2021 Pantone Color of the Year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating

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Looks We Love: Pantone 2021 Color of the Year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating

In a year that’s been anything but ordinary, we turned our sights to a constant: the Pantone Color of the Year announcement. The Pantone Color Institute, the global leader in color trend forecasting, has selected a color of the year (or two) each year since 2000, informing fashion, design and artistic color theory for the year to come.

For 2021, the experts have spoken...twice. This year’s picks are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a contrasting duo that finds strength in its duality. Ultimate Gray is described as steadfast, practical and foundational, while its counterpart Illuminating is a sunny yellow shade that lends optimism, warmth and cheer.

Gray is already a hugely popular color in home design, thanks in part to its neutral foundation and easy pairings. To warm up this cool mid-gray tone, pure yellow is a natural bright spot that balances the more sedate shade. We’ve found several examples of the two together, making it simpler than ever for you to incorporate this year’s picks in your favorite space.

Just a Taste

So you’re not ready to makeover your entire home in this year’s Pantone picks? Not to worry—incorporating these colors, which you’ll be seeing a lot more of over time, is as easy as adding a touch here and there. Combine with other colors to stay up-to-date without going over the top. We love Louis Poulsen’s colorful and charming Cirque Pendant to add that color pop in a grown-up but playful way.

Shine On, Subtly

If a look that less obviously screams “Pantone” is more up your street, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are nicely emulated in metal tones, too, like brass and gunmetal. Find a fixture that incorporates both, like the Matute Pendant by Currey & Company, and you’ve got an elegant twist on the trend.

Complementary, My Dear

Home accessories like pillows and rugs are somewhat less of a commitment—you’re free to swap out and switch around much more often than with heavy furniture or wired-in lighting designs. It’d be natural in this case to head straight for the solid-colored throws or cushions, because they’re so easily replaced. However, for a look that will outlast next year’s trends, incorporate Ultimate Gray and Illuminating into your overall scheme with complementing colors like pink, white and green.

Easy on the Eyes

Try just one item to test the waters with colors you haven’t used before. A table lamp, especially in a sedate home office, can be the bright spot you are looking for to add a bit of levity to an ordinary day. Keep in mind that warm colors match well with other warm colors, like this yellow Anglepoise lamp with the warm wood furniture. If you decide to incorporate an Ultimate Gray in a room like this, be aware that cool grays and warm browns can clash, while a color like yellow can go either way.

Commit to Color

If you’re over the moon at this Pantone selection, go big with a major furniture purchase in your favorite shade. A yellow sofa is a style statement but one that can work with so many different aesthetics, and it will last long after the next color has been selected. Gray chairs, sofas or other furniture, of course, are classic options you will find year after year. For large purchases, a neutral shade like gray can be a smart buy, because you can change color around it with ease.