2021 Color Trends: Neutral Territory

Color Trends 2021 Neutrals Territory

As we move into 2021, we are uncertain about what is ahead. Most people are feeling unsettled. No one knows what to expect. I read an article by the American Marketing Association a few months ago, “Note to Brands: People Need Assurance, Not Reassurance,” that accurately predicted the attitude most people have today,

“Nobody truly knows what is going to happen so that nobody can remove doubts or fears. There are just too many unknowns. Rather, assurance is the way forward. Assurance is maintaining confidence in one’s abilities and making a promise to progress the best that we can.

When we need assurance, what colors give us that feeling? Neutrals! Low chroma colors satisfy our security, stability, and desire to have a strong foundation. Greige, taupe, and gray with colorful undertones join classic gray tones in the limelight. This year beige (yes, it’s back) and other earthy neutrals will inch higher up the range of sought-after hues as we move toward warmer neutrals.

PPG Paints color trends palettes show a move away from cool and neutral grays towards warmer gray, greige, and beige. Their trend colors include Mercurial PPG1006-4, a mid-tone, tree bark gray with a warm cocoa brown undertone. Shadow Taupe PPG14-01 a soft, fresh greige with a red undertone. Transcend PPG1079-4 a mid-tone, brown sugar beige with a gingerbread undertone.

Left to right: Mercurial PPG1006-4, Transcend PPG1079-4, Shadow Taupe PPG14-01

Benjamin Moore only has one gray among its 12 trend colors for 2021, and it is in name only — Kingsport Gray HC-86. This color is not a gray but a deep, warm greige — a color that melds gray and beige or brown. Silhouette AF-655, another trending color, combines deep charcoal gray with rich brown to create a warm, sultry hue. You can already see how much the gray tones are warming up.

Left to right: Kingsport Gray HC-86, Silhouette AF-655

Sherwin-Williams named a similar deep hue, Urbane Bronze SW 7048, as their Color of the Year 2021. Urbane Bronze is another deep neutral that walks the line between brown and charcoal. It is a wonderfully rich hue described by the company saying its “natural simplicity and nature-inspired energy cultivate a sense of calm from the ground up.” In looking at all of Sherwin-Williams trend colors, you’ll see that the only ones close to true gray are Crushed Ice SW 7647 and Cyberspace SW 7076.

Left to right: Urbane Bronze SW 7048, Crushed Ice SW 7647, Cyberspace SW 7076

Likewise, Behr’s color trends include more colors in the warm gray to the beige range, including Barnwood Gray PPU24-07Almond Wisp PPU5-12, and Modern Mocha N150-4.

Left to right: Almond Wisp PPU5-12, Barnwood Gray PPU24-07, Modern Mocha N150-4

Many designers say that they are over the gray trend, but many clients may not share their views. Expect people to want what they think of as gray, even if we might call it something else, such as greige, off-white, or taupe.

Neutrals provide a strong foundation for building or re-building, which people will look to do with everything about their lives in 2021. 

Leave a comment to let me know what you think about the neutrals for 2021 and how you will be using them in your designs.

Feature Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

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  • isabella says:

    I admire your alway keep passion for color and inspiration for writing so many color story!

    • Kate Smith says:

      Thank you so much, Isabella. Stay colorful!

  • Ginger Runnels says:

    Just had my kitchen cabinets sprayed Urbane Bronze and added contemporary brushed gold pulls. So fabulous that I painted the interior of my front door the same rich color. Also specified Urbane Bronze as the garage door and trim color on some Mediterranean Townhomes with terracottas tile roofs.
    Took courage, but the owners loved it! It anchors the tall off white buildings.
    Warm & earthy and dependable.

    • Kate Smith says:

      All of those applications of Urbane Bronze are excellent, Ginger. It is a wonderful color.

  • Hi Kate,
    As a painter, focusing entirely on color, your article gave me food for thought!
    I have started a new series of paintings using shades of black and white and it is very challenging but I will keep going to see what comes out.

    • Kate Smith says:

      I love the graphic quality of black and white but like you my focus is always on color making it difficult for me to what to add a dab even to black and white. Good luck with the new series.

  • Nancy Andres says:

    Grounding, comfort, and stability are what I sense when I look at these neutral palettes. Just love this quote-“Nobody truly knows what is going to happen so that nobody can remove doubts or fears. There are just too many unknowns. Rather, assurance is the way forward. Assurance is maintaining confidence in one’s abilities and making a promise to progress the best that we can.”
    Wishing you a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season and a Sparkling New Year.

    • John Bob says:

      Very interesting post many thanks

    • Kate Smith says:

      The quote resonated with me, too. All the best in 2021!

  • Christine Newton says:

    I just painted all of my doors urbane bronze. It is rich and has a grounded depth feel to it. Beautiful.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Urbane Bronze is a great choice for your doors. I bet that looks fabulous, Christine.

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