It's a gentler year for color. Bright orange, canary yellow and strong reds have dominated the home décor palette for the past few...

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It’s a gentler year for color.

Bright orange, canary yellow and strong reds have dominated the home décor palette for the past few years, but those shades are starting to show a softer side that yearns to be paired with neutrals.

“In 2006, we were all so infatuated with color,” said Michelle Lamb, senior editor of The Trend Curve, a color-trend newsletter. “Neutrals are always there. The X factor for neutrals is balance — how much is color, how much is neutrals. The balance shifts this year back in the direction of neutrals.”

Balancing with neutrals

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As store owners and designers return from major home trade shows and their showrooms embrace new hues for spring and summer, expect to see more neutrals than before. Experts say they are the best option for balancing out the trend toward softer pastel shades.

“(Pastels) can get a little cloying if you use just soft colors all the time and you don’t do something that brings a neutral tone into them,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “One of the best neutrals as far as current neutrals and into the future is neutral gray.”

But according to the Pantone View Home & Interiors 2008 color forecast, released in mid-March, muted tones will morph next year, exchanging sweet for more sophistication like a quiet, Chinoiserie palette influenced by the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Those colors include Muted Lime, Cameo Pink and Chinese Violet mixed with an antiqued Chinese Red.

This year, however, “personal” neutrals like complex creams, pinks, peaches and lavenders will be influential in the home. “Desert” neutrals like golds, khakis and grays will be more visible next year, Lamb said.


Here are some stores and resources that know color:

Seva Home: 900 Lenora St., Suite 116, Seattle, 206-323-9920,

Great Jones Home: 1921 Second Ave., Seattle, 206-448-9405.

Maison Luxe: 1123 First Ave., Seattle, 206-405-2828.

Pantone Color Institute

The Trend Curve:

In Seattle, neutrals have shown up at the elegant Great Jones Home showroom downtown. Last year, owner Carrie Hayden paired black and white with a vivid canary yellow. This year, she turned to a soft lilac for an edgier, fresher look.

“It has a French reference; it tied in well with [the movie] ‘Marie Antoinette,’ ” Hayden said. “We’ve done a lot of walls in that color, and it pops darker tones of wood.”

Gray’s the thing

For the less trendy, keep your home modern by buying major pieces in gray. Pair it with clean whites or creams to highlight the neutral tones, and add sophistication with mirrors and mercury accessories.

Curiosities that have been popular, like coral and shells, work well with the color scheme, Hayden said.

Graphic touches like a zebra-striped hide ground the quiet color pairing. People who get depressed by gray Northwest winters should probably avoid it on walls, however, Eiseman said.

Blues, browns and whites

If you’re seeking a more classic organic color scheme, stay away from traditional green and brown and instead try seafoam blue mixed with browns and khakis, such as a grass cloth wallpaper, Hayden said.

Textured whites also remain strong, and Kelie Grosso, owner of downtown Seattle’s Maison Luxe, is mixing nubby linens and white crocodile with dove gray and vivid aqua blues.

“We all need a breath of fresh air from the winter,” Grosso said. “Everybody’s getting tired of the heavy colors.”

Though Seattleites are comfortable with deep, earthy colors, others are moving toward icier blues and graphic items in black and white, said Steven Sickenberger, who is in design and sales at Seva Home in Seattle.

“White is becoming a really popular color for accessories because it pops in a room and pulls everything together,” he said.

For a quick color update, try these tips:

• Add an organic look to the master bedroom with grass cloth wallpaper.

• Modernize your living room with zebra-striped pillows.

• Lighten up a room that has intense color with white accessories.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or

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