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New Paint Hits the Refresh Button on Home Decor

COVID-19 living is influencing color choices and paint trends

spinner image A woman choosing paint color from swatch at home
Klaus Vedfelt/ Getty Images

When Aimee Kravette, 60, was quarantined at home because of the coronavirus, she knew there was one thing she wanted to do.

"If we're going into quarantine that means we're stuck in the house, and I'm going to paint,” Kravette says from her home in California's San Fernando Valley.

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She stayed indoors and got to work, transforming her open plan living space from the deep green it had been for over a decade to a gleaming white. “I absolutely love it,” she says.

Kravette is not alone in using time at home to redecorate. As the pandemic continues and people find themselves staying home for long stretches, many are using the time to do some sprucing up.

"People are really thinking about upgrades to their space to make it more beautiful and livable and to enjoy it more,” says Nicole Gibbons, an interior designer in New York City. “Paint is literally the easiest and least expensive thing that you can do to completely transform the look of your space.”

Color Trends for 2021

While the influential Pantone Color Institute, which forecasts global color trends, hasn't yet released its color of the year for 2021, several paint manufacturers have released their own choices. Here are some 2021 colors to consider.

• Benjamin Moore: Aegean Teal 2136-40, which the company describes as “a blend of blue-green and gray” and “an intriguing midtone that creates natural harmony."

• HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams: Passionate HGSW2032, which the company describes as a “deeply saturated hue that is daringly rich."

• Sherwin-Wiliams: Urbane Bronze SW 7048, which is described as “a hue whose warmth and comfort breath down-to-earth tranquility."

• Valspar: The company named 12 colors instead of picking just one. Dusty Lavender, Gallery Grey and Lucy Blue are among the offerings.

Coronavirus-influenced color

The first step to transforming a room is to choose the right color. While whites, grays, and “greige,” the combination of beige and gray, are always popular choices, these days people may be looking to make a bold statement.

Lori Rabin-Christiansen, 67, was “bored to tears” after months in quarantine. “I really wanted to shake things up,” she says. That meant painting the living room and dining room of her house in Oahu.

"In Hawaii, most of the walls are painted white, because of the heat, but when we lived in Oregon, we had a lot of color and I missed that,” she says. Her new paint colors include a “relaxing” deep steel blue gray for the living room and a greenish brown earth tone for the dining room.

Rabin-Christiansen's nostalgia-fueled paint choice is right in line with what Sue Wadden has been seeing in her work as the director of color marketing at the paint company Sherwin-Williams.

"People are looking inward and wanting to create sanctuary spaces,” she says. “And they're doing that in a really easy way, which is paint color.”

Wadden has seen the popularity of earth tones rise, as well as deep shades of brown, blue, and green—a stark change from the whites and grays that were popular before the pandemic.

Similarly, Gibbons has seen interest in what she calls “vibrant, energetic, and cheerful tones,” like corals and brilliant blues, a shift she believes comes from people wanting to make their spaces feel happy and cozy.

Pick a color that evokes emotion

When choosing a paint color, Gibbons recommends taking color cues from the existing furniture and decor and making sure to look at the paint in the room's natural light, which can radically change a color.

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The most important thing, though, is to choose a color that makes you feel good. “Ultimately design is very personal, so choose what speaks to you personally,” she says.

Wadden suggests spending some time perusing Pinterest or design magazines for inspiration before heading to the paint store. “If you can't get into the store, you can make a phone call and talk to the store personnel to get advice on the right product or you certainly can shop online,” she notes.

If you aren't sure if painting the living room in wall-to-wall coral will work for you, Wadden suggests an accent wall.

"Accent colors are a way to update a space without really committing to the whole room if you don't have that in you,” she says. She suggests using color to spice up a fireplace wall, an entry, or another significant space that you want to highlight.

Wadden has also noticed people devising creative uses of paint—using stencils to add a little flash to a room, or what she calls “tuxedo paint” in kitchens, with one color on the upper cabinets, a darker color on the base cabinets and sometimes even a third color on an island. “It's a great opportunity to bring color in, but maybe not commit to a whole big kitchen done in one color,” she says. “It can look super sophisticated."

Before undertaking a DIY paint job, Gibbons has one tip: “Don't skimp out on your supplies, because good supplies can help you achieve more professional-looking results.”

Wadden recommends talking to the experts at a paint store who can help you choose the right paint for your wall, answer how-to questions, and tell you what kind of brushes, rollers and primer to use.

Whatever color you choose, whether a neutral or a bold pop of color, there's no doubt that a coat of paint can make a world of difference, although it will involve some sweat equity on the part of homeowners who tackle the job themselves.

"I'm super proud that I did it and it looks really good,” says Kravette. “I'm wondering if I really want to ever do it again. But the hallway does need a little more work."

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