Tips for adding the hottest paint colors to your decor

Style Cambridge
"Caliente" is hailed as a "strong, charismatic" shade of red. John Bessler/Benjamin Moore

If you’ve ever considered painting your living room purple, now may be the time.

Just a few weeks ago, Pantone unveiled its Color of the Year pick for 2018, the very regal “Ultra Violet’’ — a daring shade that had many online commenters drawing comparisons to the signature color of departed rock icon Prince. Call it shocking, unexpected, or even rebellious, but according to the brand, regarded for its proprietary color-matching system used by industries throughout the world, it’s a way of showcasing what’s going on in this moment in time and reflecting what people are looking for. This program, now in its 18th year, is also meant to be a bellwether of style and trends. As it turns out, not everyone sees the world through purple-tinted glasses. Through the years, other brands — especially popular home paints — have been inspired to follow Pantone’s lead and announce their own favored colorings. There are at least six leading paint companies vying for consumer attention in the paint aisle alone. Collectively, the colors selected mostly run deep, with rich almost jewel-like tones, and skim through every mood, from energetic to meditative. While some feel classic, others channel minimalism and mystery.

What color, then, will reign at home in 2018? Only time will tell, but as trends go, it all may change before the paint dries.

A serious, sophisticated red

Benjamin Moore has been sharing color predictions since the mid-aughts, but it was really in 2013 that the brand kicked the program into high gear. Its fearless prediction for the year ahead is a “strong, charismatic’’ shade of red called “Caliente’’ that feels akin to red velvet. Benjamin Moore is the only brand to give a nod to red, a decision it says was influenced by politics, arts, entertainment, and fashion. According to Ellen O’Neill, director of strategic design intelligence at Benjamin Moore, “red resonated as a vehicle of expression and signified change, strength, and confidence.’’

Which begs the question: Are homeowners confident enough to rally around red? It’s hard to tell how specific color projections might actually translate into the home, but according to the brand, “Caliente’’ color chip pulls from select Benjamin Moore retailers and showrooms were up 109 percent within the first month of their October announcement, demonstrating an increased interest.

“ ‘Caliente’ is the ideal red for a room, as its warm, brown undertones make it a perfect choice for interiors . . . it’s seductive yet energetic,’’ O’Neill said. The brand proposes this color for a study, an idea supported by New York-based designer Gideon Mendelson of Mendelson Group, who suggests adding a lacquered layer to the hue for more impact. However, if the level of color comfort just isn’t there, Mendelson suggests starting small with a single red door, such as the one “between the butler’s pantry and dining room.’’

Sumptuous greens and blues

If red feels a bit too adventurous, consumers might be persuaded to consider “Oceanside,’’ a lush teal recently spotlighted from Sherwin-Williams. According to Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for the brand, the decision to go with this “color of wanderlust,’’ was inspired by daring destinations like the deep sea and starry galaxies.

“Oceanside,” Sherwin-Williams’s color of the year, is viewed as the color of wanderlust. —Sherwin-Williams

“What’s so good about ‘Oceanside’ is that it . . . is female and male, new and old,’’ Wadden said. Complex in its makeup of equal parts blue, green, and yellow, this deep chameleon color is versatile enough to work on furniture or walls. To shake up the feel of your kitchen, Wadden proposes trying it on dining chairs. If covering an entire room in the shade feels daunting, Wadden suggests testing it as a “peekaboo color,’’ one you see from rooms other than your main living space.

Interestingly, Dunn-Edwards Paints revealed a strikingly similar hue for its 2018 selection, “The Green Hour,’’ which is described as a “darker shade of gray blue-green.’’ The color is influenced by turn-of-the-last-century Parisian bars in a nod to the five o’clock absinthe happy hour artists relished. The color has dual personalities “and can be moody and intense while still being grounding and tranquil, acting as a neutral. It is dreamlike, mysterious, rich, and cozy,’’ Sara McLean, color expert and stylist for the brand, explained on the company’s website. McLean says the shade plays well with other moody colors, such as blackened red or peacock blue. Got a neutral gray or taupe house? McLean advises trying “The Green Hour’’ on a front door or window trim for a punch of color.

“The Green Hour” is a nod to turn-of-the-last-century Parisian bars where artists enjoyed absinthe. —Bethany Nauert/Dunn-Edwards

Nikki Dalrymple of Acquire, an interior design firm in Boston, has been favoring these green-blue colorations in her design projects for some time now and is partial to “Green Smoke,’’ a similarly rich shade from Farrow & Ball, a high-end paint brand that does not have a Color of the Year program. “It has a weathered, soft appeal that is extremely versatile. It works great in modern settings with a crisp black-and-white palette or in a traditional New England home with warm wood details,’’ Dalrymple said.

