Thursday 19 July 2018

Interiors: The pink & blues - Pantone's new shades not so easy on the eye

Pantone's new shades not so easy on the eye

Dulux pinks are less sweet and their blues more gutsy.
Dulux pinks are less sweet and their blues more gutsy.
Bedroom from the Secret Linen Store
Pantone mug
Carolyn Donnelly shelf
Dulux blue and pink interior
Bailey DFS sofa
Pink and blue drawer cabinet from Oliver Bonas

Imagine an early morning sky streaked through with pink and blue. The world doesn't show us too many vistas more beautiful than that. But now imagine how those colours might look meshed together in an interior scheme... that's a bit more difficult isn't it?

Why are we even contemplating? Well, each year the colour experts at Pantone select a colour for that year. For designers, awaiting the decision of the Pantone mandarins is a bit like watching the Vatican chimney for white puffs. The Pantone guys aren't dictators - they're not saying we have to use their colour of the year. But their choice reflects a zeitgeist in interiors and fashion based on a massive amount of research. So when the Pantone pointy heads beatify a colour, you're dang well going to see a lot of it in the shops.

But not only did Pantone select two colours for 2016, but they picked blue and pink - rose quartz and serenity blue to be precise. These are the exact tones that look so radiant in the early morning sky. Trouble is... well it's obvious, isn't it?.

At best, rose quartz and serenity blue are atmospheric and dreamy. The publicity around the colours describes the "inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace".

It also bangs on about "gender equality and fluidity". Lovely sentiments as these are, I'm counselling a bit of caution when it comes to the colours themselves. Use them injudiciously and it could look like you've decorated for newborn twins.

"It's one of those combinations that you either like or you don't," says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux. "They work better when you use one of the colours on the walls and the other in accessories. It's difficult to combine them in paint."

If you want to use one of the colours on the walls, she suggests you go for the blue, possibly combined with white. "Or, to make it more grown-up, I'd throw in a very soft grey, with touches of pink around the room."

Rose quartz is a lovely fashion colour but it's hard to translate it into an interior.

"I'd prefer a gutsy pink with a bit of grey in it. Something a bit more solid. A degraded pink. A proper grown-up woman pink. And a cooler blue-grey. I'd knock back both colours. Dulux pinks are less sweet and the blues are much more gutsy. We've added grey to take that sweetness from them and tone them down," she says.

Because rose quartz and serenity blue have equal weight, they're tricky to work with. "I do like the yin-yang thing that Pantone is going for, but colours are like actors. You need to put one in the lead and the other in the supporting role."

Paula McCoy, homeware buyer for Arnotts, agrees. "If you're using the colours together, you need to let one hero over the other," she says. "In an Irish palette, the dominant colour is always going to be the blue. We've never been a nation of pink lovers and that particular shade of shell pink has a lot of Doris Day connotations."

McCoy feels that rose quartz and serenity blue work best as accent colours. "There's a lovely freshness to them, very clean and pure, but use them with caution on a neutral background and don't make them the backbone of the scheme. At all costs, avoid painting the entire room pink!"

You can see the colours coming through in Ted Baker's bed linen ranges with big peony prints mixed in with charcoal and sludgy grey, or scaled-up oriental prints with exotic birds and cherry blossom. Expect to pay around €104 for a double duvet cover and €44 for a pillowcase in the Ted Baker Range from Arnotts.

Or you could bring in an elegant touch of serenity blue with the new Blue Bird dinner service from Wedgewood, or the Windowpane throw (€90) from Foxford.

In the home, the pink and blue combo seems to work best when you go for shades with a bit more character than the Pantone pairing. "It's really important to have just the right colour in just the right tone," says Carolyn Donnelly, designer of the Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic range for Dunnes. "We spend hours on it!"

The pink in her collections is less girly than rose quartz and the blue has more green in it than serenity blue. Often, she'll throw some red into the mix.

"People say that they'd never put red and pink together, but that's what gives it the flavour. I like turning things on their head a bit."

Although the colours in her collection get a bit louder as the year progresses, she keeps it soft in the bedroom with plenty of pink and blue.

"I used to find it difficult to find sheets that weren't sweet pink or baby blue, but now I layer it up and take the sweetness out of it by using a sheet in a different colour."

The sheets come in grey or aqua (that's half way between blue and green) and cost between €16 and €24. Donnelly has also designed a range of furniture with doors painted in retro-inspired colours.

You can see her larger pieces in the new Dunnes Stores emporium in the Stephen's Green shopping centre, launched on St Patrick's Day.

For colour purists, the Pantone references are PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz and PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity. True devotees can buy the colours depicted on a collectible Pantone Universe mug (around €17 from Amazon). You might be best to leave it at that.


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