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The making of a colour trend

How does a particular shade become a seasonal standout in the world of interiors? Christobel Hastings investigates

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Just look to the avocado green kitchens of the 1970s or the grey-washed living rooms of the past decade to see that colour trends can have a serious impact on home decor – and they can come and go as quickly as the seasons.

The colours we pick to paint our walls are just as important as the surrounding furniture; a vocabulary we use to express ourselves, and our perceptions of the world we live in. Thanks to the stream of stunning interiors on social media and smart trend predictions, there’s no shortage for tonal inspiration.

But how does a certain shade go from being one person’s preference to a global trend? And how do trendsetters land upon the perfect colour when predicting the next big thing? To find out, we decided to ask the experts.

Looking ahead

One annual milestone that plays a pivotal role in home decor is the unveiling of Dulux’s Colour of the Year. For interior designers, creative types and colour-lovers of all persuasions, the hotly anticipated forecast sets the tone for the year ahead.

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Behind the scenes, the AkzoNobel colour experts spend months conducting research, analysing trends and tapping into finely-tuned consumer experience in order to find a colour that resonates around the world – and it’s this process that is arguably the most fascinating part of all.

‘The aim of our research is to know what colour preference our consumers are going to have in a few years time, without yet knowing it themselves,’ explains Heleen van Gent, Creative Director at the AkzoNobel Global Aesthetics Centre, the colour design and trend analysis branch of Dulux’s parent company which conducts colour research.

Over the course of the year, Van Gent and her team of colour experts immerse themselves in colour and design trends, consulting an international network of experts about how colour preferences are changing and being influenced by external trends.

Then, once a year, the team convene with leading architects, designers and trend watchers to brainstorm the trends they think will influence the interior decor paint colour choice of consumers. The group compare a diverse mix of stories and perspectives; ‘everything from digital influences to work-life balance’; and after three days of analysis, decide on an overarching theme and connecting trends.

‘I take that information back to AkzoNobel and invite a group of colour specialists from our different markets, and we translate those trends into paint colour palettes and decide on the colour of the year.’

Changing times

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This year marks 15 years of colour trend work; and Van Gent says there is a ‘huge difference’ between the sea-swept tones of 2004 and the colours that are currently being communicated.

‘Social and design trends definitely influence our colour palettes,’ she points out. ‘In 2015, we had Copper Blush, this very warm, orangey colour which translated the positive outlook on life. Last year with Denim Drift, we saw that consumers had more of a need for balance and calm.’

Crucially, the defining colour is always connected to the mood of the moment. ‘If you look at how palettes have evolved over the years, you can see how consumer needs for certain colours ebb and flow with how they feel about the world around them’.

This state of flux hasn’t escaped the notice of interiors experts. ‘We seem to go from minimalist to maximalist pretty quickly in the interiors world, and obviously colour is a huge dictator in this,’ explains design blogger Emma Jane Palin. ‘For a long time “white was right,” but I’ve definitely seen a switch in 2017, with more extreme colour palettes being used from dark blues and emerald greens, to the ever-growing millennial pink.’

Emily Murray, founder and editor of the award-winning interior blog The Pink House, agrees. ‘Colour has always shaped trends – and even our values and behaviour – on a macro level,’ she says. ‘The fact that pink has in recent years been seen by less imaginative retailers and marketers as being “for girls”, while in Victorian times it was a “boys” colour, is just one example. Our colour choices are strongly affected by societal pressure, which in turn alters our perception of a colour’s “message.”‘

A welcome home

Fitting, then, that the name of the 2018 Dulux Colour of the Year has been bestowed upon Heart Wood, a contemporary colour Van Gent describes as a ‘beautiful, warm, grown-up pink.’ Inspired by the warm tones of leather and wood, Heart Wood is a shade that soothes the mind and calms the senses.

‘For 2018 we are talking about big data, information saturation, a 24/7 economy, the fact that we live in unpredictable times,’ she says. In response to the mood of uncertainty, people are craving sanctuary. ‘I think the best way to describe it is you are able to influence your own world in your house, when we can’t influence the rest of the world.’

The shift toward a warm, comforting tone makes sense when you consider the cyclical nature of trends. ‘There was a point recently when Scandinavian design was huge, and yellow and grey combinations were absolutely everywhere,’ Emma says. ‘But sometimes, when these trends become saturated, we tend to go full circle toward something the complete opposite.’

In the spirit of tradition, AkzoNobel Global Aesthetic Center have created four supporting palettes based around the overarching theme of A Welcome Home, to help consumers see how easily paint can transform a living room to fit this day and age. The interior suites showcase the versatility of Heart Wood, whether you’re a family-oriented homebody looking to entertain, or a digital native who uses their home as a pitstop to charge their devices. ‘The same mood of the moment, the same unpredictability, but a welcome home for everyone,’ says Van Gent.

The future of colour

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If an awareness of the potential and possibility of paint is on the rise, it couldn’t come at a better time. “In an age of political uncertainty, rising costs and social media updates, relaxing spaces and inspiring interiors can become a safe haven,” says Emma.

And while a tin of Dulux hardly sounds radical, its effect, as Van Gent explains, can be wholly transformative. ‘Colour is the more democratic and cost-effective interior decorating product, and the effect of colour per square metre is incomparable to something as small as a cushion or a vase.’

As for the evolution of paint colour, Van Gent predicts a bright future. Consumers, she says, are becoming ‘braver and more secure in their colour choices,’ thanks to the well of inspiration on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, as well as trendsetters such as Dulux.

In a world of endless complication, noise and stress, colour scheming could well be the way to empowering people to create spaces they feel comfortable, and most importantly, at home in.

Find out more about Dulux’s 2018 Colour of the Year and start planning your next home makeover.

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