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Colour TrendsExterior Colour

Colour Trends are Important; Yay or Nay

By 09/22/2010January 26th, 201729 Comments

There seems to be two camps in the colour industry.  Colourists (CMG) who believe colour trends are important and critical for products, cars, etc and Colourists (IACC/NA) who think choosing colour based on trends is just plain uneducated.  Since I’m a member of both, I agree with both sides and there’s a context for each as well.

If manufacturers did not know the colour trends, it would be almost impossible to decorate your house for example.  It’s nice when you can buy an upholstered chair (for a fraction of the custom price) for your bedroom at one store and then buy a matching duvet at another one to coordinate.  Let’s face it, there’s probably not a lot of burgandy and teal placemats (from the 80’s) available right now, or enough people that would buy them even if they were. As a designer, when you are called to choose drapery for an interior that’s really dated, the options are very limited even in the world of custom fabrics.

It’s critical to understand colour trends when specifying exterior colours.  If you choose a colour for an exterior that is at the end of the trend cycle right now, in 3 years it will look 10 years old.  Because then the new colour trends will be more mainstream and colours that are dated will look even older then they actually are because the trend will officially be over 10 years old.  Better not to choose a trendy colour at all unless it fits with the architectural style of the building and also works with the geography and demographic of the area.

Exterior by Colour Studio 

As I tell my participants all the time, there is no one place where you can get all colour knowledge tied up in a box with a red bow on top. If you want to be a well-rounded colourist/artist, its important to know the correct colours that would be appropriate in a hospital (IACC/NA) if you were specifying colour there.  And you would do my True Colour  Expert workshop if you wanted to get the undertones to coordinate (in any environment).  Then you would become a member of the Colour Marketing Group if you were interested in networking with other professionals in the colour industry.  At the CMG Conferences you will find colourists from every industry. You could be sitting next to someone that picks the colours for your ipod shuffle or someone else who creates fan decks for paint companies. It’s the best place to network with other colour professionals (if that’s what you want to do).

So I’m weighing in with you! Yay or Nay to Colour Trends?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person decorating and colour.

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  • Donna says:

    Maria–I'm floored! I just read a post you linked to n today's article. It's one of your previous posts about the undertones of various colours (specifically beige)..well–I have no words for it! I know exactly what you are talking about! I've seen it–sensed it–and been frustrated by that 'something not quite right' about that color. And you explained it perfectly.

    When we retire and the kids are all out of college, I'm flying to Vancouver and I'm going to attend one of your workshops. Lucky are the friends and readers who get to attend your next one!

    Yes, colour trends matter. I don't want my house to be outdated in five years. I may not care for the new trends because I'm used to the old. But when company comes over–then it's a problem.

    And of course, where am I supposed to buy pillows, sheets, curtains and dishes that coordinate, if I'm all out of date? When you told me to buy the bedspread first, then check the green we picked during our colour consultation, I understood. The stores only carry what is trendy. And we really need them to do that.

    Great post!

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  • Marcus Design says:

    I think I'm agreeing with you, I'm in both camps. It's obviously important to be informed on the current color trends, but maybe important to not follow them too explictly as well. I really like what you said about avoiding colors on their way out because when they are 3 years old they'll look 10 years old, really well said!!
    I hope your course is going really well 🙂


  • Jen says:

    What a conundrum. We need trends for context. and product. But we also need color seers to create new trends and lifetime classics. So like you I believe in both. Just have to make sure if I am a trendist to be ahead of the curve,and if I eschew trends, I focus on creating timeless appeal, so I dont get thrown out with the trash!
    Jen Duchene
    The Home Makeover Mixtress blending cool & Cozy Style.

  • heather jenkinson says:

    Outstanding post! My pulse actually quickened reading this – it's exciting to read the TRUTH. Love it.

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous says:

    I would never decorate my house, or my person, in trends. I would only choose the colors that look best on me, I'd rather look stylish than fashionable.

  • diane@onlinefabricstore says:

    As the color expert, you are correct; we do need both. And the good news is that trends do go away eventually so if you dont like it (i.e. the new current turquoise that has been done to death. Today there are so many choices and ways to incorporate a trend into your decorating that it is possible to be current without going overboard. Very informative post as I had never really thought of it this way.

  • Beth @ Beyond White says:

    I think there's a balance. I stay on top of trends yet am IACCNA. (IACCNA isn't as anti-trend in as may be thought.) If a client raves about a trend color I need to know what they're referring to. Can it be used smaller (accessories) if not on walls? Does it fit their setting, non-changing colors and other design elements? Some colors can be timeless but others point (and shout) to a particular decade.

