Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

September 9, 2020

Dulux Colour of the Year 2021

I love Dulux, I really do. A colour company with an enormous wealth of brilliance all canned and ready for you and I to transform our homes at the flick of a brush or roller. And the power of paint is something I’m acutely wedded to, spending many a happy hour as I will poring over colour charts and paint samples. Nonetheless, its Colour of the Year for 2021 (COTY2021), Brave Ground, leaves me with very little to say about it. It’s brown. Admittedly quite a nice shade of greyish brown, but a beigey cardboard-box-brown nonetheless.

And I write this as part of the collaborative team of people that consults with Dulux on the trends that might provide the narrative behind the colour. Not seeking to intellectualise it, rather sharing views from various perspectives on the context into which it might be launched. The expert team at the AkzoNobel HQ in Amsterdam, then take all this information and translate it into a colour.

Now for sure, when we met a year ago to discuss COTY 2021, not one of us predicted a global pandemic, how could we possibly. But we did all speak of the bubbling dissent and revolution emerging around the world, and the need for action. In fact a line from my presentation read, “The ideological gets literal: people are sick of talking; they’re sick of listening to the people who think they’re in charge; anger is converting into action.” And I suggested that collaboration was key to moving forwards. Followed by a slide that read, “Change is coming whether ‘they’ like it or not. But, after extreme polarisation, can we come together? Can we agree to disagree, and move forward? We have a chance to move forward, but only by challenging everything that we thought represented the future.”

And this became brown. What can I say?

Colour of the YEar

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND

Brave ground indeed to choose brown…

Certainly it’s a colour of collaboration, in so far as it’s entirely happy to play second fiddle to stronger tones and brighter ideas. It’s not shouting for attention in the slightest. Indeed, the official press release describes it as a “warm and grounding neutral shade that will enable people to draw upon the strength of nature to help them find the courage to embrace the future.”

And Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director of Dulux UK who is super passionate about all things colour, says, “Brave Ground will allow us to find certainty in the strength from the very ground beneath our feet, emboldening us to go forward and begin to love again and giving us the flex to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances we face.”

colour of the year

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND

Mostly though, I think it works when other colours take centre stage, and as such, one of the best things about the way Dulux presents its COTY are the accompanying palettes and the frankly glorious room sets they do. So I’m just going to share some of those, and let you make your own mind up about Brave Ground as emblematic of 2021 — Is there hope in a beige leadership that allows others to come forward and shine (yes I’m thinking Joe Biden, Democrat nominee for President of the United States, paired with Senator Kamala Harris)? Hmmm. It’s just not a moment for anyone to take a neutral stance on the prevailing issues, that’s all.

The Dulux Colour of the Year 2021 palettes

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND – Earth Palette


“(Above) Echoing the tones of the sea, the sky and the soil, these earth shades provide a connection to the natural world around us. Bringing the outside in, they are authentic and grounding colours that work naturally together.”

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND – Trust Palette

DUlux COTY21 Trust Palette


“(Above) Earth tones from across the globe, these unifying shades reflect everyone. Warm neutral greys and browns, these colours complement each other and encourage connection, collaboration and a sense of harmony in the home.”

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND – Timeless Palette

Dulux COTY21 Timeless Palette


“(Above) Inspiring shades of yellows and ochres, alongside soft neutrals, these are tones that can help create a backdrop that embraces old and new. Energizing without being overpowering, they bring positivity and balance to a space.”

DULUX announces Colour of the Year 2021 – BRAVE GROUND – Expressive Palette

Dulux COTY21 Expressive Palette


“Stand-out shades of reds and pinks, balanced with soft neutrals, these are colors that can add verve and vitality to our homes, allowing us to create an individual space that energizes, surprises and reflects who we really are.”

Brave Ground: Dulux Colour of the Year 2021

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12 replies »

  1. I love this post. When I first started reading it I had soooo many questions, then I started to see the palettes and the photos and I am so ready now to ‘draw upon the strength of nature’ 🙂

  2. Funny the colour Brave Ground. We had a shade of it in the kitchen and it went well with the tones of grays, black and cream. We decided to change it to white because our kitchen is small and has minimal lighting. But I love the colour shade of it feature in my wardrobe – it reminds me of sand, earth and all things grounded – no pun intended.

  3. My immediate response to Dulux colour of the year was surprise bordering on disappointment , i looked at my 15 year old sitting room sofa and there it was Brave Ground . A colour communicating ” stay safe ” something we are all hearing understandably and its most important we all do . My neutral coloured sofa acts only as back drop to allow my things to shine .To have such a neutral as colour of the year for me lacks enthusiasm, optimism , joy, fun, positivity lust for life all that we need right now, and all that colour can project . It is a neutral that has more life in it than grey and will sit with compliment and project endless palettes but colour of the year ?

  4. The power of Brave Ground lies in its fluidity. One must look beyond the smaller albeit necessary palettes of brights to catch its subtle strength. And once there, rest and shade are found.

  5. I love it! Such a great base to work from and so many choices in terms of colour match. Everyone is scared of brown, I am a bit, but I feel it will be the new black. Let’s get painting…x

  6. Oh dear. Underwhelmed when it came out. No change a week or so on. Feels as though it was designed to go with all the creams/neutrals. Pinky corals might be its best partner but frankly there are much more tempting browns out there :-/

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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.