5 Tips for Decorating with the Colors of 2021: Illuminating & Ultimate Gray

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A new year, a new year-defining color from the Pantone Color Institute! Actually, after the year we just had, the trend-forecasting company thought we deserved two colors in 2021: 13-0647 Illuminating — a vibrant yellow — and 17-5104 Ultimate Gray.

Pantone’s annual picks influence multiple industries, from high fashion and beauty to interior design and social media. And, the reasoning behind the choice of these two as the joint colors of the year is simple: balance. The positivity exuded by the sunny yellow contrasts the strong, neutral gray, while the combination of the two has a calming effect and radiates hope — something we all need a little more of in our lives right now. Plus, the colors go together and offer endless possibilities when it comes to incorporating them into home decor. Curious about how to do that? Here a few quick tips on how to make the most out of 2021’s trending colors:


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1. Pick a dominant hue

Vibrant yellow hues around the house work best in an otherwise gray-colored background. Similarly, pops of strong grays catch the eye if the rest of the decor is mostly yellow. Therefore, choosing either one to be the dominant color in a room depends on what type of ambiance you want to set. For example, if you’re decorating the living room and have plans to entertain there, consider using gray as the primary color with pops of yellow here and there. Alternatively, if you’re decorating the kids’ room, the sunny yellow is definitely the way to go, with a bit of gray here and there for balance.

Furthermore, Ultimate Gray, in particular, can be a successful addition to a textured wall — regardless of the part of the house you use it in — whereas Illuminating works best on statement pieces, from small photo frames to couches.

2. Use them as accent colors

Granted, too much of either of these two colors would be overkill for one room. For instance, too much yellow can be difficult on the eyes and an abundance of gray can quickly go from calming to gloomy. That’s why using them as accent colors is the easiest way to go, regardless of the room size and whether you live in a studio or a 3-bedroom.

Specifically, throw pillows, rugs, various knick-knacks and/or blankets are enough to give your living space a dynamic feel when you pair up these two colors. And, although contrasting, the two colors complement each other nicely and can work well even for finishes — cabinet finishes, light fixtures, you name it.

3. Make a statement

Both Illuminating and Ultimate Gray also work great on statement pieces, but with different effects, as every color boasts a unique identity. Namely, gray pieces tend to have a more calming effect and are suitable for common areas like living rooms. For example, gray pottery gives off a sophisticated air to any space and would work wonderfully in a home office.

On the other hand, yellow statement pieces are more eye-catching and can go wherever you think a pop of color or warmth is needed. For instance, yellow textiles — such as rugs, throws or even wall art — give off a cozy vibe. And, because yellow is a color that makes a statement regardless of the size of the item, even tiny yellow teacups placed in the right kitchen corner can liven up the whole place.

4. Pull in color through functional items

Meanwhile, even though we might love a certain color, there are cases in which it doesn’t exactly go with the theme or vibe of the rest of the house decor. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, fear not — 2021’s colors also work great for non-decor functional items that you plan on using often. In fact, there are many other ways to incorporate these trending colors around the house, whether you go for yellow coffee mugs and plates or slick gray bedding. In this case, think storage bins, bath towels, shower curtains, glassware and everything in between that you use often and could use a color upgrade.


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5. Pick either one

The best thing about Pantone’s 2021 colors is that, although they complement each other, one can easily stand without the other. Both Illuminating and Ultimate Gray can hold their own if you’re looking for a timeless color palette. In other words, you can build your home decor around either one without feeling like something is missing.

To that end, most shades of gray are practical and pleasant to work with when decorating, and Ultimate Gray is no exception given its sedate tone and calming effect. Conversely, the sunny Illuminating is perfect when you’re looking for a warm color that brings an extra oomph to your daily environment.

Trends come and go, but this year’s colors can be truly timeless when used properly. Pantone Color Institute believes the fusion between Illuminating and Ultimate Gray means “strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.” And, seeing how well the two go together, we can’t help but agree.

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Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email.

Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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