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St. Louis Area Interior Designers Share Insight on Pantone's 2021 Colors of the Year
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St. Louis Area Interior Designers Share Insight on Pantone's 2021 Colors of the Year

Like sunshine streaming through the clouds at the dawn of a better day, Pantone has chosen the bright, upbeat Illuminating and the solid, steadfast Ultimate Gray as the 2021 Colors of the Year.

After the uncommon string of events that made up 2020, Pantone color trend forecast experts also opted for the unusual by selecting a combination of colors for the first time in the gray and yellow hues – a hopeful, enduring marriage of shades that signal a more positive year ahead.

A reflection of what is taking place in our global culture, the cheery, warming Illuminating evokes a spirited positivity, while Ultimate Gray offers a thoughtful, fortifying force as people look for ways to “overcome the continuing uncertainty … and satisfy our quest for vitality,” according to Pantone experts.

“The selection of two independent colors highlights how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, stated in a news release. “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.”

The pigment pairing is set to spark inspiration in design professionals and homeowners alike this year, from painting a front door in warm, welcoming Illuminating to using reliable, resilient Ultimate Gray in home exterior finishes, according to Pantone experts.

To infuse the inside of your home with the happy, energetic Illuminating and strong, deep Ultimate Gray, Castle Design founder, owner and principal interior designer Emily Castle advises incorporating gray tones in finishes, such as natural stone marble, flooring and metal details, while sunny yellow is showcased best in soft goods, such as pillows, rugs and fabrics. “This unique color combination provides the perfect juxtaposition of strong and soft elements,” she adds.

The harmonious hues are beautiful in gathering spaces, such as great rooms and dining rooms, Castle says. “I [recently] incorporated the combination in [a] colorful statement rug,” she says of a redesign for a Clayton penthouse great room. “With its pattern that feels like falling leaves, the rug brings elements of nature into the contemporary space. It also provides a happy yet sophisticated backdrop for parties and events. I [also] added a warm apricot tone to the gray and yellow backdrop – it’s the perfect bridge between the warm and cool color tones.”

St. Louis-based designer Stephanie Pohlman says the ideal way to tie these hues into your home is through artwork, accessories and pillows. “Think outside the box!” she advises. “Yellow doesn’t have to be bright yellow … It can be a deep mustard fabric, natural maple wood or a brass accent to bring in the yellow tones. I like my large items to be the neutral Ultimate Gray, like walls and furniture pieces that will be around for a while. Choose a gray sofa, and accent it with deep mustard pillows with different textures. A natural maple-finish buffet [also] can be used to bring in the ‘golden’ tone.”

In addition to complementing each other, sunny Illuminating and shady Ultimate Gray pair well with warmer tones, such as creamy whites and neutrals, to create an “easy-on-the-eye, calming space,” Pohlman adds.

Amy Studebaker, of eponymous Amy Studebaker Design, says one of the best ways to incorporate the delightful Illuminating yellow shade is to “go bold with it! Find a small room in your home that needs the vibrancy, and paint the walls and ceiling with this statement color.”

So if you want a bright, fresh start for the new year, Studebaker recommends painting an entire room in sun-drenched Illuminating, contrasted with a crisp, wondrous white: “The two together make for a fantastic, fresh feel!”

Amy Studebaker Design, 11614 Page Service Drive, St. Louis; 314-440-0853,

Castle Design, 7707 Clayton Road, Clayton; 314-727-6622,


Stephanie Pohlman Designs,

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