Brighter hues for the home

The new year is looking brighter in at least one respect. Colour authority Pantone says its colour of the year for 2011 is an intense pink it calls “honeysuckle. Pantone predicts that we’re about to see a lot of this colour, appearing on everything from designer dresses to pillows, water bottles, nail polish, sofas and appliances. A sherbety shade of pink, with a hint of red and orange zest, honeysuckle is seen by designers as a pick-me-up at a time when many people have had their fill of misfortune.

Pantone polls graphic, industrial, fashion and other designers from around the world each year to forecast the colours that will have broad appeal. After many design experts told Pantone they were using versions of a hot pink, the company narrowed the field to this precise shade—known specifically as Pantone 18-2120 TCX.

‘It’s a very “Mad Men” pink. It’s like the lipstick our mothers wore,’ says Tom Mirabile, head of global trends and design at Lifetime Brands Inc., the company behind Mikasa, Cuisinart and other houseware brands. “There’s a retro aspect to it that’s going to be very popular.” The company has glassware and dinnerware coming out in a hot pink much like honeysuckle and is using the colour in all sorts of home accents.

The word “honeysuckle” doesn’t signal bright pink to everyone. In some parts of the country, the flowers are yellow, white or other shades. A Pantone spokeswoman says that people’s opinion of honeysuckle’s colour derives from the flower they saw as children.

“There’s an innate optimism to pink,” says Jonathan Adler, an interior and housewares designer who is using hot shades of pink widely in his 2011 collections. “

The original Pantone Matching System fan guide. As reflected in the colours on cover, the 60s were all about bright, bold psychedelia, Peter Max and the Beatles.

The honeysuckle colour evokes nostalgic feelings of summertime, says Leatrice Eiseman, a colour psychologist who has been director of Pantone’s Colour Institute for 25 years.

Strategically, colours of the year are supposed to help sell all manner of products and packages. “We also want [people] to stop and say, ‘Oh, neat colour. Maybe I need to buy those plates,’” Eiseman says.

Pantone, part of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based X-Rite Inc., offers systems for identifying, matching and communicating colours to industries including printing, industrial, fashion, and home design. It also puts out colour trend reports several times a year and has been expanding its consumer licensing division to put its name on everything from Pantone mugs to a hotel in Brussels.

Pink to the top

It’s not entirely clear how pink rose to the top. Most designers won’t admit to any inspiration other than their own. “It’s funny how some colour just start to look good. “It’s in the air,” says Adler, who says he never looks at trend predictions.

Designers have been toying with loud pinks on and off for several years. Two years ago, there was a flurry of pink in menswear and in decor. When manufacturers discovered that consumers were recoiling to seek traditional heritage looks during the recession, colours went earthy.

But when Eiseman saw hot pinks this year on men’s sports equipment, such as the graphics on skis, it really caught her attention. “Graphic designers today are right there at the cutting edge,” she said. Then honeysuckle pinks appeared all over the fashion runways in September, in startling contrast to the camel/gray looks in stores.

In choosing her spring 2011 colours, New York fashion designer Nanette Lepore says she reasoned that people need optimism after several years of depressing economic news and bland colours. Lepore focused on pinks and orange. “We wanted to look through rose-coloured glasses,” she says, letting loose a string of rosy clichés. The colors have sold brilliantly, she adds.

The exact shade of pink gets careful thought from designers. Mr. Mirabile of Lifetime Brands notes that honeysuckle has less orange than coral pinks, so it looks better against most skin tones. Also, it reflects a colour found in real flowers.

pretty in pink

Some designers have chosen variants within the hot-pink family. Crate & Barrel used both honeysuckle and a similar Pantone shade called “pink flambé” in everything from furniture to dishware. Lepore calls her orange-tinged version of the colour “hot melon.” Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus, referred to “orange coral” when he described his pick for the colour of the spring 2011 season.

The arrival of pink now doesn’t mean that other colours will disappear from the market. Turquoise, the Pantone colour of 2010, and other shades of blue-green are expected to be popular in 2011. Adler notes that honeysuckle goes well with a “punchy turquoise” he’s been using. At Crate & Barrel, which used turquoise extensively in its collections this year, the colour was a big seller and continues to be popular, says Beth Eckerstrom, Crate & Barrel’s director of trend and product development.

Turquoise was chosen for its ability to soothe and calm, says Eiseman, blues evoke tranquillity for most people, she says. It’s no coincidence that most Pantone colors of the year are vivid. Five of the past dozen colours of the year have been a zesty reddish, pink or orange hue. Reds are a marketer’s delight, says Eiseman. Pink hues in particular generate the need “to pick it and chew it” like fruit. Flowery colours attract people, as well as hummingbirds, and “encourage propagation,” she says.

“Chili pepper” was the colour of 2007, the last year of the economic boom: The fiery red seems appropriate for a year that started out so hot, yet ultimately burned so many so badly.

Yellows—which can reflect unflatteringly on many skin tones—have been few and far between. The golden “Mimosa” colour of 2009 was the only yellow hue of the decade. And the only truly bland colour of the year was 2006’s off-white “Sand Dollar.” Eiseman says that reflected the interest in organics and sustainability. But it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling they just must have those off-white plates.

Now that red-pink has bubbled up so widely, it’s a sure sign that designers will be cooking up something different for 2012. Mirabile, for one, says that for 2012 he’s leaning toward “more mineralized brights,” which are toned-down colours, after the brilliance of 2011. For instance, adding some gray would tone down a chartreuse green to the colour of moss.