Design That Makes a
How to Incorporate Pantone’s Color of the Year
By Amy Puchaty

This year’s Pantone Color of the Year is taking the design world by storm, with not one, but two distinct hues that are sure to elevate your mood. Enter, PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray, a calming neutral, and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating, a vibrant yellow.

Design That Makes a Statement: How to Incorporate Pantone’s Color of the Year

Selecting the color each year is no simple matter. According to Pantone, “The Pantone Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. To arrive at the selection each year, Pantone’s color experts at Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.”

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute says, “The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.”

Why is color so important? Perhaps because it’s what illuminates our lives. Now more than ever, our homes are becoming more than a nice place to rest our heads. Homes can serve as a sanctuary, a retreat, a place to work, and where we entertain. Houses encompass everything from where we cook, eat, and sleep, to where we conduct Zoom meetings and engage in online learning. Which is precisely why it’s so important to make the most of our surroundings. More often than not, an energizing splash of color does the trick. In fact, the very colors we choose for our homes can greatly affect our personal moods and overall outlook on life.

Color psychology suggests that there is power and emotion evoked in the colors we surround ourselves with. This is especially true when it comes to interior design. Color can be used to express ourselves or make a statement, as well as have lasting effects on our wellbeing.

“A gray day provides the best light.”
Leonardo da Vinci
Illuminating: PMS 13-0647 and Ultimate Gray: PMS 17-5104 graphic
Couch with yellow and grey pillows and decor
“How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.”
Yellow and grey pillows, paint, and decor

Creating a happy home might start with the layout and location, but selecting the right colors, textures, and tones are what set the stage for lasting comfort.

Take Ultimate Gray for example. This hue represents neutrality and balance, and is said to provide a sense of calm and composure in an otherwise chaotic world.

The color authority reveals, “PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.”

Similar to lighter shades of gray, Ultimate Gray can highlight the elegance in architecture, revive dated cabinetry in a lackluster kitchen, and add tranquility to a master bath. And it is frequently called upon by designers to create a dynamic foundation for complementary colors, like the vibrant and cheerful Illuminating.

Pantone suggests, “PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.”

This counterpoint of Illuminating yellow to Ultimate Gray does wonders for the human spirit. It can convey competence and happiness and is the brightest color in the visual spectrum. Even more interesting, it is most noticeable above all colors to the human eye.

For children, yellow is a favorite color, often attributed to happiness. And lastly, those who envelope their homes in the warmth and brightness of Illuminating yellow, may discover renewed feelings of hope, fun, enthusiasm, and joy. Additionally, the color is meant to promote high energy and has even been said to increase metabolism.

Grey room with a yellow clawfoot bathtub
“Life isn’t black and white. It’s a million gray areas, don’t you find?”
Ridley Scott

Enter Feng Shui, a Storied Source of Color Inspiration.

All things considered, nothing is more rewarding in design than bringing fresh color into the home. This translates across cultures and beliefs, including in the artful practice of Feng Shui. The ancient system of laws are revered for governing spatial arrangement, orientation, and the flow of energy. And color is one of the easiest ways to apply Feng Shui principles into your home.

Here are a few specific Feng Shui color references to keep in mind.

  • Fire element representing power, health, patience, wisdom
  • Yellow front door for south facing homes
  • Recommended use: kitchen, bathroom, dining room
  • Metal/Earth element representing helpfulness and harmony
  • Gray front door for west facing homes
  • Recommended use: family room, dining room, bedroom, office, hallways
Silverware decorated with a leaf and lace ribbon

There Is More Than One Way To Refresh Your Home With Color

Of course, there are a multitude of ways to incorporate color into the home. This includes swapping out accessories, upgrading art, or painting your front door. A yellow front door exudes confidence, joy, and pride of ownership after all. Another trend? Painting your door’s interior to reveal a fun color surprise as guests enter your home. Add a splash of Pantone’s Ultimate Gray or Illuminating yellow to the foyer, kitchen, or even your study and you might find it makes a world of difference in your enthusiasm and productivity.

Color balance and exercising restraint is the key. It’s always a good idea to find the balance, especially when it comes to colors that you interact with on a daily basis. This is where the age old 60-30-10 decorating rule comes in. It’s a timeless guide that can help you put a solid color scheme together without overdoing it. The 60 percent + 30 percent + 10 percent proportion is meant to give balance to the colors used in any space. And it is actually quite easy to follow. Select your three colors and assign percentages to each. Then, apply that to guide you while adding color throughout your home.

Decorated living room and dining area

Creative Design Inspiration for Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Abounds

Not sure if a specific color is right for you? An easy way to test color in your space is by purchasing small appliances, creating flower arrangements, or showcasing artwork in the hue. You can also add a few pops of color in the mix with new pillows, pieces of bedding, or colorful bath towels. By testing out a color in small doses, you’ll get a better sense of its beauty with less commitment. Best of all, small changes like these will help determine how a color makes you feel and if it is worth making a larger investment, i.e. hardware, furniture, and walls. Once you seek out color and unlock its deeper meaning, you’ll quickly find it offers many intriguing uses that can boost your quality of life.

Yellow chair with decor
White couch with yellow accents and other decor
How to bring these colors to life
in your home
Pick a base circle
pick a base
Figure out your exterior and interior base colors. For a cheery exterior, painting your home with Pantone’s 2021 color choice, “Illumination” would be a great way to invite happiness and warmth into the home. “Ultimate Gray” is an excellent option for interiors due to its neutrality, adaptability and classic, clean look.
Feng shui circle
feng shui
Consider the layout and placement of your home. If your front door faces south or southwest, your home would suit a yellow front door to invite fire and love energy into the home. Homes facing west or northwest suggest an energy balance with gray doors.
Accessorize circles

With so many colors now available for interior decoration, the options are nearly limitless! This space is where you can have fun, experiment and figure out what brings you happiness, relaxation and balance in your home.

One great place to incorporate yellow is in the kitchen. Yellow is a popular color for kitchens due to the colors natural warmth, embuing positive energy and naturally increasing metablolism. Try introducing splashes of color into an otherwise clean modern space with small appliances, such as a standing mixer or coffee maker.

This lively color also pops well in otherwise neutral living rooms. Think pillows, accent decor and artwork. Or for a joy-inspiring kids room, accessorize the room with yellow furniture or bedding.