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2023 Paint Colors of the Year

Every year around this time, the major paint brands launch their Color of the Year. It's a marketing event that's awaited by many, and ignored by others. The two Amys discuss the newest COTY's. How relevant are these? What do choices like these mean? And do we even like them? We let you in on how we've used colors like these in the past and how you can too. All this with a lot of good cheer thrown in for good measure.

Ep 13: 2023 Paint Colors of the Year

Krane: Welcome to Let’s Talk Color.

Woolf: I’m Amy Woolf, principal designer at Amy Woolf Color and Design.

Krane: And I’m Amy Krane founding designer at Amy Krane Color. We’re both professional color experts who specialize in architectural color. We met while training and years later the conversation is still going strong.

Woolf: We both live our lives immersed in color and design. We often agree, but sometimes we don’t because color is personal. Color truths, however, are universal.

Krane: In each episode we’ll unravel the mystery of choosing color for your home or business, both inside and out.

Woolf: Hello, and welcome back. It's October, and we know what that means. Basically, by the end of summer into the Fall, the paint companies start to launch their Colors of the Year. This is a big marketing opportunity for them. It's something that some of us wait for with anticipation and excitement. Some of us more than others. I'm certainly always curious about it. I think it's always interesting to see where the paint companies think they're headed and where we're headed. How do you feel about it Amy excited? Apathetic? Somewhere in between?

Krane: I guess I'd say somewhere in between. I'm certainly not excited, but I am always curious, and I'd love to have something good to bash!

Woolf: Hey, that's a good point.

Krane: Yeah.

Woolf: We're gonna do a little gentle light-handed bashing today. I think possibly so! Anyway, I get excited, but I'm easily excitable about anything having to do with paint colors, so... I'm gonna admit that Benjamin Moore did a count down on their website, and I just happened to be texting with another color consultant friend who's Canada-based, and she was like, Hey, "they're about to do the color thing", and I was like, "Okay, I'm gonna get online." And so I watched the countdown. Benjamin Moore did a really beautiful video... Did you see it Amy?

Krane: I didn't...

Woolf: It was a beautiful presentation. Really high production value. Well, look, I'm saying high production value but you're a former producer. You'll have to look at it and tell me what you think. But I found it really lovely and it was just a beautiful... It involved dance and movement and a beautiful woman, beautiful clothing, and I thought it was just an incredible way to announce the color.

Krane: Did it... Try to describe or explain why they chose it?

Woolf: It was more about a mood, it was not an explanation. So anyway, I do have a little intel on the way they chose it from my friend in Toronto who was at the big launch party for the color of the year at the design center. The word she got from the Ben Moore folks was that they really felt we needed liveliness, exuberance and brightness this year. And I thought that really made a lot of sense to me. These are still dark times. There's still a lot of suffering out in the world, and certainly to see their tight palette of a handful of colors that are all really vibrant... There's one neutral, there's a soft violet color, they're feel good colors. Now, whether I would put them on an entire room... Well, no, I'm just gonna say it right now. I was gonna say that remains to be seen, but I think the reality is I probably wouldn't put most of those really strong colors in their palette into a whole room, maybe...

Krane: Isn't it interesting, sometimes they kind of follow the zeitgeist of what's happening now. The color goes hand-in-hand with how we're all feeling. And other times I think it's almost like an antidote to what we're all feeling which I think might be the case this year with Benjamin Moore. We haven't mentioned yet, it's a color called Raspberry Blush 2008-30, and it is kind of a combo of a coral and a pink. A reddish pinkish orange. It’s extremely bright, in between orange, pink and red. (see postscript)

Woolf: Right, yeah, I ordered a big sample of it and it read more orange than I expected it to... From the name, I was expecting something definitely more coral-y pinky, but it feels squarely orange to me. But yeah, I think it's interesting, I'm part of the color marketing group, and I participate in their forecasting process, and we look at colors two years out. So the forecasting that we did this June that will be announced in November at the international conference, will be for 2024 and beyond. So it's interesting what you said about this sort of capturing the moment versus helping us to project into the future. That was the real feeling, it wasn't temporal so much as this year they are sort of a broader look at trends and feelings. They feel more like a color marketing group kind of a forecast, where you could do your pillows in raspberry blush. You could do a rug that includes some of that vibrant green and maybe that soft violet. But I don't know that you would do a whole room. It feels like more of a general trend forecast to me, rather than a specific... Hey, paint your room, your whole room, these wild colors, so...

