Chameleon Neutrals for 2010-2011

You read our previous post on the Return of Neutrals, now let’s look ahead to the Chameleon Neutrals for 2010-2011. Color expert, Michelle Lamb, shares with us her insights!

Remember, Michelle describes Chameleon Neutrals as those that shift and change based on the light source and surrounding colors. They work extremely well for bridging color and uniting design.

Whisper Pales: These are the lightest of the Chameleons for 2010-2011. This category includes:

  • Veiled Purple, which can pass as a purple, mauve or complex brown
  • Cosmetic Peach, a neutral that can suggest light orange or a flesh-tone beige
  • Almost Cream, where a hint of yellow is balanced by a touch of brown
  • Taupessence, a dry brown-gray
  • Silent Fog, a warm-enough gray that sits on the edge of brown

Pliable Mid-Tones: Reminiscent of dried-flower bouquets and lace handkerchiefs, these colors have an heirloom quality, as though they came from a memory box:

  • Drifting Purple, which leads a double life as a cool brown
  • Restrained Mauve, a rosy brown that feels just as feminine as…
  • …Blended Beige, a make-up foundation look-alike that almost disappears
  • Golden Moss, an option that can go green, gold or even brown
  • Nimbus, standing between gray and brown

Metamorphic Mid-Values: Embody the metamorphosis of one colored neutral to another:

  • Novel Violet, a purple, gray or a brown
  • Tea Leaf, which suggests dark caramel or burnt-sugar gold
  • Hybrid Brown, another dry look that verges on gray
  • Ingenious Olive, with overtones of khaki brown
  • Flint, an ever drier brown that boarders on gray

Changeling Deeps: Not only the darkest-value neutrals in the group, but are also the most colorful:

  • Murky Brown could pass for a dark burgundy because it has so much red…
  • …Turbulent Blue can work as s steel gray
  • Petrologic Green is another option for gray; it simply goes to the warm side
  • Lamina could be green or golden brown
  • Mineralite is definitely a gray – until it becomes a cool brown

These new, colorful neutrals allow homeowners to dabble with color while maintaining a neutral point of view. Safe and daring all in one!

{the return of neutrals}

When choosing a paint color for your home, neutrals have always been perceived as the “safe” choice. You don’t have to worry about your cherry red coming out bubble gum pink and you know your current decor will work with it. Neutral walls also give you a blank canvas to add and subtract color in other areas as trends change—throw pillows, rugs, art, etc.

But while design and color trends change, it is also important to note that neutral trends also change. They are revised every few years to better fit with consumer lifestyles and preferences. Internationally recognized color-and-trend expert and Editorial Director of The Trend Curve™ in Eden Prairie, Michelle Lamb, credits today’s interest in updating everything—including basics—to “Design Thinking,” the elevation of good design at every price point. With a rise in Design Thinking, consumers became more confident in their understanding of trends, as well as their own personal style.

The beige and off-whites of the 80’s and 90’s has given way to more personal neutrals – neutrals with an overlay of trend.

Michelle points out that the return of neutrals began in 2005 with Skin Tones such as Peach, Pink, Buff and Brown. Then came the Desert Neutrals in 2007, which changed the focus from skin-tones to earth tones such as Pebble, Salt Flat, Shale and Patagonia.

Looking now at 2010-2011, Michelle predicts the newest neutrals will be even more sophisticated. They will not be colorful like skin-tones or natural like the desert collection, but they will have another trait that will make them even more interesting and much easier to personalize. They will have chameleon qualities.

Chameleon Neutrals will be a collection of 20 tones in values from pale to deep that shift and change based on light source and surrounding color. Is it gray or purple? Brown or mauve? Blue or green? Could be either depending on when you look!

Stay tuned for more insight from Michelle Lamb on the Chameleon Colors of 2010-2011 in our next blog post!

{next year’s design inspiration? think neutral}

Though the new year is still several months away – at this point, you might be more focused on getting through the holidays – experts are already forecasting 2010’s most popular trends in design and décor.  I spoke with Kathy Basil of Hirshfield’s Design Studio last week about what we can expect – and what kind of trends we can implement in our own homes.  She predicts that where 2009 was full of bright, vibrant colors, 2010 will see a shift towards safer neutral tones, and believes this transition may be related to the economic situation.

“Neutrals seem safe in uncertain times,” said Kathy.  “People may not feel comfortable changing their whole room, and neutrals provide a great backdrop to pull in other colors.  If you nail the perfect neutral in your main living space, you can use more adventurous colors in other areas of your home.”

While neutrals – such as Benjamin Moore’s Ashwood – will dominate the main areas of many homes, plums like Autumn Purple, peacock blues and leafy shades such as Terrapin Green will be popular as accent pieces.  Metallics will remain popular, but be more subtle – pearlescent tints rather than pieces reminiscent of mylar or foil.

Neutrals - like Ashwood - are a good base for any room.

Neutrals - like Ashwood - are a good base for any room.

Plum shades like Autumn Purple make great accent colors.

Plum shades like Autumn Purple make great accent colors.

Adding in an accent piece in a bright shade of peacock blue can really spice up a room.

Adding in an accent piece in a bright shade of peacock blue can really spice up a room.

Try a natural, grassy green as an complement to your neutral base.

Try a natural, grassy green as an complement to your neutral base.


Kathy predicts that a desire for safety may influence all realms of design, including furniture and accent pieces, where handmade and reclaimed items – think quilts and heirlooms – will remain popular.  Carpets and rugs also will make a comeback, providing another avenue to make homes cozier.

For walls, wallpaper is the trend to follow.  “Not only does wallpaper look great, especially on accent walls, but it’s extremely user-friendly,” said Kathy.  “You can get removable wallpaper so you can change it out easily and as often as you like.”

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