  • Annie@A View On Design says:

    I think they're good. They inspire new ideas, new combinations…

  • Anonymous says:

    I have to say that we shouldn't do the color in our home because its a trend right NOW. I made that mistake already and am still living with burgundy in my living room (soon to be changed). I'm going to do the colors that I love instead. Who cares who else likes it lol. I'll be the one looking at it everyday right? 🙂 Finding those colors right now may be harder but I will search till I find them!

    • Lorena says:

      Yes I had always gone out of my way to find the color I like at any given moment and had been successful so far. For the rest, there will always be spray paint.

  • Bruce Barone says:

    I might be of both camps.

    I am, however, I must admit, a Pisces.

    But I do not so much follow trends.

    I follow my heart.

  • Anonymous says:

    Color trends are a marketing ploy like any other… a way to make you believe there are more right colors or whatever… chose the colors YOU love not those you are told to love.

    • MaryAnne Bush says:

      I am totally with you, Anonymous! Although I agree that it is harder to find decorating accessories that are not the “in” color, I’d rather be surrounded with colors that make me happy. I am so bored with Pottery Barn cookie-cutter colors. And I think I’ve seen enough lime green and orange for a while HGTV. I love going into someone’s home and seeing colors and style choices that reflect who THEY are and not what is “trendy” at the moment. And for those who would not accept anything but granite countertops…. boring!!!! And to top it off, most of them are talked into a backsplash that is almost painful to the eye! Love professionals putting their years of experience in helping to pull it all together….but this “follow the trend” thing is silly. Trends are just promoted to sell new clothing, furniture, accessories!!!

  • Ideezine says:


    I like both. Color is universal and people like choices, trends and lots of change (they get bored). I personally like knowing that there are professional industries established to encompass the expansive need of color. Nature's fan deck holds them all. We use these trends and we need them.


  • I kid you not I had this exact conversation with 2 designers yesterday — do you invest in a color trend, and do trends really matter anymore? We were talking about how long the blue/mauve/gray/mauve phase lasted — didn't that happen in a soft economy, and we were thinking that's why it stayed around for so extra long. I believe we'll be seeing current trends in homes a lot longer than usual, like the blue/mauve, because the average consumer isn't going to be able to change big investment pieces so readily in the next several years. Just a thought!

  • Kelly Berg says:

    Like Beth, as an IACC-er I am definitely not anti-trend. I think there is absolutely a place for trends in the color world. But I think that place is mostly in the areas of marketing and product development – not in people's homes. There's no doubt that color trends of the decade, year, season and minute give people new ideas on color combinations and placement, but I don't think most of these colors/color combinations have staying power in people's homes. I think it's so important for all of us to gravitate towards what we really like, towards our authentic color choices – regardless of what's in or not – to create our living spaces. This may be difficult when shopping for new items for the home at the big retailers, but not impossible. It just takes a little more ingenuity to create your own unique color look.
    Great post, Maria!
    (Oh, and I could write so much more, but I don't want to fill up your entire comments page. 🙂 )

  • Kathysue says:

    Maria very interesting and very well explained. I agree that we need the color board to keep colors in the market compatable. When it comes to our homes I feel it is soooooo important to stay with the color family that we love and to really get a grasp on what that color is. That is where someone like you is so helpful to investigate the clients likes and dis-likes. I have found by time the regular hard working consumer picks up on a trend it is already about 3years in and almost on its way out. The design world moves very quickly for marketing purposes but the consumer has to move more slowly due to economics. That is why I feel if you find the color family you love you will always be IN!!! Classics are usually the best choices but if you love a certain color you will be happy. I love the yellow family before, during and after it was a trend. I have had it in my home for over 40yrs.I have had a struggle at times to get things to go with it but since it is a neutral yellow I can make it work. I love color it fascinates me and I so enjoy your blog,

  • Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home says:

    Trend in color is great especially is you are staging homes. It's best to know what is popular and what appeals to more people now. I happen to like colors that are a little different from the main for myself, but they seem to come into fashion every few years. Your post is really great advice. I would love to take one of your courses someday too!

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I'm not an expert in any way so I feel a little out of my depth to comment BUT here goes . . . Remember the yucky pink that was throughout my house when I moved in? Yuck. Bad trend. Then we painted beautiful 'classic' colours. Soft yellows and blue. I still love to see my blue and yellow. I don't think I will ever get sick of them. However that being said: over the next few years I will be changing the look in my living room and dining room. Maybe add pieces, change a colour here or there to update and freshen the look which is where the current trends come in. I will be looking at what's current to update my look. Same as with fashion. Some pieces stay with time and others need to go and be updated. I also believe trends reflect the times and how we feel as a culture . . ( or do the trends dictate that?) . . . more food for thought.