Krane: Well, maybe you're extrapolating though. Maybe as a color consultant, you... And I believe that these are not colors that you could live with wrapped around four walls in a room. So the only way to explain them, the only way to successfully market them, is to use it as accessories or on an accent wall or something like that. For me, this color is even too bright and saturated for an accent wall, but I have a saturation phobia in terms of wall color. You can get too bright for me pretty quickly.

But it begs the question, when they pick colors which are not considered easily usable and practical why did they do it? And also, you're doing it two years ahead of time for the color marketing group, so with Raspberry blush as it chosen in the middle of the first year of covid? I don't know how far out they do it. My guess is not... My guess is that they create the palette closer to the release date to get a more accurate response to the world at that moment.

Woolf: I don't really know, but... Yeah, I think their trend cycle is a one-year trance basically... Yeah.

Krane: When you think about something like Pantone's color of the year, which is called Digital Lavender that came out earlier, it's a very lovely blue lavender. It's fairly light. Pantone colors are used for so many more things other than paint colors that it becomes significant in a different way. For all kinds of home design, fashion and product design. Things like that. You have to also realize that Sherwin- Williams, Backdrop, PPG, etcetera, etcetera, they're doing wall paint, so we're back to that fundamental question of how you're going to use these colors on the wall. So let's list what some of the other ones are. I didn't Google how to pronounce this so I'm giving it my best shot. Sherwin's color of the year is called Redend Point.

Woolf: I think you got that right. That's what I'm calling it. Yeah, yeah.

Krane: Yeah, it's gotta be... Yeah, it's gotta be Redend Point, and it is sort of a... Oh, it's in between a mauve and a clay.

Woolf: We can call it rich bandaid.

Krane: Amy, I love your reference to bandaid color. It's so good.

Woolf: That's my original and oldest color wound.

Krane: No, I know. I know. I remember that story you told when we did our episode about how we got started. So one of the two newer companies that have come out with paint colors, Clare, doesn't have a color of the year. But Backdrop has got one called Rubber band. And if there ever was a color that was super duper bright, way too loud, that's it. That's another unusable color.

Woolf: But did you see what they did with that? They declared a... Okay, so they made a whole big prank out of it. And they called it the color of the year. And they referenced a non-existent official color committee of the United States.

Krane: I know, I was like, "Who are these people?"

Woolf: It's a joke, and there's a little... There's fine print at the bottom of the page where they cop to the fact that it's prank. But they're basically saying, This is the color of the year forever. We have declared this the pinnacle and the final color of the year. And after this, there will be no more colors of the year from anybody, ever again. It's pretty hilarious, so I think we know what the people behind Backdrop think about this whole color of the year thin.

Krane: They basically took the piss out of it.

Woolf: It's so... So I just thought that was hysterical. I wanna meet those people. They're funny. I think they'd be fun to have dinner with.

Krane: Anyway, C2's color of the year is called Tiramsu, which is more of a bronzy, caramel, clay color. Dunne Edwards is Terra Rosa, which is this sort of rose. Rose describes it well. PPG's is Vining Ivy, a teal. Behr's is Blank Canvas. It's an off white and Dutch boy is Rustic Beige. Paint companies, if I've forgotten you or left you out... Please forgive me, I did some hunting online and I just couldn't find any other ones. So the majority of these colors by far are warm colors. And in my end of year design forecast that I reveal on my blog, it's been a good three years now that I've been talking about really warm colors. It's interesting that PPG chose Vining Ivy because last year was such a green green group of colors from almost all of the paint companies. I don't remember what PPG was last year? Do you remember, Amy?

Woolf: No. I know that Ben Moore had a teal and Sherwin picked Evergreen fog, a dreamy color for me.

Krane: So yeah, Vining Ivy and PPG stand alone sticking with the whole green thing from last year. When we talk about colors, it's kind of hard to not interject a little bit of color psychology, and I always feel a little funny talking about color psychology because it's such a "soft" science. I think it's really considered by so many people to be BS.

Woolf: Psychology, color?

Krane: Color psychology! It's a tough one because I think if we just kind of run through how people generally react to different colors and the emotions and feelings that we have from different colors, the generalizations kind of ring true. So it's interesting to think about... They're generalizations aligned with psychology. How true are they? How universal are they? I'm bringing this all up because talking about the psychology of warm colors and how they make us feel seems relevant. How they are inviting. [Unless they're too bright and then they're off-putting] But they're generally approachable colors that generally appeal to people... We've talked about this before. I ask people in my questionnaire when we start working together to describe the kind of colors that they like. But stop and think for a moment, don't just say warm colors. I'm not talking about how the colors make you feel ____ I'm asking you to describe the nature of the colors you like. The Look! I mean the kind of colors they really are... Are they warm colors meaning Rred, yellow, orange, pink, brown, and everything in between. But people, no matter how many times I say that, people come back to, "I want my home to feel warm." Warm colors really appeal to humans, and we certainly got a big round of them this year.

