Color Trends: What's New, What's Next?

Which colors will dominate decor in the coming year? Experts share the latest research.

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While you're still deciding where to spend next year's summer vacation, color forecasters have already predicted what color your bathing suit will be for the year.

Color forecasters are part designer, part sociologist and part predictor. They draw information from the runway, auto manufacturers and the housewares industry; they scour showrooms, trade shows and magazines for trends; they consider what's happening culturally and how this impacts our national mood. Then they take all of that information and translate it into what colors we'll be wearing and decorating with in the next year.

The Colors Are Coming

The housing crisis, ongoing war, historic election and economic downturn have combined to shape Americans' color tastes. We're searching for the color equivalent of mac and cheese: safe, traditional and comforting. But the pops of bright colors, from crimson to acid yellow, suggest that we're ultimately hopeful about the future.

Neutrals are now, especially in larger purchases like cars, sofas or carpet. "For those big-ticket items, we'll make the safer choice such as neutrals, from rich gray to camel," says Emily Kiker Morrow, Director of Color, Style and Design at Shaw Industries. And, she continues, "We're using trendier colors, like acid green or amethyst, as accent pieces."

Denise Turner, founder of Color Turners and a color forecaster, agrees. "Neutrals continue to flourish, as companions for brighter hues or as standalone, monochromatic color schemes."

Both color forecasters see chocolate brown on the wane, though Turner notes that brown is still the go-to color in nearly every industry, from auto manufacturing to fashion to home. The guard is changing, however, as lighter browns begin to make an appearance. Morrow says, "We're seeing browns shift to the colors of spices and beverages. Think mocha and cinnamon."

Which neutral might just surpass brown as the favorite? Gray. And it covers a wide range of hues, which span soft gray to charcoal to hematite, and gain interest from metallic and pearlescent accents.

Green continues to gain strength from its association with the growing shift toward eco-consciousness. It will show up in everything from fabrics to accessories to countertops.

Turner noted that, after 9/11 blue surged in popularity. This comfortable, soothing color is associated with dependability, constancy and peace — qualities Americans seek during unstable times. Now every product in the industry uses some type of blue, and many are paired with brown, from chocolate to taupe.

According to Turner, pink and red are "the colors of causes." Think about the ribbons on our lapels to help raise awareness for breast cancer, AIDS or heart disease. But these sisters in the color family are also making their way into the home.

You'll see red as a bold accent in black-and-white designs; and look for pink in romantic bedrooms, the modern girl's living room or even in the kitchen, from cabinetry to appliances.

Violet came in through the back door, catching fire in the goth trend in high schools (think purple-black T-shirts, eyeliner and fingernail polish). From there it made its way to the runway and now it's lightening as it crosses into the home; popular variations include violet, wine and true purple.

Hot Color Combos

Just as the popularity of single colors waxes and wanes, so does the popularity of color combinations.

Brown and blue has been a favorite for several years and Turner predicts it will be a favorite through 2009. Morrow agrees, though she believes that the brown will be lighter (tan, caramel and camel), rather than chocolate.

For the last few years, black and white has been a popular combination in the European market, but Turner has noticed that it's making its way across the pond. While Morrow has seen it more in accent pieces, like textiles and wallpaper, Turner suggests it will take over entire rooms and recommends pairing it with hot accent colors like red or acid green for the latest look.

What's Not Selling?

While you'll see elegant gold in designs from traditional to Tuscan, don't look for sunny true yellows in American homes (though Europeans love them).

Orange is another color that's getting little love, unless you choose corals or an earthy, deep orange. But even then, these are used only as accents.

The trend toward violet, wine and amethyst is edging out soft lavenders or true purples. These colors, which were so popular in the 1980s, have taken a back seat to their bolder cousins.

Resources

Emily Kiker Morrow, CMG
Director of Color, Style & Design, Shaw Industries
Website: www.shawfloors.com

Denise Turner, ASID, CID, CMG
Founder of Color Turners
Website: www.colorturners.com

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