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2021 Color Trends for Closets & Home Interiors

Yellow and gray bedroom with built-ins for storage
Pantone predicts that we'll all see a lot more yellow and gray color combinations in 2021 — like this yellow, white, and gray bedroom with custom built-ins for storage.

Every new year the Pantone institute comes up with predictions on what color schemes will dominate throughout the upcoming year. There are several trends predicted. Some are just updated hues from the previous year. But yellow and gray are the big new winners for 2021.

The 2021 Pantone Color of the Year

Pantone color of the year for 2021 is Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.
The Pantone color of the year for 2021 is actually two colors — "Ultimate Gray" and "Illuminating." They are both available in color families designed to work with many applications. These two shades highlight how different elements can come together to support one another. Couldn't we all use a little more of that in 2021? Image from

Pantone announced their color predictions for the new year back in December of the previous year. Could they have known what was to come in January? Rather than just one color of the year, this year we have two. Ultimate Gray and Illuminating were both chosen to represent our preferences for 2021. Ultimate Gray is a strong, conservative steel gray. Illuminating, on the other hand, is a vibrant yellow hue full of sunny optimism and the promise of a new day.

Can two such totally different colors work together in a bipartisan manner? We think so. They must.

The reasons for these color choices can be best expressed by the Pantone Institute themselves. Leatrice Eisman, executive director tells us, The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit. The way two such different colors can work together to support one another is a story our country, and the whole world, could use right now. This color combination is practical and rock solid but at the same time warming, optimistic, and energetic.

According to Pantone, Emboldening the spirit, the pairing of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 highlights our innate need to be seen, to be visible, to be recognized, to have our voices heard. A combination of color whose ties to insight, innovation and intuition, and respect for wisdom, experience, and intelligence inspires regeneration, pressing us forward toward new ways of thinking and concepts.

These two color choices express hope and the promise of better times for all of us in the USA and all over the world. We all need to do our best to help make it come true.

The Psychology of Color

Years ago when I was an undergrad studying design, I chose yellow as the primary color in a corporate identity project. Although I too paired it with gray, I remember the flurry of criticism this color combination stirred among my teachers and classmates. I was told to stay away from yellow in the business world because it's too controversial. That when it comes to yellow, people will either love it or hate it, and so love or hate your company. There's no in between. It's not a "safe" color. For the record, I kept the yellow and gray branding scheme for my hypothetical company and got an A on it anyway.

The Psychology of Yellow

Illuminating yellow color swatch for 2021 color of the year

Yellow is the brightest color of the visible spectrum, and it is the most noticeable of all colors by the human eye. According to It means happiness and optimism; it is the color of sun shining, or bright light and creativity. It is believed to have an influence on the left side of our brain, where deep thinking and perception dwells. Among the positive traits given by the yellow color are optimism, enthusiasm, confidence, originality, wisdom, analytical thinking, creativity, fun. But the color can also have negative traits. Critical, impatient, impulsive, egoist, pessimist, with complexes, cowardly, cold from the emotional point of view are also associated with yellow. Yellow needs to be grounded with another color. Thus the selection of Ultimate Gray as the partner for Illuminating yellow.

The Psychology of Gray

Ultimate gray color swatch for 2021 color of the year

The color gray is halfway between white and black. It is truly the ultimate color of neutrality and compromise. Unlike bright yellow, it is definitely not a flashy color. It is unemotional and somewhat introverted. Some find it dull and uninspiring. But used well, gray can also be sleek, modern, and sophisticated. It's the mature, but stylish, gray-haired adult in the room. As such, it evokes a sense of experience and responsibility. It offers the perfect balance to the unbridled adventurism of bright yellow, tempering it without squelching its enthusiasm.

It's all a matter of balance. Used together, yellow and gray can both promote and repress our best and worst impulses. These two colors symbolize hope and the promise of what can be accomplished when we all work together. It's a message we desperately need right now. You're probably going to see a lot of gray and yellow this year. Kudos to the Pantone Institute for recognizing the color combination we all need right now.

How to Combine Yellow and Gray at Home

gray sofa with yellow pillows and blanket throw show interior color trends
This living room takes a simple and conservative approach to adding the gray and yellow color scheme. Accent pillows, a blanket throw, and a small area rug transform the already gray-toned space into the latest color scheme.

Yellow can be a dramatic and sometimes controversial color. If you're feeling a bit timid when it comes to adding a yellow and gray pallet to your home, start with something simple.

  • Keep your big-ticket items in the gray. For example, your closet components, built-ins, or flooring could be done in gray to ground the space. Then use paint, draperies, or accessories to bring in yellow.
  • Upholster your furniture in gray and accent it with throw pillows in bright yellow.
  • Dark walls and cozy private spaces are in. Paint a small room like your bathroom in dark gray and use a yellow shower curtain or bath towels to bring in a bright contrasting yellow pallet.
gray bathroom with yellow towels show interior color trends for 2021
This gray bathroom uses bright yellow towels to get the owners energized at the start of each day.

It's Time for a Change

Are you ready to make some simple updates to your own rooms? Use these 2021 colors to fill your home with optimism, hope, and a solid future! Yellow is a happy color and an easy way to put your family in a good mood. Think of it as your golden opportunity the happier, healthier times we all want and deserve. But be sure to ground it with gray. You'll want it as a solid foundation that can support your hopes and aspirations for the new year.

2021 is going to be a year of dramatic change. Why not get off to a happy, healthy start with a fresh paint job and/or some accessories in these new colors? If you've have any examples of yellow and gray interiors that you'd like share, post the page URL here and let us all take a look.