up everywhere but used as accents against the raw natural materials. There’s a certain fresh, airy color palette in design, which is appealing to the eye and the consumer that allows them to get their splash of color without being too over the top. Let’s not forget that trend colors are not usually used as the main color block in design, fashion or architecture as people still find color a little scary in the design community and especially architecture which still clings to its monochromatic roots.

How do color trends differ in terms of working with interior versus exterior space?

Zimmer, PQI: Interior colors are much easier to change and therefore change more regularly. Exterior changes occur over a longer period of time. How often do homeowners change their roof color, which makes up 30% or more of the total exterior space. The biggest pop of color change a consumer can make is probably to their front door—a great spot to change with the seasons.

Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: Interior color trends change more frequently and offer a wider array of colors. Exterior trends tend to be more steadfast and limited to a neutralized palette. Exterior colors need to work well with existing elements in the natural surrounding as well as with neighboring architecture. In the Western region of the U.S. with a lot of exterior stucco substrates, recent color trends have been very colorful. Color combinations of yellow, golds, tans, terra cotta, reds, olives and blues are commonly used on commercial properties. New home communities have also become more colorful, incorporating very deep and dark earthy colors on the exteriors.

Warman, Resene: Exterior colors are tending to remain neutral, though there has been an increasing use of darker finishes and blacks. Part of this is technology driven with new substrates that can cope with darker topcoats and new paint technology, such as Resene Cool Color technology, that enables the coating to reflect more of the sun’s energy keeping it cooler than a standard color.

Kim, Valspar: Traditionally, there are two different mindsets when it comes to interior and exterior space. For interior, it’s a personal story where we want to express who we are in full. So the colors are diverse and expressive on many levels. For exterior, there is added the anchor of being a good neighbor and the exterior colors are like a family picture for everyone to see. So color selections are more cautious and more regionally appropriate. However, with outdoor living trends and consumers’ love of green garden space, we have pushed interior colors to the outdoors. Outdoor furniture and décors are becoming more interior inspired.

Photo: Valspar
The living room wall above is painted with Valspar’s Mint Whisper, part of the Watercolor Impression collection of colors. Other color collections in Valspar’s most recent color trends include Peaceful Ambiance, Vintage Romance and Retro Retreat.

Mantyla, California Paints: Color combinations—interior and exterior—are what our customers are requesting. Both bold and monochromatic schemes are still the trend for interior and exterior projects. Exteriors utilize brighter cleaner whites while interiors showcase more neutral whites with a tendency to go gray. Interior neutrals are all the rage while the definition and range of neutrals has changed dramatically. Darker shades of gray, beige and tan once considered accent colors are now universally accepted as neutral.

Prime, NCS Colour: Trend colors are still used as accents. With exterior color you also have to consider that you are stating your color taste or style to a wider audience whether you want to or not. So there is a tendancy to be a little more understated in this arena. You also have to think about the fact that, outside, colors change in perception. In daylight, an already bright color can often be perceived as blindingly chromatic so some of the brighter trend colors will not be so suitable as they will become too bright to appreciate.

Schlotter, PPG: Interiors can go much more bold with color choices since it is easier to paint interior spaces. Exteriors tend to be more classic and conventional since we only paint exteriors every 10-15 years.

What are today’s “hot” colors?

Zimmer, PQI: Yellow and grey. Yellow for optimism and grey as a fresh and new neutral.

Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: When looking at colors for the home, we are seeing that the consumer has developed multiple color personalities. Sometimes they want the security of the safe and traditional neutral with a little chameleon quality to it. We are seeing a shift in neutrals from the popular tans to warmer grays. The consumer will also have a strong desire to incorporate cleaner, brighter colors that offer a sense of honesty—colors like turquoise and copper.
Warman, Resene: Inside, while neutrals are still very popular, bold colors are also widely used for features complemented with accents of strongly patterned wallpaper.
Kim, Valspar: Sea Kiss is part of Valspar’s 2010 Color Trend called Watercolor Impression. As we look forward to upcoming years, there is desire to start fresh, a new beginning. Water is a source of life and the start of spring. This clean blue with a hint of turquoise is great to define the positive attitude for coming years. Today, we also see more neutrals and gray-based colors. Also the refined classic colors that are familiar with deep rich tones will take center stage.

Prime, NCS Colour: Right now I would say that those natural fruity, pure colors are strong. But I would also say that many people are picking a single color family and experimenting with lightness and darkness. Tone on tone color blocking is popular coming from the fashion industry and brands like Lanvin and Acne. In design, I believe we’re due a trip back towards washed out minimalism with earthy or dusty monochrome tones. Creams, leather tones, really rich colors and materials, which will be tied to modernistic and art deco shapes. There are indications from Acne, the Swedish lifestyle brand, how this will develop. My colleagues and I are really excited about its forthcoming collection, which is revisiting the designs of Carl Malmsten. The advanced images that have been leaked out have got a lot of folks very excited indeed.

Schlotter, PPG: The biggest color is grey but paired with a bright yellow, deep pink or off-white. Grey’s current popularity comes from fashion, the state of the economy and wars, which are very serious issues that cause serious colors to reflect them. PPG’s Forsythia Blossom is a bright yellow that counteracts that seriousness with a splash of fun and happiness.The other big color this is year is PPG’s Sea Sprite, which is a green/blue that is gorgeous on the wall.

Photo: Kelly-Moore
This ultra formal living room has a dash of the unexpected placed behind the sleek entertainment area. Kelly-Moore’s Trim HL4241-1 Stocking White; Wall 1 HL4263-3 Hammered Pewter; Accent Wall HL4204-2 Martini Olive; Ceiling HL4257-2 Land Rush Bone.