Woolf: It's funny, when I work with clients, sometimes they're not actually aware of the difference between warm and cool colors.

Krane: Yes!

Woolf: So I try to find a better word. In other words, if somebody's favorite colors are blue and green, but they want their space to feel warm, I try to re-label it and say... "How about cozy?" Do you mean cozy instead of warm because they don't want brown, they don't want orange, red, yellow. They actually just want cozy. So anyway, I did look up that PPG color of the year last year, it was a soft aqua called Porcelain Blue or something. So yeah, last year the three major paint co's were all in the blue, green and blue green zone. We've certainly broken out of that in a major way this year. So let's talk about those warm colors. Let's talk about that Redend Point from Sherwin Williams.

Totally on trend. I agree 100%. It's on trend. I love you, Sherwin Williams, but I'm not a big fan of Redend Point.

Krane: Me too!

Woolf: It's interesting too. It makes me think, Amy, when you said, "What's the point of that color of the year... " I have a client I'm working with, and we've been talking about this concept, I'm calling it an attention loss leader. Which means basically, you're not gonna make a pile of money on this particular color, but it's gonna get you a lot of attention. And when you take it out to market, it's gonna generate some buzz, and it may be positive and it may be negative. I know Pantone's color of the year last year, which was that pairing of a bright yellow and a gray got a lot of buzz and some of it was negative. But what's that saying? Any publicity is good publicity? Even if it's bad publicity...

Krane: Right. So the thing is I'm pretty sure that the paint companies say that sales of the Color of the Year always go up. So how are they expecting that this year? Redend Point and Raspberry Blush are going to bump their sales?

Woolf: Well, who do you think is buying that paint?

Krane: What do you mean?

Woolf: I mean, okay. So their sales go up. But who's gonna be buying Raspberry Blush? Is that people who feel like, "Oh, it's a color of the year, it must be good and I'm stuck and I can't think of a color to get?" I'd put that color on a front door, Raspberry Blush. I just painted my front door bright pink. It's Mardi Gras. Which is not as orange. It's more pinky. It's very similar, but pink. And I painted that on my front door this year, and I'm thrilled. I don't know, maybe sales go up. But what's the reasoning behind those sales? Is it just because people say, "Oh, it's a color of the year. It must be Okay. I'll try it. I'm not gonna hire a color consultant 'cause nobody's working in my area. " This has the seal of approval so it's gotta be good?

Krane: Let me answer your question with a question. Think back. How many clients during a year or over the years, ask what the color of the year is or know it and say, "lets use it"? I can answer that really quickly. Zero.

Woolf: Yeah, I think you're probably right. I don't think I've ever had that insight... I never even really thought about that. That's so funny. So I think where it gets the most buzz is in the online chat rooms...

Krane: Yeah, yeah.

Woolf: They'll be all about it. We should go look and see what they're saying. See what the responses on social media are. I mean, certainly, you can look at the announcements on social media and get some really quick feedback on how people are feeling about stuff. But anyway, that's what I think about those Benjamin Moore colors. It's like they're exciting. They're fun. They're great to look at. It's a gorgeous palette. I love it. But man, I'm not gonna be putting them on my walls. But they make me happy. I like looking at them. They are attention getters. They're really attention getters and they're buzz makers.

Krane: I didn't feel any cohesion to that palette. They were such distinct colors to me. They didn't feel part of a whole at all to me. I didn't like them, although I have to say, I rarely feel much cohesion amongst the ones chosen. But I thought these really didn't work together so well and I didn't care for them. I mean they're put out as one palette, not a collection of disparate colors.

Woolf: You know, it's funny. My relationship to palettes has evolved over the time I've been forecasting with color Marketing Group, which I started in 2018. I remember the first palette I created. Everything went together perfectly. Like you could put it in a house and it would be beautiful. But what I realized was that's not what... That's architectural color consulting. That is not color forecasting. And I have learned over time watching other people with more expertise than my own and also growing my own skill set, that those palettes, it's not necessarily about stuff that goes together. It's about things that hold meaning in a particular point in time, in a similar way with some balance. I don't know quite how to articulate it, but... Does that make sense?

Krane: Hmmmmm.

