The paint colours of the year are out, with shades now influenced by social consciousness
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the evenings are drawing in, and the trend forecasters are gazing into their crystal ball. Earlier this week, the paint company Dulux announced its Colour of the Year (it’s yellow), along with four corresponding colour palettes. Yesterday, Farrow & Ball launched 11 new shades of paint. And in two weeks’ time, the American paint company Benjamin Moore will announce their signature colour and palette for 2023. This is edge-of-the-seat stuff. You have to hand it to the paint companies for upping the ante on the buying and selling of paint.
Dulux first. The company makes reasonably priced and widely available paint in a broad range of colours and its annual Colour of the Year (COTY) tends to be a useable wall colour. No alarms and no surprises. Dulux has been at this for 20 years. It knows how to do paint. The colour for 2023 is called Wild Wonder, a greenish gold reminiscent of ripening wheat.
“Wild Wonder is a confident neutral and a fantastic general colour to use throughout the home,” says Jane Witter, Dulux Colour Consultant. “It’s a lovely colour to meet you as you come in the door — a real ‘welcome home’ colour.”
This earthy neutral is accompanied by four co-ordinated palettes, a total collection of 37 shades ranging from mushroom greys to woody browns to floral pinks. Wild Wonder might not be for everyone, but most people will find something of interest in the wider selection. As always, the colour and its attendant palettes are articulated as part of a story that describes the current zeitgeist. According to Dulux: “This year our colours consciously echo the tones we find in nature.” Instead of swatches, the colours are presented on painted seed pods. Climate anxiety, anyone?
There’s been a certain amount of media pushback against the notion of a colour of the year in general. Michelle Ogundehin, interiors soothsayer-in-chief led the charge in an article for Dezeen (December 2021) writing that: “It’s time to reconsider the whole colour of the year carnival.” Her complaint was triggered by Veri Peri, a queasy shade of purple selected by Pantone, the self-acclaimed “global colour authority for the design community”, as the COTY of 2022. Most of the big paint companies, she wrote, alongside Pantone, “persisted in declaring a single shade as emblematic for the year ahead.” In the light of change — the pandemic, the climate crisis — Ogundehin felt: “Somehow, trends pegged to the sentiments of a single company now seem wrong. Previously, it felt more fun.”
Ogundehin has a point. One colour chosen by one company to capture the essence of the whole world smacks of hubris. But she also acknowledged that colour preferences are steered by wider societal factors than personal choice.
“Wherever you stand on the legitimacy of colour psychology, it cannot be denied that different colours reflect different moods and moments. Shades inevitably flow in and out of popular consciousness, whether buffeted by fashion or political concerns.” What she was looking for was a meaningful conversation about these issues.
Dulux may have listened. This year, the Dulux Colour Futures publication is less about sweeping pronouncements and more about what they do best: paint colours for the home. Dulux Wild Wonder in Diamond Matt Finish is available from stockists through colour mixing for €77.50 for 5 litres (€15.50 per litre).
If Dulux is the Cadbury’s of paint colours (and who can argue with a bar of Dairy Milk?), then Farrow & Ball is the Green & Blacks (expensive and intense). Farrow & Ball don’t do a COTY, nor do they frequently release colours.
They describe their range as: “A directional palette of paint colours with an extraordinary response to light.” As paint goes, it’s pricey. A 2.5 litre tin of Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion costs €64 (€25.60 per litre). People justify it in terms of the quality of the pigmentation, which is undeniably excellent, and the exclusiveness of the brand. As a customer, the limited range makes you feel like everything that they do is highly considered. Yesterday’s drop is the first addition to the company’s signature range of 132 paint colours since 2018.
The colours take their lead from Farrow & Ball’s existing palette, which means that a paint aficionado will probably recognise one of the new shades as a F&B offering, even if the actual colour is new. The names are splendid. Here are some paint catalogue excerpts. Bamboozle No.304: “The name of this flame-red hue was originally used to describe the deceit of pirates.” And Tailor Tack No.302: “The lightest and most delicate of our pinks, this charming colour is that of the sewing tacks used in Haute Couture ateliers.” This, in my opinion, is why Farrow & Ball don’t need a COTY or an overarching narrative. The names of their paint colours invite participation. Colour me bamboozled!
Amid all this, there’s also a clanger. It’s called Stirabout No.300: “This warm neutral with an underlying grey is inspired by the nurturing porridge favoured over many centuries in Ireland.” Yes, stirabout is an old Irish term for a type of porridge, made with whatever was available.
Yes, stirabout is an old Irish term for a type of porridge, made with whatever was available. But in this country, it’s still associated with the Great Famine when, following the failure of the potato crop. Stirabout made with imported corn meal was favoured by evangelical charities to feed to the starving multitudes in exchange for souls. Part of our heritage for sure. Not the warm fuzzy sort though.
For those that find Stirabout hard to stomach, the Irish paint company Colourtrend has come up with a more digestible neutral: Batch Loaf.
Now there’s a positive cultural resonance! The paint colours are different but both are neutrals and both are named after food. Batch Loaf is an off-white with hints of mushroom. This too is an expensive pot of paint.
A litre tin of Batch Loaf from Colourtrend costs €33. The company’s colour consultant Dervla Farrell also notes the increasing use of green as a neutral as part of a general shift towards organic and earthy tones.
As the year draws to a close, watch out for almost-blacks like Dressage, particularly on kitchen cabinets and as feature walls. “As we start to embrace earthy neutrals, stronger and darker neutrals will also start to gain popularity,” she says. Bring on the night.
See dulux.ie, farrow-ball.com and colourtrend.ie