Farrow & Ball’s “Green Smoke,” not a color of the year, has a soft, weathered appeal, according to Nikki Dalrymple of Acquire, a Boston interior design firm. —Sean Litchfield

Attracted to green but want something less heavy? Try “In the Moment,’’ a grounding but lighter and brighter blue-green from Behr, which the company announced in August as the brand’s first Color of the Year pick. Lauded for its restorative and soothing qualities, the shade “evokes a sense of sanctuary and relaxation amid our always-on lives,’’ said Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr. It is a lively neutral that would be fitting for a living room.

Behr choose “In the Moment,” a blue-green hue, as its first Color of the Year for its restorative and soothing qualities. —TC Studios/Behr

Bold and handsome black

“Black is the new gray,’’ said Maria Killam, color expert, CEO, and founder of the Understanding Undertones color system. Killam first reported the trend back in 2016 on her blog at, saying the use of black on walls, furniture, and home accessories is just now becoming mainstream. “Black is powerful, striking, and glamorous when it’s done right,’’ Killam said.

One paint coterie agrees. PPG’s trio of paint brands, including Glidden, Olympic, and PPG, all spotlighted three similar variations of black for their 2018 Colors of the Year, which included PPG’s “Black Flame,’’ Glidden’s “Deep Onyx,’’ and Olympic’s “Black Magic.’’

According to Mendelson, black paint indoors can look striking in the right environment: “It adds drama, but it still feels grounded because it’s not a color. I like it in a high gloss on walls, paired with white, or even as a trim. In the kitchen, I love the idea of black cabinets offset with a white counter.’’

“Black Flame” is PPG’s color of the year. —PPG
“Black Magic” is Olympic’s Color of the Year. —Olympic/PPG
“Deep Onyx” is Glidden’s color of the year. —Glidden/PPG

A very potent purple

Love it or hate it, Pantone expects big things from “Ultra Violet,’’ a medium-toned purple that has been part of the Pantone Professional Color system since 1987. According to Laurie Pressman, vice president at Pantone Color Institute, this flexible shade carries a mystical quality that just might be the color remedy for today’s overworked, overstimulated population. According to Pressman, the color is intended to carry us into a deeper, more connected place within ourselves. “Last year we were disconnecting and replenishing. . . . Now we get deeper into meditating and connecting back to ourselves to be able to express who we are. There’s a whole spiritual quality to it.’’

Inside the home, Pantone suggests incorporating “Ultra Violet’’ as a piece of art, tableware, or accent wall to start. Or, create a more substantial statement and cover your entire house in this energetic shade of eggplant like Cambridge denizen Laird Nolan, owner/operator of Studio125, a technical production firm. To Nolan, who has resided in Central Square for nearly two decades, this shade says “Home sweet home.’’

“I like bright, bold, distinguished colors,’’ said Nolan, who took the plunge with purple in 2003 when he painted over his gray Mansard-roofed two-family. How does he feel about Pantone’s latest color prediction? “I think it’s fantastic,’’ he said. “Of course I’m biased as it’s been my favorite color forever. It’s just great to see it take such a prominent place in our cultural landscape.’’ And the best part for Nolan about having a purple house in the heart of the city? “No one ever has trouble finding it,’’ he said.

Laird Nolan’s home in Central Square is painted Pantone’s Color of the Year “Ultra Violet.” —Laird Nolan

Unsung hero: Millennial pink

“Millennial pink’’ as a color trend has been hiding in plain sight for well over a year. It’s not endorsed by any particular brand, but do a search on Instagram, and it will return various images and swatches from the pink family, yet all with a common thread: a cotton candy-ish color that ebbs toward peach, beige, or even a darker blush. Once you know it’s there, you can’t not see it in décor, fashion, even hair colors. So why the name? According to Killam, millennials helped market this color wave because they were experiencing it for the first time in their own way. Millennials haven’t lived to see the trends of pink, peach, or mint green, for example, she said. “It didn’t feel as fresh to other generations because we’re older.’’ Pressman links the surge in the color’s popularity to its acceptance by both genders. “It’s no longer just a female shade; it’s everywhere.’’

According to Tanya Graff, style director for Martha Stewart Living magazine, the particular pink is a contemporary neutral and has solid sticking power: “You can mix it with many other colors.’’ Pressman notes the trend is evident nearly everywhere. “It’s flattering for lighting or wall paint. It’s a healthy color and makes you look good and feel good.’’

Eddie Ross, author, columnist for House Beautiful, and style director of says pink is uniquely worthy of being used in a more grandiose way, like on a ceiling: “The effect can be immediately arresting. Pink is unexpected. It almost makes a room feel warmer.’’ Painting a ceiling can also be a practical venture into trying out a new color, Ross explained. How so? “If it doesn’t work for you, it’s much easier than repainting all four walls.’’

Christina Poletto lives just outside New York City, where she writes about unusual old homes and interior design trends. Follow her on Instagram @dovetailordesigns. Send comments to [email protected]. Subscribe to our free newsletter at