Woolf: What I do think is, it's interesting when you look back over the Benjamin Moore colors, and I focus on Ben Moore because that's the bulk of my work, the colors over the past handful of years, other than Caliente, which was a bright red that came out... I don't know, five years ago or so.

have all been usable. They've all been great colors. Colors that have a lot of applicability, they're easy to use in our world, so... Yeah, so yeah.

Krane: Yes, they usually pick usable colors and so it goes hand in hand with an increase in sales. So it makes you stop and think, again they wanted to say something. They like the buzz from it. But they know all about architectural color but people can't put this on 4 walls of a room, so why you do it?

Woolf: How about for a powder room?

Krane: It might even be too bright and saturated for that!

Woolf: Somebody in my social media, when I posted about the Raspberry Blush, said it would make a great ceiling color in a small room... And I think that would be kind of wild and fun, so...

Krane: I have a personal aversion to hot colors over my head, so I would not use it. Yeah, I think because in the natural world, it's a blue... No, I don't want a warm color of my head, but that's really personal.

Woolf: Wow, interesting, interesting. I did a gold ceiling in a dining room. The dining room had smoky purple walls and a gold ceiling that went with the curtains that the clients had invested a lot of money in and did not wanna replace. So we needed to kinda pull that room together and give those curtains some meaning. But I get it. Almost every single ceiling in my house is pale blue gray. You can barely notice it.

But how about Behr whose Color of the Year Blank Canvas is... I don't specify Behr, except every now and then. But it's so interesting to me to see this year of fairly strong colors, fairly bold choices, even though Redend Point & Raspberry Blush aren't bold, they're strong. They're definitive, and then Behr comes out with a white... I'm surprised by that. It feels, I don't know, what do you think?

Krane: For me, it's not just about the color, but it's about something that I always tell clients to ignore, which is the color name. They picked a color called Blank Canvas, and although I really feel strongly that the color name has nothing to do with to choose that color for your space or not, I am responding to that white color with its name, Blank Canvas. And so to me, it's a COP OUT!

Woolf: [laughter] It's like painting some kind of crazy abstract and putting it in a museum and saying It's untitled 10, untitled 11. Yeah, yeah.

Krane: Or it's like, "Gee, I just don't know." So I just think, "Wow", they missed it there. This is just not a year for white. We need a strong point of view. Yeah, a strong point of view. A strong, positive point of view.

Woolf: I totally agree with you. We need something-ness. Not nothingness. Yeah, yup. Yeah, definitely, definitely. And what do you think of Dunne Edwards' color? I think that's pretty darn gorgeous.

Krane: Yeah, yeah, the color doesn't appeal me. But again, that's really... I just, I don't like rose colors and I don't like mauve.

Woolf: Maybe not a whole room.

Krane: That's just me. I mean, my personal likes and dislikes. But I do see it as a very pleasant color for people who like that kind of color.

Woolf: Interesting, so one of the things that we've touched on before that I think may also be picking up some steam is not so much accent walls, but color blocking. We talked about this when we talked about kids rooms, where you had that client who painted a chunk of color in an arch shape behind the headboard of her granddaughters beds. Super, super cute idea. When I was on the Backdrop website and I looked at their gallery, there were a ton of these interesting shapes and free form shapes that were painted in bright colors on the walls. Of course, they were painted on white walls because after all, I guess they have a big following in LA.

Krane: They're from LA.

Woolf: Yeah, okay. LA where white is king or queen or whatever. I don't know. Lots of white walls in LA. But I thought that was really interesting, and that makes me think about the applicability of these bright, bright colors... To use them in color blocking. And I don't mean accent walls, but I think maybe accent walls are gonna come back... What do you think? I know everybody, they never went away for a lot of people just... Just me, right?

Krane: [laughter] No, they didn't go away. Another interesting thing about that is that I find it a kind of youthful thing to paint geometric shapes or organic shapes or any kind of graphics like that on a wall. I don't know how many people in their 50s or later would do that. Ao I associate it with sort of a youthful-ness and so... Yeah, it does make the ability to use a bright color very feasible. It kinda ties in with the whole coloring book thing. You create shapes and fill it in.

Woolf: Yeah, I will say that once the shapes are painted on the wall, you're never not gonna see them. They telegraphic through layers of paint if you decide to paint over them. Unless you really sand the daylights out of them, which I guess you can do, but anyway...

Krane: You don't think priming and a couple of coats of paint...

Woolf: Back in my early days, I remember painting swathes on walls. would do these nice tidy squares and yeah, they telegraphed through... Another thing I think we talked about was this notion of defining spaces. We talked about that on a previous episode... Working from home and how spaces had to become multi-use. It does seem to me that one can use color blocking in order to define a little work zone over in the corner of your living room or whatever, and I could see using one of these... Well, not for work for sure, but maybe a cozy reading nook or a play space or something like that, where one of these brighter, bolder colors could be used as a way to define a space. Yeah.

