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Pantone Colour Trends 2021: How to style with Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Yellow

In the design world, Pantone® 's Colours of the Year for 2021 choice of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Yellow is taking a cue from this last tumultuous year and giving people a sense of hope, optimism, and the refresh that many are looking for in the new year.

Pantone® revealed that Illuminating---a bright yellow hue---and Ultimate Gray are its 2021 Colours of the Year, with both synchronously representing unity, stability, and hope.

“Illuminated,” the bright, highlighter-yellow colour, is the light at the end of the tunnel, the sun rising over a dark landscape, the dawning of hope that comes with the possibility of a vaccine and flattening the curve.

According to Pantone® ’s website, “PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colours of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness, and resilience.”

Pantone® ’s 2021 colour combination choice is aspirational

Janelle Pantry-Coke, Creative Director at Spaces design studio says, “I understand that Pantone® ’s 2021 colour combination choice is an aspirational one--that after a cloudy day, we will see a bright hopeful future. Over the past decade, Pantone’s colour picks have been bright, striking hues like Classic Blue (2020), Living Coral (2019), Ultraviolet (2018), and Radiant Orchid (2014). These are energetic colours, the kind that can spark inspiration for us in the studio. This yellow grey combination has been a design trend since 2014 and grey although not invigorating is a steady, classic neutral, that can often seem dull when used on its own. Yellow is the cheerful hue of magnificently bright Carnations, and heartening sunshine, offering a fresh appeal in each of its many variations. However, the pandemic has forced us to spend more time at home, which includes paying attention to our home decor colour palette that can affect our mood. From a design perspective, a touch of a bright, uplifting shade is almost essential when working with neutrals such as grey to keep away both boredom and depression. So, a stimulating shade like the Pantone® Illuminating Yellow is a perfect complement to Ultimate Gray.”

Pantone® ’s 2021 colour combination combo can help brighten spaces

With several promising vaccines in production though not quite accessible to us all, staying home and entertaining inside in small numbers (6ft apart) is still a thing. Consequently, playing with Pantone® ’s 2021 colours yellow and grey combinations can help you in your quest to brighten your spaces as you spend more time indoors.


Create a focal point

Yellow, is a very cheerful colour which brings light to spaces and makes them look welcoming.

I recommend using it as an all-over hue or an accent colour in areas meant for play or where groups of people gather, like a kitchen or living room. Using yellow creates a warm and welcoming ambiance that makes you and your guests feel comfortable right from the start.

Yellow is an energizing colour that makes a bold statement as seen with this velvet yellow accent chair from Spaces Design studio.

Use complimentary yellow accents like vases and pillows

However, using yellow is a big commitment, as much as it can be an uplifting colour, it can also be a bit overwhelming. So, if you are not ready to commit to a yellow accent wall or couch, you can use a few bright accessories like our yellow Soleil ceramic vases or our retro City rug with black, light grey, mustard, beige, and taupe that could be swapped out if necessary.

Use a few bright accents like these yellow Soleil ceramic vases from Spaces Design studio that can brighten the mood against the neutral grey

Use grey as the foundation colour and introduce the yellow for a pop of colour

Use grey as the foundation

Although grey can be considered a bit dull, it is a lot more sophisticated and versatile than we give it credit for. For being such an old soul of a colour, grey is impressively dynamic in reflecting the mood and/or style of a space--- just perfectly. From intimately cosy bedrooms to art-filled contemporary living room spaces– it can be classified as a chic neutral that you can use time and time again in your home.

Gray walls can easily accommodate a variety of colour palettes and similarly, adding a yellow and grey patterned wall and flooring can provide the perfect backdrop to grey furniture and accessories.

We often use grey as the background colour for a lot of our designs, so you will find we have a collection of accent chairs, sectionals, and sofas in gunmetal or light grey. When you have grey as a foundation, it is relatively easy to introduce yellow for a ‘pop’ of colour with accent pieces and accessories. The neutral grey will fill in the gaps easily and with dignity to support its complementary yellow.

With a grey neutral, infuse metallics and textures for a more layered look as seen in Spaces Design studio’s mood board.

Gray is softer and calmer than other neutrals like beige and white and by varying the tone, tint, and shade of grey used in a space, you can create depth and focus, and it’s a more durable choice.

Pantone® ’s 2021 colour combination trend’s longevity

As we spend more time indoors, it’s important to have a space that’s soothing and liveable. Make sure that you are comfortable with your design choices and invest in pieces that you can keep as the trends change. For example, a bold shade of yellow combined with a darker grey becomes a stronger mix and would look beautiful in the living room while a pale yellow combined with a soft, calming grey can be perfect for bedrooms.

Whatever way you decide to incorporate the yellow and grey combination, make sure to create your own interpretation of this design trend that fits your lifestyle..

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