Yellow is having a moment, but many shades of it can be challenging to use successfully.
Yellow is prominent in the Sherwin-Williams color forecast for 2017, while Pantone’s 2017 color of the year, Greenery, is a fresh and zesty yellow-green.
“We haven’t seen yellow this popular since the ’80s,” says New York-based interior designer Young Huh. And in the months to come, she says, “we will see more and more of it as accent colors and as whole room colors.”
But while yellow is having a moment, many shades of it can be challenging to use successfully. We’ve asked Huh and two other design experts — Florida-based interior designer Andrew Howard and Kayla Kitts, managing editor of special projects for HGTV.com — to share tips on using this sunny, cheerful color.
Where to use it
A recent report by Zillow Digs found that homes with white-painted kitchens sell for $1,400 less than homes with yellow kitchens. If yellow walls seem like too big a leap, Howard suggests using yellow for upholstery and pillows or for kitchen cabinets.
Huh says yellow is also catching on for entries and hallways “because it makes these utilitarian spaces cheerful.”
Kitts suggests using yellow in “small, more compact spaces that you’re looking to make larger,” like a powder room. She also says you might want to reject some conventional wisdom that yellow is too bright and busy for a bedroom, especially if it doubles as a home office. A warm yellow can energize the space, while still feeling relaxing.
Howard suggests starting with a primary yellow and then bringing in other colors for balance: “A room that is yellow by itself will get overwhelming. It needs a blue or green or even a lavender to cool it down a bit.”
Huh is a fan of Pantone’s Primrose Yellow because, like Greenery, there is an acid element that makes the color more exciting and edgy. “It’s a color we see in nature, but in an electric way,” he says. “This is not your grandma’s yellow. It’s fashion forward and forward thinking.”
Kitts loves pale shades to add a warm glow and make a space feel cozy. In rooms that get a lot of natural sunlight, she says, neutral yellows like cornsilk will offer the optimistic energy that characterizes yellow.
No shade of yellow is impossible to use, but do choose with care. Kitts says that if you’re painting walls yellow, test out a shade and view it throughout the day to see how it changes in different types of light.
And going with paler yellows isn’t always a safer bet.
“Yellow can be tricky, because if it is too pale and the room it is in is relatively dark or gets cool, north-facing light, the color will look dingy rather than cheerful or calming,” says Huh.
So take time to choose shades that delight you.
“The yellows that are trending now are the ones that are not pure yellows, but tertiary colors,” says Huh. “They’re either refreshing or deep moody yellow, and will inspire more emotion than a pure yellow. Because of this, we’ll see these yellows in smaller moments, accents such as contrast pillows or on one upholstered chair in a room.”