How to Incorporate Pantone’s 2021 Colors of the Year Into Your Space

We got some expert tips on weaving Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (a sunny yellow) into your interior design vibe in the year ahead.
gray and yellow

This story was created in partnership with the Indiana Design Center. 

Pantone Color Institute’s color of the year was recently announced—and in a surprising twist, there are actually two hues sharing the spotlight for 2021: ‘Illuminating,’ a cheerful sunshine yellow, and ‘Ultimate Gray,’ a solid, dependable shade designed to stand the test of time. The trend forecasting and consulting firm aims to choose colors each year that will not only influence design, but also signify what’s happening in the world, and for 2021, their focus was on strength and optimism. “The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of Pantone Color Institute. “Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope.”

If this combo intrigues you, you may wonder how exactly to bring both hues into your own living space. We asked a pair of interior design experts affiliated with Carmel’s Indiana Design Center to share their thoughts, and we’ve also found an array of stylish accessories to help inspire you.

“I love Pantone’s choice here of two colors that perfectly encapsulate our feelings going into 2021—with the gray representing our strength and stability through the many dark days of 2020, to the optimism that we all hope to achieve in the future,” says interior designer Susan Young, owner of Color Joy Interiors. “Gray is a great neutral color that has been used for years as a base layer for wall colors, furniture, and more. To add some fun and a pop of color into the room, Illuminating would be a great accent color,” Young says, adding, “For low- or no-cost ways to decorate with this yellow, lemons are a fun accessory. Include a bowl of them in your kitchen for a fun pop, and this spring, a bouquet of daffodils will also do the trick.”

Tiffany Skilling, interior designer and owner of Tiffany Skilling Interiors advises to start small when adding these trendy hues into your home. “While you can’t ‘avoid’ trends, we think it’s better to incorporate them subtly and see if they stand the test of time before making a larger investment. Accent pillows are a great way to bring this harmonious pair of colors into the mix,” she says.

An embroidered linen and cotton lumbar pillow is an easy, low-commitment way to try this on-trend color duo.

Lumbar pillow, $35.95, available for pre-order at Take 20% off this pillow if you order by 1/31/21 with coupon code 20INDYMAVEN at checkout

Add a touch of retro glamour to your drapes with an eye-catching fabric by fashion designer Trina Turk.

Fabric, Trina Turk for Schumacher, price available upon request at Drapery Street, (317) 942-3796

This smart and stylish stoneware mug has a built-in pocket that’s designed to hold a tea bag.

Tea mug, $13.95 at

Dress up your kitchen countertop with a debossed stoneware canister topped with a cork lid.

Canister, $19.95, available for pre-order at Take 20% off this canister if you order by 1/31/21 with coupon code 20INDYMAVEN at checkout

This artwork is sure to make an impact wherever it is displayed.

Artwork, price available upon request from Tiffany Skilling Interiors,

You can practically transform a room with this gorgeous chair—it strikes the perfect balance of timelessness and modernity.

“Pagi” chair, $700 at

If you’re looking to splurge on a new sofa, this stunner is elegant and well made, with its hardwood frame and solid oak legs.

“Aster” sofa, $1800 at

A sunny yellow vase will brighten up any space in an instant.

Vase, $83.95, available in store at Holder Mattress in Carmel, 200 S. Range Line Road Suite 200, (317) 848-2939

Stephanie Groves is an Indy-based freelance writer who is in the process of building a new home and struggling to decide what color to paint the walls.

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