Originally published in STIR®
The newest crop of nature-inspired hues for the home has a distinctly different look.

Earth-toned neutrals, in various incarnations, have experienced highs and lows in popularity for several decades. But the newest crop of nature-inspired hues for the home has a distinctly different look. And it's all thanks to the green movement.

"With all of the news about global warming, the dramatic changes in weather patterns, and the rising cost of energy, the environment is no longer just the concern of a small segment of the population. People everywhere are newly conscious of our relationship to nature and our surroundings, and that consciousness is reflected in the newest color trends," said the Color Marketing Group out of Alexandria, Va., in its color trend forecast for 2007.

Richer tones and more complex and mixed colors have raised the color bar, maintaining a natural influence while introducing a new depth to neutrals. "Our bucket of neutrals has really expanded," said Debbie Zimmer, color expert with the Rohm & Haas Paint Quality Institute in Philadelphia.

In fact, neutrals are revving up, going modern and taking over living spaces. They're making a statement on walls, yet not fighting for attention. They're moving beyond white, cream, beige and taupe to pistachio, espresso, lavender and gunmetal.

Some of the new favorites

Botanical greens are everywhere – from soft sages to bold spruces. While organic, nature-inspired greens are gaining the most attention, designers are also brightening rooms with splashes of such hues as jadeite, lime and chartreuse.

Deep, rich, earthy browns reflect the hues of roasted coffee and gourmet chocolate and stimulate our sense of touch, smell and taste. Paired with leather furnishings, exotic woods and burnished metals, the new browns add texture and sensuality.

The blues of nature – the colors of sea and sky – are calming and fresh, and their luminosity provides a nice counterbalance to the browns. Aqua, opaline, cobalt, porcelain and teal are among the most popular.

Silver, pearl, platinum, fog, pewter, charcoal – gray in all its smoky and shimmering hues has gone straight from the runway to home design. "Gray is a great color for the home. It's not as harsh as black, and yet dark gray will ground the eye and have the same effect of providing definition in your rooms," said Lynda Reeves, president of Toronto-based House & Home Media.

Once considered too old-fashioned, lavender has also become a go-to color. "It's gone beyond the sweet old lady thing," said Washington designer Whitney Stewart. "It's something new and fresh that we can use in the same way as the beiges."

"Lavender is the new neutral. It can pick up the qualities of any color," said Chicago designer Anne Coyle. "There's no color that it can't mix with. It's like gray but a little more racy, a little more fun. It's like the crazy aunt of gray."

A Sampling of Sherwin-Williams Neutrals:

  • Organic Green SW 6732
  • Bateau Brown SW 6033
  • Fountain SW 6787
  • Granite Peak SW 6250
  • Ash Violet SW 6549

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