Teal, apparently, is the new blue. Already big in fashion, it's begun to filter through to trendy homes. And – the trend forecasters tell us – it's going to be the "colour of the year" in 2014. So who decided all this? Why the "cool hunters", of course. More about these characters in a minute. And I'll bet the tin-o-paint purchasing public doesn't realise that each every year the world's trend prediction experts get together to hold what amount to the "colour Oscars". So exactly how do the trend forecasters know what colours we're going to like next summer?
Louise Smith, global trends forecaster with Dulux, says there's no crystal ball involved – instead the answer is even more bizarre. Future interiors colour trends are based on the research of "cool hunters". These expert researchers are paid by design companies to observe changes in art and fashion across the world. They come together once a year at a nominated place to predict what colours and themes are about to become popular. And this is no white shaggy dog story.
"Some years are clearer than others," says Smith. "Blue was the dominant colour in 2013, but now that's changing and we're watching a greener edge starting to grow. I think, economically, this is a period of uncertainty and this is reflected in teal – a colour that you can't quite identify as either blue or green."
So how do the "cool hunter" gatherings affect the likes of you and me? Well their edicts tend to be adapted by the paint companies, so you can bet that when you go down to the hardware shop to buy paint next year, teal will be all over the place.
The paint manufacturer AkzoNobel actually goes so far as to produce a Colour Futures booklet in which each coming trend is presented as a series of colour palettes along with a little story about the underlying inspiration for the combo. The idea is that you get a cluster of colours that go together and can be used to create a more complete scheme in a room of your choosing.
This year, Silent Revolution is a colour palette that offers layer upon layer of quietly confident neutrals and a lot of tinted whites. The forecasters tell us it has resulted from the same zeitgeist that put Susan Cain's book 'Quiet: The Power of the Introverts' on the bestseller lists – the book hails the powers of the introverted people in our lives. So introvert inspired "quiet" colours. D'ya see? Of course you do. Newly popular nerds equals tinged whites. It's all very obvious isn't it?
We move on to Margin of Proof – a more architectural palette, apparently designed for control freaks who like pinstriped walls. It comes in putty, plaster and brick hues. Meantime, the Urban Folk palette announces itself with a quote from Tolkien and references to folklore. Some say it's a combination of "granny cottage" colours. Yellows, dulled reds and greens. And teals.
"One of the interesting things about all this is that there's always an anti-trend," says Smith. The backlash trend for 2014 is called Do It Now with a party-palette of jarring colours that celebrate the impermanence of bad design and cheap throw-away materials.
While this is all great fun, in reality it can be hard to find the confidence to try these edgy colour combinations at home and, in particular, in this land of steely grey daylight.
So let's get back down to earth with Denise O'Connor, one of RTE's 'Design Doctors' who also agrees that these palettes don't always suit Irish homes. Her own signature range for Dulux is all about making choosing colour as easy as possible. "People just don't know where to start," she says. "Often they will paint their whole house in cream because they don't know what else to do."
Certain tones, she feels, just don't work well in the Irish light. Our luminous overcast skies and long evenings require a different colour scheme than the direct sunlight of the Mediterranean.
One of the most common mistakes that people make is to paint rooms in brilliant white in an effort to bring light into the house.
"It doesn't work. It's too cold and clinical," she says. Irish people are also prone to using yellow, which is a notoriously tricky colour to get right.
"Sometimes people try for the warmer shades of yellow and end up with peachy undertones, which are veering dangerously close to magnolia," she explains. Her favourite neutral of the moment is Pure Muslin, from her own range.
O'Connor feels that Irish people have become more expressive about using colour over the last few years.
"During the boom years it was all about resale and value and people were terrified of putting off prospective buyers, so there was an awful lot of the same. Now people are painting their homes in the colours that they actually like themselves."
Expect to pay just over €50 for five litres of matt emulsion from the major paint companies (specialists like Farrow & Ball are more expensive), but remember to take the condition of the room into account as part of the overall budget. "If it's been painted in a pale cream, you'll probably get away with a single coat and a lick of diluted paint over that," advises Neville Knott, colour consultant with Crown Paints.
If the wall has previously been painted in a strong colour, Knott recommends that you buy a cheap pot of brilliant white to use as an undercoat.
Still stymied? Dulux Design Hub on 51c Dawson Street, Dublin, is offering lunchtime and evening tutorials with Denise O'Connor as part of Design Week (November 4-10, www.designweek.ie).
You can bring pictures of your problem rooms, magazine cuttings, or sample materials to help the experts understand what you're looking for. The evening classes run at 7pm on Monday, November 4 and Wednesday; the lunchtime classes are at 1pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; and there is a 2pm session on Saturday, November 9.
All the classes are free, but must be booked on www.dulux.ie.
www.crownpaints.ie; www.dulux.ie; and www.optimise-design.com