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What Interior Designers Think of the 2021 Colors of the Year

As we near the end of each year, certain companies forecast what colors will be most popular in the design world in the coming year. And we’re not just talking about interior design. These colors of the year speak to trends in fashion, art, graphic design, the entertainment industry and even take into consideration environmental influences around the world and the cultural moment we find ourselves in. Experts land on these colors after months of research, travel, and trend analysis.

The Pantone Color Institute was one of the first companies to create an annual color of the year—and they just dropped the Pantone 2021 Color of the Year. Or should we say Colors of the Year? That’s right—for the second time, they’ve picked two colors of the year rather than the typical one. (They did this in 2016 as well.) Their picks? Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

Two other big players in establishing a Color of the Year are the paint companies Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore. Both companies have not only selected a Color of the Year for the past several years, but they create palettes of other colors that work well with their main color choice.

Want to see these 2021 Colors of the Year in action? Below, we’re digging into the Pantone, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore colors of the year—exploring what they are, the significance behind them, and featuring some of our designers’ takes on how to incorporate these colors into your home! Keep reading for more on how to choose a color palette with these trendy shades.

color of the year

Pantone 2021 Color of the Year

As we mentioned, Pantone selected two different colors for their 2021 Color of the Year: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.

Why Pantone Picked These Colors

According to Pantone, these “two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to support one another . . . Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating is one of strength and positivity. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly.”

While complementary, these shades are quite different. Ultimate Gray is “emblematic of solid and dependable elements,” according to Pantone—like pebbles on a beach, rock formations, and other natural elements that can stand the test of time. This color “quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness, and resilience.” Meanwhile, Illuminating is a bright shade of yellow. This cheerful hue has a sense of vivacity, warmth, and power.

What These Colors Mean for 2021

The folks at Pantone were feeling optimistic when they chose these two colors. While they knew we needed a sense of dependability after the tumultuousness of 2020, they also felt like we needed a sign of hope. That’s what they hope these colors will represent in 2021. Fortitude and happiness. Dependability and hopefulness. Strength and joy.

How Modsy Designers are Using Illuminating and Ultimate Gray

Check out two of our designers’ takes on both of these two colors below.

pantone 2021 color of the year

Look #1: Sophisticated & Cheerful

Modsy Designer: Katherine B.

Katherine’s Inspiration: “Yellow can be seen as a youthful color, but I wanted to make it feel a bit more sophisticated.”

How Katherin Used Illuminating: “This shade of yellow is very bright, cheerful, and energizing. But, because of its boldness, it can easily take over a room. So, I wanted to balance it with navy blue, a more subdued and grounding hue. (Though, you could also pair it with black or brown, which would also offer that grounding element.) I went for more classic furnishings while keeping the overall space colorful and cheerful. Since the yellow is so bold, I kept the patterning very simple because I didn’t want anything clashing for attention in this space.”

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entryway with yellow and grey walls

Look #2: Bold & Moody

Modsy Designer: Karina L.

Karina’s Inspiration: “I wanted to capture the energy of this color throughout this space, while only using the color itself in a small area of the room.”

How Karina Used Illuminating: While I wouldn’t recommend using Illuminating as a color for a full wall (it would be far too intense), I did have fun placing it in an unexpected accent area—the interior of the archway. Painting an archway is a fun way to bring in a bright and bold color that you may not want to commit to on a whole wall. The overall vibe of this space is fun and moody, with the bold patterns and pop of yellow bringing energy and color throughout.”

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Check out some of our other favorite yellow room designs for more ways to use this color!

pantone 2021 color of the year

The Look: Calming & Understated

Modsy Designer: Katherine B.

Katherine’s Inspiration: “I wanted to play the Ultimate Gray up with lots of rich neutrals, like leather, deep brown wood, stark blacks and whites, and even some tans—embracing a neutral color palette, but creating a space with a ton of depth.”

How Katherin Used Ultimate Gray: “This space is full of texture but has a simple color palette which makes it very calming. Gray is an understated color—so by adding depth to it with other neutrals and textures, it becomes more of an integral part of the design instead of just another color on the wall. Ultimate Gray is a soft hue, making it a perfect choice for a neutral paint color. While I went with an overall neutral color palette, you could easily pair this with brighter and bolder hues. It has undertones of warmth, making it an excellent color choice for any style.”

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Hungry for more? Check out all the Pantone Colors of the Year from the past decade, plus our designers’ takes on Classic Blue, the Pantone 2020 color.

color of the year

2021 Benjamin Moore Paint Color of the Year

The 2021 Benjamin Moore Paint Color of the Year is Aegean Teal. More subdued than what might immediately come to mind when you think of teal, this color is almost a robin’s egg blue.

Why Benjamin Moore Picked this Color

The team at Benjamin Moore wanted a color for 2021 that celebrates life’s simple pleasures. In 2020, we’ve all learned to find joy in small and mundane moments, and this color is the embodiment of that spirit. A blend of blue-green and gray, Aegean Teal has an interesting tone that helps create a sense of harmony, together with the other colors in their 2021 Color Trend Palette. Together, “the twelve hues in the palette radiate warmth and wellbeing. These are colors that make your home feel even more like home,” according to Benjamin Moore.

What This Color Means for 2021

The idea behind Aegean Teal is one of comfort and presence. Balanced and deeply soothing, this shade is meant to nourish our spirits (something we could all use after this year) and bring a sense of brightness but familiarity into our homes.