How important of a role does color play in the overall design scheme?

Zimmer, PQI: Color sets the tone for the design scheme. Is it a whimsical space, a place of refuge or does it need to be warm or functional?
Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: Color plays a very important role. It can change a look from cold and dreary to warm and fun. Generally speaking, one needs to select the items with limited color availability for their space first, and then add in other items with greater color availability to coordinate the scheme. Generally paint color is the last decision due the enormity of available selection.

Warman, Resene: Most customers seem to want to fit-in with the outside world and will paint their house to fit-in with the neighborhood, but are happy to be much braver inside and use their favorite colors that are more reflective of what you might find in their wardrobe. Because the interior of a house or a feature wall or two is so much easier to paint than the outside of your house, customers are less risk averse when choosing colors inside.

Kim, Valspar: Color sets the mood for every room and captures a family’s style. When we think about overall color and design scheme, our consumers often determine what colors define the mood of the room before they start looking for furniture or curtain style. The color defines the space and confirms the mood of the space.

Prime, NCS Colour: Color plays a huge role in the overall design scheme. It can influence mood, create themes, tie things together or make focal points. If you use it cleverly and are not afraid of it the results can be incredible. It can last in the mind for longer than any other design expression.

How comfortable are consumers with the color selection process?

Zimmer, PQI: Consumers remain apprehensive about color selection. It continues to be an area that many struggle with and in some cases, prevents a homeowner from making a room change.

Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: Many a consumer has gone to the paint store thinking they knew the exact color they wanted only to discover it looked totally different once it was painted on the wall of their home. This can make the consumer very fearful of selecting color for their home. Consumers have asked for a few things to help them with their decisions including larger color samples, the ability to recolor an image of their home on the computer and wet samples to apply to a wall. All of these are available from most manufacturers today.

Warman, Resene: Many consumers seem to have lost their confidence with colors. As color has become more and more a design feature, customers often feel their project needs to make a strong color statement and we often employ someone to assist with this rather than go with their gut feeling on what colors would be right for them.

NCS Colour AB Launches Exterior Color Collection

Exterior coloring is a difficult area of expertise. With many variables to consider before even embarking on an exterior coloring project, mistakes cost both time and money, which is why the color experts at NCS Colour AB (formerly known as the Scan­dinavian Colour Institute) in Stockholm, Sweden have introduced the NCS Exterior Color Collection. The kit features a special collection of NCS colors chosen for their suitability in the exterior environment. The NCS Exterior Color Collection offers a range of 322 colors specifically selected for exterior use, based on the firm’s wealth of renowned expertise in this specialist area. The collection includes extra-large color samples, ideal for surface analysis. These samples also include lightness and reflection information (NCS v and Yl), also known as LRV. The color tool comes in a stylish box for storage, which can also hold separate samples, available to order. In addition to the exterior set comes with an informative brochure on exterior coloring, including handy advice and tips for successful color design.

Kim, Valspar: There are certain groups of at-home design divas, both male and female. They are very comfortable with colors and experiment with colors. These consumers who reach out to me are successful selecting one perfect color for them and need help for other harmonious colors for trim, ceiling, door or adjacent rooms. Less sophisticated consumers need color suggestions from the start. Their expectation on color advice is for a color designer to narrow down the color selection process and leave some room for them to have a chance to select the final color.

Mantyla, California Paints: Consumers are looking for useful color tools that showcase real color usage. Color combinations are important as well as real use photos showing featured combinations are helpful for consumers to gain confidence in their color choices. Mini decks or smaller color selections like California Paints’ Historic and 20th Century Colors of America collections help consumers zero in on a color family more easily. Larger-sized single color chips are becoming the usual request from consumers.

Prime, NCS Colour: With the web, people are opening up to taking control of design. We’re seeing lots of enquiries from companies wanting to customize the NCS Navigator right now so their customers can explore color for themselves.

Schlotter, PPG: Consumers are not comfortable with the color selection process. They need help with what colors go great together. PPG has the Harmony program which offers color in context—five colors on a paint swatch—colors that can be used for paint, flooring, fabrics, window treatments and carpet so consumers can be sure all their colors work well together.

How about behind the scenes? What is happening in the R&D lab on the color development front?

Lawlor, Kelly-Moore: We have been working closely with our pigment suppliers to produce zero-VOC colorants that will ensure our low- and zero-VOC products remain so once tinted in fashionable colors. We’re already using zero-VOC colorants in the factory and anticipate using them in our stores very soon. These reformulated products have caused problems for tint machine vendors who are addressing these issues. We have also been working on heat reflective pigments for our products. These pigments are intended to keep buildings cooler in warmer climates. The color range for these types of pigments is limited, and tends to be light- to mid-ranged earthy colors. We're also focusing more on bright reds and yellows with high exterior durability. This will allow us to produce more fashionable exterior colors that will not fade rapidly.

Kim, Valspar: My interaction with R&D is to develop colors that are new and appealing to our consumer based on the color trends I see for coming years. When I need to communicate the emotive side of color, the R&D lab makes it possible with their scientific side of color.

Mantyla, California Paints: At Cal­ifornia Paints, our color lab is one of the busiest places in the building. We are always working on new ways to bring high quality color solutions to our customers. Over the last three years we have been very focused on offering our dealers the most revolutionary colorant system on the market. Our Trillion Super Strength Colorant will be released in May 2010 and is imported from Europe exclusively for California Paints. Due to its super strength intensity, less colorant is needed to achieve opaque, enriched color.

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