And the 2016 Pantone Color of the Year is…

Creativity & Design

This is a guest blog post from Mary Cook, founder and president of Mary Cook Associates, and author of the book, “The Art of Space: Seven Fundamentals That Guarantee Great Interior Design.” You can read more of Mary’s design-inspired guest posts here. 

For the last 15 years, Pantone, the world color authority, has held a secret meeting in Europe to determine the Pantone Color of the Year. After two days of presentations and debate (color can arouse passions), representatives from various nation’s color standards groups (how do you get that job?) choose a “Color of the Year.”

This year, two colors arose victorious as the Pantone Color of the Year—Rose Quartz and Serenity. Or, maybe Serenity was the runner up. If these two colors look familiar, it’s probably because they are. Though they’re not exactly like the Dusty Rose and Wedgewood Blue of the 1980s, they certainly look like they could be their grandchildren. Even 2000’s Color of the Year, Cerulean, looks like it belongs at the family dinner table.

And that’s okay. Colors, or at least their families, are cyclical. Pantone itself says national moods and outlooks influence the choice. When Honeysuckle was the color of 2011, the press release said, “In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going—perfect to ward off the blues.”

Since moods can cycle, it only makes sense that colors will, too—give or take a drop of tint. But there are larger questions besides “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

When I am asked what I think about the winners, my first reaction is: Compared to what? For whom? And where? Color impacts everybody differently, and our expectations are very different every time we use it.

Pantone may be the undisputed color authority for graphics, fashion, and home interiors, but the color of my dress isn’t necessarily the right color for my bedroom walls.

This year’s colors are distinctly feminine. You can see them playing out on retail floors across the country. They are pretty, soft, and calming. And when combined with natural textures and materials, they become spa-like.

But that’s me. Color is really personal. See how it makes you feel when you experience it. As I am reminded when bathing suit shopping, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. You probably won’t be choosing the same color for your stationery that you choose for your kitchen cabinets.

Also, clothing color trends move a lot faster, usually by a season or two. Wall color and upholstery fabrics are usually around longer. Depending on its use, they can last five-to-ten years. (Stick with Rose Quartz and Serenity until 2045 and you might be right back in style.)

Remember there were the psychedelic ‘60s, Earthy ‘70s, Vibrant ‘80s, Neutral ‘90s, and the Expressive ‘00s. But where you are in your life, where you live, and how you feel all impact how you react to color.

It’s very personal. So, make your choices based on how color makes you feel. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. In my final analysis, the Color of the Year is the one you like best.

Mary Cook Associates is a Chicago-based firm that has been providing interior design services to the builder & developer, golf & resort, and senior housing industries since 1986. The firm is nationally known for its ability to combine high quality execution with a deep understanding of demographic, geographic and historical influences to create interiors that are both beautiful and highly functional. Mary Cook designs increase livability, guide motivations and moods, and actually improve the quality of life for those who experience them. Mary’s new book, The Art of Space: the Seven Fundamentals that Guarantee Great Design is available on


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