In conversation with India Mahdavi
October 3, 2020
January 11, 2018
Magnolia had its day a long time ago as a default colour choice for our walls, but white was always right when it came to the desire for a plain backdrop. However, no more! The New Neutrals are on their way…
Neutrals are an essential part of any decorative arsenal, we need them as the soothing salve and balmy backdrop to the colour of ourselves and our lives. Nevertheless, it’s a colour family that’s been somewhat tainted by the hangover of if-in-doubt-paint-it-beige and those abominable white-with-a-hint-of-hues. But those days are over. Now it’s time for pale yet interesting to reign as, I believe, you’ll increasingly be seeing tea rose, lavender, mint, lilac and palest peach emerging as the nouveau neutrals du jour.
Admittedly, these colours have a somewhat retro-sounding flavour, and yet I’d suggest this is no step backwards as far as our homes are concerned. Rather, this is a decisive move towards a more mainstream embracing of colour; one that not only reflects a burgeoning self-confidence in the way we decorate, but also an increasing desire to unlock the restorative potential of our homes. In other words, this is as much about cocooning, as colour.
It’s also the first hint of an inevitable action/reaction pivot from the rich jewel tones and overt opulence of the New Modern, the big trend I discussed a year ago — all metallics used with carefree abandon alongside lustrous stones, clashing patterns and luxe leather. But, because the interiors trends pendulum rarely swings straight from one extreme to the other, we don’t go directly from something so intrinsically deep, dark and lush to ‘tasteful’ taupes and beiges, we stay instead with the idea of texture and colour, but tone it down a few notches; to note though, the ever-increasing popularity of velvet upholstery is the link between these two moods.
Crucially, these gently joyful neutral shades are much easier to work with than perhaps the striking sapphires and jades, exotic lacquers and marbles of the New Modern. This is more about using easily accessible paint, wallpaper and fabric, alongside accessories, like rugs, cushions and glassware that can be layered with existing pieces, so it’s much more achievable. And that really is the main point. This is a trend that we can all embrace, not merely one to observe politely from the sidelines while marvelling at other people’s avant-garde homes. This is about easy ways to add warmth and delicacy to any home in order to create the havens that we’re all craving these days.
In fact, comforting, was a word used a lot by the trend forecasters and industry insiders invited by Dulux to join its team to help determine its 2018 Colour of the Year at the brand’s Global Aesthetic Centre in Amsterdam. In divining this hue, HeartWood, a shade described as “a warm smoky neutral with a hint of heather”, they agreed first the mood of the moment before attempting to engender a response in colour. They concluded, “We live in a world where we don’t know what the news will bring every day. Our usual sources of reassurance can’t be relied upon. We are living in a time of unpredictability.” Thus, as Marianne Shillingford, the brand’s Creative Director puts it, “what we want is a return to the familiar, to create a sense of home as somewhere safe and nurturing.” As such, it makes sense that we’re instinctively pulled towards warm tones, blush pinks and mildly old-fashioned colours, as these are intuitively reassuring and calming to both mind and senses. And it’s also why this trend has fast-forwarded straight to the high street, with new products in precisely these ‘new neutrals’ being seen in many of the big retailers Spring/Summer 18 previews.
However, if you’re concerned that this might look, shall we say, a touch fusty in your home, then rest assured, the current colour iterations are brought bang up to date with a big dollop of grey in them. In other words, think muted grown-up pastels, or more sophisticated versions of whatever came to mind when you first pictured those colour names; imagine shades redolent of milky ice-cream tones and the seafront motels of 1950s Miami rather than Granny’s nylon nighties or the dreaded toilet roll colours. And the clever way to use them? Mix and match. Think a tea rose velvet-upholstered sofa strewn with pastel peach and minty green cushions against a pale lavender-painted wall. Yes, really.
First featured in the February 2018 ‘Trends’ edition of ELLE Decoration UK.
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.