Saturday 19 October 2019

Tickled pink! How to create a sense of calm and warmth in your home

Channel a sense of calm and warmth with blush shades in neutral tones

Dutchbone Jafar Rug in diamond pattern from Cuckooland
Dutchbone Jafar Rug in diamond pattern from Cuckooland
Sophia bed from Covet House
Retro sofa in soft pink
Lamb Design and Knot cushions, also Lamb Design
Emma Lamb
Dutchbone Calude solid wood wine cabinet from Cuckooland
Dulux Heart Wood paint
Pink side table with copper-dipped leg, from Lamb Design

There are a couple of things that I do when I need to cheer myself up. Buy flowers. Light candles. Put on my pink jumper. It's old and threadbare, but there's something therapeutic about pink. It's the ultimate comfort colour.

I'm by no means the first to realise the soothing qualities of pink. In the late 1970s, an American professor, Alexander G Schauss published a paper in Orthomolecular Psychiatry. He claimed to have discovered a shade of pink that made people less aggressive. America pricked up its ears. In 1979, two commanding officers at the US Naval Correction Centre in Seattle, Washington, painted one of their holding cells in that particular shade of pink. It's a vile colour - think Pepto-Bismol - but it worked. The cell's inmates were so weakened by the horrid pink that they didn't have the energy to fight each other.

The colour was named Baker-Miller pink, after the prison officers who first put it into use. According to Kassia St Clair, author of The Secret Lives of Colour (2016), it became "something of a pop culture phenomenon in America". Bus seats, the walls of housing estates, and holding cells were all painted in Baker-Miller pink, which became known as "drunk tank pink". After a while, it went out of fashion. Later studies on whether it worked or not were inconclusive.

In 2017, Baker-Miller pink reared its ugly head again. The American model, Kendall Jenner, announced that she had painted her living room wall in Baker-Miller pink. A post on her official app explained: "Baker-Miller Pink is the only color scientifically proven to calm you AND suppress your appetite. I was like, 'I NEED this color in my house!' I then found someone to paint the room and now I'm loving it!" Other shades of pink are a different matter. "Bad pinks are really, really bad, perhaps more than any other colour," the artist and colour-theorist Katherine Boucher Beug explains. "But subtle pinks are sophisticated, inviting and magical. A pink that has been mixed with a little green hovers around being neutral, yet retains a pink glow. It is warm and soft, and yet sometimes hardly identifiable as pink."

Emma Lamb
Emma Lamb

Some of the best interiors shades around at the moment fall under the umbrella term: Millennial pink. This isn't just one colour. Lauren Schwartzberg, writing for The Cut in 2017, described Millennial pink as "a range of shades from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid". It's also been called Rose pink, Muted pink, Scandi pink, and Tumblr pink. Significantly, Millennial pink purports to be gender neutral.

"Historically, when we thought of pink for our homes we visualised an overtly feminine, garishly girlie, or sugary sweet tone," says Emma Lamb. She's the owner of Lamb Design, a Wicklow-based design consultancy and online homeware shop. "I believe there are many ways to use pink without over-simplistic gender connotations. Blush pinks can look great with soft greys and white, and a dash of pink can bring a soft splash of colour to Scandinavian design."

Lamb Design's repertoire of pared-back pinks include a pink side table with copper dipped leg (€220), a pink lidded laundry basket (€30 to €95), and an interesting range of muted pink cushions. "Muted pink, bordering on salmon/peach, works particularly well with warmer metals like gold and copper which soften the palette further and make a calm neutral room come to life."

If you're up for a bit of excitement, the Eos range of feather lampshades designed by Vita Copenhagen come in a peachy shade of pink, as well as the usual white. They're made of natural goose feathers and prices start at €75, but according to Lamb, the bigger the better. "I've recently used one in a penthouse apartment with navy walls. The colours are variegated, it's not candy pink, and it looks incredibly luxurious in the right context."

The Dulux paint colour of 2018, Heart Wood, is a dusky pink and the company's creative director, Marianne Shillingford, points towards its comforting qualities: "It's the perfect antidote to the mood of the moment - channelling a real sense of calm and warmth during times of global uncertainty."

A five litre tin of Diamond Matt finish costs €70. As pinks go, Heartwood is a pretty sophisticated neutral. And, if the notion of using pink as a neutral seems foreign, remember that in the Second World War, an attractive lavender pink was used for camouflaging ships. It was called Mountbatten pink, after its instigator Lord Mountbatten, and chosen to mimic the colours of the sea at dawn and dusk. But because it didn't work in the daytime it was discontinued.

Sophia bed from Covet House
Sophia bed from Covet House

The designers at Neptune have taken a more classical approach to pink with their new paint colour, Old Rose (€49 for a 2.5 litre tin of emulsion). It's a quiet, slightly earthy pink and works for furniture as well as walls. If you're buying a painted-wood kitchen, like the Shaker-style Suffolk, from Neptune, you can ask to have it painted in Old Rose.

However, I recommend testing the gender neutral theory on the audience at home before you commit. For pink to be accepted as truly ungendered requires a degree of evolution in the user and I'm not quite sure that we're there yet. And that's speaking as a woman whose recently been told: "I don't care how gender neutral it is. There's no way I'm sitting on an effing pink sofa." Like Lord Mountbatten, we've decided to go back to grey.


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