How Modsy Designers are Using Aegean Teal

Check out two of our designers’ takes on this color below.

pantone 2021 color of the year

Look #1: High-Contrast & Curated

Modsy Designer: Karina L.

Karina’s Inspiration: I wanted to elevate this shade of light blue, which can easily be written off as a color just for a children’s bedroom or a bathroom. I wanted to prove it could hold its own in a curated living room.

How Karina Used Aegean Teal: “For me, this design was all about creating contrast. A warm mustard sofa helps to offset the dominant cool tones of the wall color. By layering this space with art, objects, and furniture, I created a curated take on the Minimalist Maximalist trend, but with a fresh and unexpected color palette.”

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pantone 2021 color of the year

Look #2: Youthful & Coastal

Modsy Designer: Katherine B.

Katherine’s Inspiration: “This color has a beachy and youthful vibe to it. I wanted to capture some fun and youthful energy of a teenage summer.”

How Katherine Used Aegean Teal: “This is an energizing color, so I wanted to play it up with other fun colors—like pink and other shades of teal. This made it feel even more youthful, but the blues and pinks also contrast and create a really pretty soft glow. I wanted to play up some fun and youthful elements that a teenager or adolescent might be drawn to—like the canopy-esque bed and the trendy campaign-style nightstand. Meanwhile, white and brass pop against the saturated color, making it even more vibrant.”

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pantone 2021 color of the year

2021 Sherwin-Williams Paint Color of the Year

Urbane Bronze, the 2021 Sherwin Williams Paint Color of the Year, is a color that’s all about simple sophistication and a sense of tranquility.

Why Sherwin-Williams Picked this Color

Sherwin-Williams chose this nature-inspired hue for its energy and simplicity. As they noted on their website, “Now more than ever, our homes have become the backdrop to our lives, reminding us that the moments worth cherishing have always been right in front of us. As we’re looking to create the ultimate retreat for reflection and renewal, we’re turning to a hue whose natural simplicity and nature-inspired energy cultivate a sense of calm from the ground up.”

They also noted that, because of the way this color is rooted in nature (it has very muddy brown undertones) it goes well with foliage and other earth-toned hues. Sherwin-Williams feels Urbane Bronze “has a unique ability to ground a room through organic appeal. Whether it’s accentuating window trims or accent walls, this warm hue draws from nature for a feeling of relaxation and serenity.”

What This Color Means for 2021

Urbane Bronze—along with Sherwin-Williams’ other colors of their Sanctuary color palette, which is part of their Colormix® Color Forecast 2021—are intended to nurture wellness and calm. This can be done by pairing it with neutrals for a minimal and relaxing look. But, because of its undertones, you could also pair it with the bold room trend and pair it with saturated earth tones or jewel tones.

How Modsy Designers are Using Urbane Bronze

Check out two of our designers’ takes on this color below.

pantone 2021 color of the year

Look #1: Sleek & Industrial

Modsy Designer: Katherine B.

Katherine’s Inspiration: “I was inspired by industrial spaces, like train stations, lofts, and factories. I wanted to incorporate that with metal and natural materials like marble and stone—but do it in an unexpected way.”

How Katherin Used Urbane Bronze: “This color feels inherently moody and industrial, and it leans slightly masculine with its dark hues. Since Urbane Bronze is ultra saturated, I wanted to use furniture and decor that would contrast with and soften this color. The marble desk is quite sleek, with its brass legs and simple shape. The stone accents feel organic, and even the display cabinet has curvatures that soften the use of the material a bit. The white pops and the linen of the desk chair add a textural element too. The chair feels feminine and soft in nature which makes this space feel more approachable.”

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pantone 2021 color of the year

Look #2: Organic & Modern

Modsy Designer: Karina L.

Karina’s Inspiration: “I love that it has somewhat muddy undertones, which helps to craft an organic and nature-inspired space. I used the natural and organic nature of this color to inspire the shapes and decor of this space.”

How Karina Used Urbane Bronze: “I wanted to play with the warm undertones of this dark and moody color. This bedroom is the combination of light and dark—light airy furniture pieces combined with earthy and natural materials such as linen, jute, seagrass, and wood to help offset the dark wall color.”

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See how our designers designed with Naval, the Sherwin-Williams 2020 Color of the Year.

See Your Home Designed in 2021 Colors

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Greenhouse Garden Retreat

You can eat your greenery or you can sit on it. Both have equally curative powers according to Pantone, who named this particularly leafy shade its 2017 color of the year. A symbol of new beginnings, the zesty, yellow-green hue is all about reconnecting, refreshing, rejuvenating, restoring, and pretty much any other “re-word” you can think of.

pantone's greenery

But if this tangy green reminds you more of Kermit the Frog than a vegetable garden, you’re not alone. While not eagerly hoping on the greenery bandwagon ourselves, we tried embracing the color for its symbolic, rather than purely aesthetic value.

Amid our current tumultuous social and political climate, Pantone chose greenery as a means to encourage “green” ways of thinking and living. Pantone suggests that the shade can inspire us to reconnect with nature as we disconnect with technology and promote green ways of thinking in respect to such things as design, energy, and even diet for the coming year. Kale yeah!

pantone's greenery

pantone's greenery


At Modsy we know that our environments shape our experiences, so we are taking a stab at incorporating some greenery into our domain. So if you can’t swing a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Airbnb’s Outside In London loft, we invite you to relax and photosynthesize inside our greenhouse garden retreat.

pantone's greenery

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