Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Get ready for a year of pale pink and baby blue

Rose Quartz dining chairs create a soothing yet elegant touch in this dining room in this bedroom.
Rose Quartz dining chairs create a soothing yet elegant touch in this dining room in this bedroom. TNS

Move over, neon brights and saturated tones. We’re entering a pastel phase.

At least, that’s the color forecast for 2016, the year of pale pink and blue.

After 15 years of picking mostly vibrant and jewel-tone shades, Pantone Color Institute may have surprised consumers with its selection of Rose Quartz and Serenity as its 2016 “Colors of the Year,” the first time the fashion and furnishings forecaster has chosen more than one hue for its annual honor.

The twin pick represents “a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude,” according to Pantone.

At first blush, these soft shades may remind shoppers of baby clothes or prom dresses. Instead, Pantone sees them as calming influences in a stressful environment.

“Rose Quartz is a persuasive yet gentle tone that conveys compassion and a sense of composure,” Pantone said in its official announcement. “Serenity is weightless and airy, like the expanse of the blue sky above us, bringing feelings of respite and relaxation even in turbulent times.”

As a pair, pink and blue form their own color-wheel yin and yang, complementing and intensifying each shade.

“Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s executive director.

Since Pantone unveiled its selections, interior designers and other home experts have started to warm up to working with these pastels.

“We were a bit hesitant at first, but grew to love them as we learned more about Pantone’s inspiration behind the pairing – the balance between our busy lives and mindful well-being,” said Sacramento interior designer Kerrie Kelly. “We also realized that we use these colors interchangeably in several client projects and have loved how they complement our favorite patterns and designs.”

Sophie Donelson, editor in chief of House Beautiful magazine, called these pastels part of a developing palette that’s “peaceful without being sleepy.”

By contrast, past Colors of the Year represented rich earthiness (wine-red Marsala, 2015), high energy (bright orange Tangerine Tango, 2012) or joyful confidence (very purple Radiant Orchid, 2014). Some tones (such as 2013’s Emerald Green or 2002’s True Red) were chosen for their classic beauty and statement-making elegance.

Although some powerful pinks (2011’s Honeysuckle, 2001’s Fuchsia Rose) have made the list in recent years, a true pastel hadn’t worked its way into Pantone’s pantheon since Cerulean blue in 2000.

But in its survey of fashion and furnishing designer collections for 2016, Pantone picked up on this pastel trend with a twist. Contrary to stereotypes, pale pink can be masculine. Likewise, baby blue feels feminine.

“In many parts of the world, we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted color trends throughout all other areas of design,” Eiseman said.

That blur can be felt throughout the house. Pale blue, traditionally restricted to bathrooms, can add an aquatic note to kitchens. Pink, often thought of as a girl’s bedroom color, can feel cozy in dens and living rooms.

Appliance and home goods makers have embraced Rose Quartz and Serenity or similar shades with new additions to their regular lines. For example, Kitchen Aid offers its Artisan mixer in a lookalike blue to Serenity and its hand-held electric mixer in soft pink a la Rose Quartz. Smeg has retro-style toasters, tea kettles and refrigerators in both pastel pink and blue.

Both shades are well-represented in IKEA’s 2016 catalog, ranging from stackable midcentury-modern-style chairs to pink- and blue-striped duvets.

Known for its classic floral prints, furnishings and fashion house Laura Ashley has plenty of pink pops (plus some pale blue) in its “Silver Serenity” collection.

The challenge with pink-blue color schemes is keeping such a match from looking like a powder room or an infant’s nursery.

“We recently completed a client project where we used these colors together, but balanced them with natural finishes and plenty of light and bright wood trim,” Kelly said. “At first glance, Rose Quartz and Serenity are very soft and feminine, but when paired with more rustic details and design elements, they are clean and cozy and can be easily worked into most homes.”

Kelly sees potential in pairing pink and blue as well as working with just one or the other.

“Dark tones like olive and fig balance the light and frothy color pairing when used together,” she said, “but separately they look elegant and contemporary.”