Krane: Yeah, I think that makes great sense. I think it could be really fun, useful thing to do.

Woolf: Absolutely, right? Or even in a kitchen where you're painting your backsplash because you don't have tiles and there's not a lot of wall space and you're just doing little strips of color here and there. I could see using one of these really bold colors...

Krane: Except for a rubber band... Sorry, I'm glad it was a joke because that color is a JOKE.

Woolf: Except for Rubberband. Well, I don't know. There's a couple of colors like F&B Orangerie. It's quite wonderful.

Krane: Or Charlotte's Locks.

Woolf: Yeah, that is true. I love the Benjamin Moore color called Gamboge, which is that kind of mac and cheese color. I think they're kind of beautiful. I did do an accent wall probably 10 years ago, in a color... It was Gamboge. So maybe it was... Maybe it wasn't 10 years ago. I can't remember. So I did the macaroni and cheese in the entry way. Just one small wall in the entry way, and these are people who had a real love for color, loved it. And it was gorgeous, so... It can be done.

Krane: Okay, Amy, you're reminding me, this is so funny. The last on-site color consultation I did was last week, the end of last week, and it was a farmhouse. A rambling farmhouse north of me in another county. The house had been added onto a few times. The rooms were kind of small. You walked into an entry way that was longer than it was wide... Straight ahead, you walked into the living room, and to your left was the kitchen. Beyond that was an added-on sun room. And this entry way, which was completely cut apart by entrances to rooms was on two sides, an amazingly bright orange-yellow. This sounds confusing, but it isn't... There was very little wall space in this entry, and the homeowner loved bright colors. That entry way was exactly the same color as Backdrop's Rubberband. If it was on any more real estate than this tiny little entrance way, it would have been too much. I could tell just by getting to know her, that she wouldn't have thought it would have been too much though. But I felt any more than those tiny strips of bright yellow would have been. So she was having work done in the house and a lot of the rooms were being redone. A lot of the house was white. There were a few rooms that were red and plum and other deep colors but most were white. Her stairwell going upstairs was a pink - pretty kind of shell pink and there was a mural of the Adirondacks painted on the wall she faced laying in bed. Not her headboard wall, but across the room. Otherwise her room was white. There were a lot of other white white rooms, but she wanted to bring more color into the house. There was artwork and rugs everywhere. This was a very, very full house, but she really wanted more color in that living room. So you walked into the house, saw this little strip of Velveta cheese yellow and straight ahead of you was the very busy, cluttered, all white living room. And she wanted more color, I'm not gonna stop a person from living the life they wanna live, and she... She wasn't a muted color person. I had to walk that tightrope between giving her enough color, not having it be muted, but not having it be screaming-ly bright. I gave her a few green choices for one accent wall that you saw beyond the yellow entry way. So you'd walk into the house and you'd have a white kitchen to your left, a white wall to your right, a little bit of Velveta, like a picture frame around a very refreshing mid-toned green, so...

Woolf: Wow, I mean...

Krane: Hell, that was fun. So it may not be your own taste living with so much bright color and stuff on top of the bright color, but I think it was heaven for her. It really fulfilled her. Filled her up, as it were. When you started talking about color blocking and how do you use these kind of colors, that entry way where there was only a little slip of brightness could be the kind of place to put a color as bright as Raspberry Blush.

Woolf: Yeah, I actually will talk to clients about the view to another room being like an accent wall. That if you have a view from your kitchen onto, let's say a mud room, and the mud room is a really bright color, that's almost like color blocking... You've got this little... This little rectangle showing up. So there are ways of adding bright color that brings that punch... Notice I did not say Pop!

Krane: I noticed! !

Woolf: That bring you that punch of color without committing to bringing it fully all the way into the room, so... Anyway, but as you say, "to each their own"... I think it's fun to have Colors of the Year, as I said, I do get excited about them. I think they're fun to talk about. I think they're fun to look at and let us know, listeners, if you're planning any Redend Point or Raspberry Blush rooms in the near future, we wanna hear all about it.

Krane: Send us pictures! !

Woolf: Right, right. We wanna know. We wanna know more so. Thank you so much for listening.

Krane: Yeah, we hope you learned a little more about applying color to the built world...

Woolf: We had fun. See you next time. Take care.

Krane: Absolutely, bye

Post Script From Amy Krane:

Just got my Benjamin Moore large paper sample of Raspberry Blush. It’s orange!


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