  • beyondbeige says:

    Maria- You are so right!

    That said, I don't like when there is an "it" color. Then I feel like I'm a sheep.. For example,the brown trend that was around forever. All you could see was a sea of dark brown "chocolate" furniture, dark brown towels etc. chocolate, wenge whatever.. I t got old really fast. And now I hear its the gray!.. Well, all I can say is I am already sick of gray.. LOL

  • traci zeller designs says:

    As always – you are SO RIGHT! The answer has to be "both" … and it is then up to the person who lives in the space to then choose what is appealing to her — regardless of what the "it" color is. Because if the person living there is truly happy in her space and it functions for her life, who is anyone to say that the space is "wrong" or "out"?

  • Dovecote Decor says:

    You always make me think. I do not care about trends, although they intrigue me. I have spent 30 years building my interior home around me, one lovely piece and my usual color combination, at a time. I love my favorite colors, and stick with them. That is why everything I buy ends up looking beautiful in my house. I shop mindfully, and buy for a lifetime.I am extremely consistent in my personal preferences, and it all magically,flows.

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    Eh, I think no. I agree with Kelly. There is a place for it in Marketing but not in homes. With that said manufacturers do buy into it so we ultimately end up selecting it because it is readily available in our fabric books, paint chips, and sources. But homeowners dont need to be rigid about their choices because it isnt listed as a trend. They should choose what they love.

  • Maria Killam says:

    I appreciate all your comments on buying colours you love but let me tell you, the yellow sofa that I had made for my living room (that I totally love), trying to find coordinating accessories–IMPOSSIBLE.

    And the fabrics in that colour were also so limited that I am going with another solid on the seat and white on the back (black and white on the back of the back) because there are simply no options.

    So as much as we would all love to give that kind of advice, it isn't working so well for my own home right now 🙂 Either I'm totally dated or too ahead of the curve.


  • Maria Killam says:

    ps. I'm talking about my dining room chairs, I realized that isn't clear on my comment.

  • funcolors says:

    "Uneducated"? I don't think attempting to superimpose color trends on the built environment is "uneducated". At all. I just think it's a clumsy fit at this juncture. It's not fluid with what people want from color. When I say "people", I'm talking about my in-real-life clients as well as my tribe on decorating forums and the blog.

    I don't see my tribe's current mindset swirling around trends because their main concern is not what's in or going to be outdated. For many, the concept of "trends" translates to transient. The current desire is for permanence and stability; often represented with one word "classic".

    They are concerned with making classic choices that will outpace the trend ideal and give them longevity.

    The only way to qualify classic choices and ensure longevity is to to cull individual color sense and base color direction on that – the individual's sense and tolerance of color. In order to do that and do that well, you have to be able to 'get in someone's head'. See their vision, understand their color thoughts and dreams and then translate that into something tastefully and appropriately tangible – make it their reality. Wanting to work with color that way means it's necessary to understand color's physio and psychological attributes and consequences.

    The IACC curriculum, Manhnke's writings specifically, are good resources for gaining that kind of in-depth understanding of color. And it applies to residential color strategies as much as it does to hospitals, schools, or other institutions. But like any other resource for color information, there are flaws and the philosophies won't apply themselves. You have to complete the seminars, read the books, do the work, and craft your own color point of view to give it all relevancy.

    The CMG has a fast-paced, cyclical agenda that is of a broader scope. It's not focused and customized enough for the current mindset of individuality and desire for timelessness that my clients and online cohorts have clearly expressed to me.

  • Anonymous says:

    Maria, I agree with you. A decade ago I painted my living room a beautiful light blue but could not find many pictures or accessories I liked because earthtones were in instead of my colors.

    I have learned over the decades that I have to buy extra of what I like when it is in style because I won't like the colors available later.

    Fortunately, the fresh colors I love are coming in style again.

  • Kelly Berg says:

    Or, a third option, Maria, is that the marketing/product developers/big retailers are just not in touch with what the consumer really wants.

    I am having a similar problem with a client. Looking for TRUE red pillows, throws, accessories. Everything is RED-ORANGE right now. Ugh. I'll probably have to wait until the holiday stuff comes out. Or shop at one of the discount stores (that I love, by the way) to get my hands on a random assortment of things from the last few seasons.

    Also – shopping vintage is a great option, too!! Just takes more time.

    Good luck! It's not always easy staying true to your own color sense!!!

  • Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle says:

    What an interesting post. I can imagine that it would be very difficult for designers to put together a space if there wasn't some consistency on color trends within all of the sources that are used.

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