Fall is in full swing, and paint companies are dropping their color forecasts for the coming year.
Recently, Pittsburgh-based paint company PPG Industries released a three-color palette of a warm beige, a saturated ginger orange and a muted turquoise as predicted trends for next year. Behr also chose a palette of warm neutrals and gentle hues, among others, for 2021. Sherwin-Williams named a warm dark brown called Urbane Bronze as its 2021 Color of the Year. And Benjamin Moore picked a soothing blue called Aegean Teal as its 2021 Color of the Year.
It’s a fun time to choose one of these trendy colors to make a statement with a powder-room update or a bold accent wall. Or, if it’s your style, go wild with the color of the year in a living area or bedroom.
But if you’re looking for an interior paint color that will transcend trends, and you don’t enjoy painting every three years to keep up with what’s in style (some of us do!), you may want to look for a classic color that will hold up better over the long haul.
“Timeless colors … never grow old,” says California-based color expert Jennifer Guerin. “They may be used in different ways — walls versus trim or accents — but they always stay in style.”
Beware, though, that even classic neutrals can be so overdone that they become trendy. An all-gray room, for example, could easily date to the trend of the 2010s. Your safest bet in choosing a color, says Maria Killam, a color expert in Vancouver, B.C., is to choose paint based on context: Where will it be used, and how? Look to your furnishings and the light in your space for cues.
We asked Guerin, Killam and other experts to share their favorite classic workhorse shades that can enhance any space. Here are their recommendations. Remember to test your colors with large paint samples before committing to ensure that you can enjoy your choice for years to come.
One category of neutral that Nicole Gibbons, owner of online-only paint company Clare, says is exceptionally timeless is “greige, a mix between gray and beige.” Greige can work because it includes both of the basic neutrals: gray and beige.
“There’s something about the warmth of a greige that creates a beautifully timeless look,” Gibbons says. Killam recommends Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak and Classic Gray and Sherwin-Williams’s Pacer White. Guerin recommends Benjamin Moore’s Pashmina.
White is, of course, always a good paint choice, because it feels elegant, fresh and clean. Plus, Gibbons says, “black and white are the most timeless colors you’ll find anywhere and the most timeless color combination.”
However, says Kelsey Hutchins Flores, owner of the interior design firm Flores & Co. in Austin, Texas, “some people want a warm white, some people want something bright and stark.”
Again, look at your furnishings when deciding: Can they handle the stark whites, or are your furnishings dominated by warm colors and creamy whites? Flores recommends putting 24-by-24-inch samples on a few walls in different rooms to decide. (If you don’t want to paint large squares on your walls, try Samplize, a company that sends you peel-and-stick sheets in your choice of paint colors from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Farrow & Ball and PPG.)
Flores’s favorite whites include Benjamin Moore’s Glacier White, which is a bit warm; Clare’s Fresh Kicks, a stark white; and Farrow & Ball’s Dimpse, which is a gray that can read “taupey white” on the wall, she says. Guerin recommends Benjamin Moore’s Simply White or Balboa Mist, and for cabinets, White Dove.
“Most houses won’t look good painted stark white, which is the current trend,” Killam says. So yes, although white is generally a safe classic, if it doesn’t suit your architecture, furnishings or light, it will look off. Killam’s solution is complex cream — “basically beiges that read quite creamy but with either a yellow, green, orange or pink undertone,” she says. “The reason I’m calling it a ‘complex cream’ is because there are more pigments in the palest of beiges rather than just a cream, like Sherwin-Williams’s Dover White.”
To choose the right shade, keep context in mind. Most fabrics and carpets are better complemented by off-white, cream or greige than a crisp white. “To make sure you choose the right color for your walls, step back and look at the overall color scheme,” and ask yourself which shade will best pull your room together, she says.
Killam recommends Benjamin Moore’s Feather Down and Sherwin-Williams’ Casa Blanca and Divine White. In her bathroom, she used Benjamin Moore’s Indian White, an orange-beige that contrasts with the white subway tile.
“One of the most popular colors in the United States is blue,” Guerin says. Blues are soothing, and navy has a classic sense to it that complements almost all hard and soft furnishings. It looks good with warm browns and cool whites. It works in historic homes and uber-modern spaces. It sings with metallics in accessories and goes with the matte black hardware trend. It’s a color you can leave on the wall for years while other things around it change. Even a small room can handle navy if the light is bright, and especially with pops of color in the furnishings.
Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy is “tame enough that it kind of lies flat,” Guerin says. “It’s navy enough that it feels safe for people. It’s great for kitchen islands, for vanities, an entire bedroom.”
PPG’s Cavalry is its most popular blue, says Amy Donato, senior marketing manager for the company.
Gibbons says Clare’s Goodnight Moon pairs well with cool colors, light colors and neutrals. “It’s a great base for a space that gets a lot of light,” she says.
Green, reminding us of nature, has soothed us through the centuries. The Historic Colors of America paint-color list, curated by the regional heritage organization Historic New England, includes greens used for decorating homes in every architectural era, from Colonial to International Style.
“Gray medium-green tones conjure up subdued soothing vibrations,” Guerin says, which are perfect for bathrooms, foyers or bedrooms. She recommends Saybrook Sage, part of Benjamin Moore’s historical collection, which fits “into every decade regardless of trends or changes.” Or try Mizzle by Farrow & Ball.
Flores just painted her daughter’s nursery with vertical green stripes in Clare’s Dirty Martini. Colors like that, she says, “look like they could have been in a 17th-century home. Those will never get old.”