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Pantone Colour of the Year 2021: Everything you need to style it, according to interior designers

Representing strength and positivity, this year, two contrasting shades were awarded the title

Louise Whitbread
Wednesday 16 December 2020 07:04 GMT
The contrasting pair is reflective of social behaviour, moods and attitudes
The contrasting pair is reflective of social behaviour, moods and attitudes (Pantone/iStock/The Independent)

As 2020 draws to a close, Pantone has unveiled the colour it thinks will reflect the year ahead.

For 2021, the colour authority has actually selected two contrasting shades, “ultimate grey” (Pantone 17-5104) and “illuminating yellow” (Pantone 13-0647), which it describes as “a marriage of colour conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.”

After a tumultuous year thanks to a global pandemic, it’s a cheerful mix that reminds us of sunshine filled days. This is only the second time in the 22 years that Pantone has been choosing a colour of the year that two have been selected.

“The selection of two independent colours highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one colour or one person, it’s about more than one," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a statement.

“The union of an enduring, ‘ultimate grey’ with the vibrant yellow, ‘illuminating’ expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” Eiseman added.

Picking the colour, or in this case colours, of the year stems from months of trend forecasting by the team at Pantone.

The warming yellow shade makes us think of better times ahead, while Pantone has compared “ultimate grey” to natural elements, such as stones on the beach, which bring a feeling of steadiness and resilience against the extreme winds and heat.

One way to take inspiration from the newly announced shades is through your home, whether it’s through soft furnishings or permanent fixtures. We’ve spoken to two interior design experts on how to update your abode with dashes of grey and yellow to be right on trend for the coming year.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.


Athina Bluff, founder and senior designer at Topology Interiors, recommends using “ultimate grey” as the prominent colour in your furnishings, such as on a sofa, walls, upholstered furniture, due to its subtlety.

“Then use the brighter, cheerful pop of colour aka “illuminating yellow” as the small accent colour to lift the grey,” she told The Independent.

If you don’t have a spare room, but want a comfortable way for guests to stay, this mimi fabric sofa bed (Very, £349) is the next best thing that’s both functional and stylish.


It has a minimalist, armless design and velvet texture with gold legs and a contemporary feel that can quickly be turned into a bed.

If you’re renovating your home, wallpaper is one way to completely change the look and feel of a room, and in recent years statement walls have become a popular trend.

(World of Wallpaper)

This apex geometric wallpaper (World of Wallpaper, £9.99) brings together both yellow and grey shades.

It has a matte finish but features metallic elements in the silver which add dimension but won’t overwhelm your wall.

Soft furnishings

According to Bluff, “If grey is used in too large a quantity, it can run the risk of looking a bit dull and flat so complimenting it with this zingy yellow is a great concept.”

Cushions are one of the easiest ways to update the colours scheme of any room, whether it’s on your sofa or bed.

Bluff suggests this large elena ochre cushion (Dunelm, £14) that has both colours, accented on each side you don't have to decide between one or the other.


When it comes to pairing the two shades with existing colours in your home already, Bluff says: “The yellow is the slightly harder colour to pair other tones with. I would say that if you wanted to create a more toned down and subtle scheme, try pairing it down with a dusty pink. This would be a great mid-toned colour to unify the grey and the yellow.”

Or keep a uniform feel with a matching throw, such as this yellow and grey semaphore throw (British Blanket Company, £65).

(British Blanket Company )

With tasseled edges and colour block panels, it pays homage to the colourful pairing picked by Pantone and will be the perfect companion for afternoon naps.

Rugs are also a way of revamping your space without the investment that bulkier items like a sofa require, and Bluff recommends this wool rug phrena yellow (Benuta, £198.95).


Perfect for a bedroom, hallway or living room, it’s a handwoven, wool and cotton mix that will feel soft beneath your feet.

Home decor

Smaller items for decoration are ideal for those finishing touches to bring a room to life and inject your personality, especially in a rental where you may be limited on renovations.

This small grey, mustard yellow, and natural dried flower arrangement (Etsy, £20.50) is a fuss-free way to bring some blooms into your home and is very low maintenance. Simply keep out of direct sunlight and away from water, and it can last up to two years. 


Adding pops of colour and texture, this is a great addition to a living room. It comes with or without a mini milk bottle vase too, and features a mix of bunny tails, dried flax, wheat and grasses.

According to interior designer Flora Soames, “When used sparingly, a pale grey and vivid yellow is incredibly effective alongside a rich deep colour such as marine blue or aubergine.”

She recommends using contrasting colours to inject life into a corner of a room, sharing her love for luxury homewares brand, The Lacquer Company.

This Natalie lamp (The Lacquer Company, from £895) has a high gloss finish, which can be polished brass, nickel or bronze at your choosing.

(The Lacquer Company)

It plays into the fun shapes we’ve seen emerging into interior trends during recent months, with a robust bubble-like stand that’s a statement piece all on its own.

Having spent many months of the year in lockdown, you may well be sick of the sight of your own walls, so look to wall art and prints to add life into a tired-feeling room.

Bluff suggests this lilac intimacy (The Poster Club, from £44) created by Dutch artist Tiny de Vries, whose illustrations, painting and collages are made using old paper, linen and vintage book paper.

(The Poster Club)

It’s a simple design that’s eye-catching but not so bold it’ll distract from the rest of your interiors.

For more inspiration for your interiors, read our guide to the best sofa beds that are both trendy and practical

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