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Looking for a paint color that will never go out of style? Try one of these timeless shades.
By Lindsey Roberts Oct. 13, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EDT
Fall is in full swing, and paint companies are dropping their color forecasts for the coming year. Benjamin Moore will name its 2021 Color of the Year on Oct. 14. It’s a fun time to choose one of these trendy colors to make a statement with a powder-room update or a bold accent wall. Or, if it’s your style, go wild with the color of the year in a living area or bedroom. But if you’re looking for an interior paint color that will transcend trends, and you don’t enjoy painting every three years to keep up with what’s in style (some of us do!), you may want to look for a classic color that will hold up better over the long haul. Benjamin Moore’s Balboa Mist in a space by Jennifer Guerin. She also suggests Simply White for rooms and White Dove for cabinets. (Walter Wilson) “Timeless colors . . . never grow old,” says California-based color expert Jennifer Guerin. “They may be used in different ways — walls versus trim or accents — but they always stay in style.” Beware, though, that even classic neutrals can be so overdone that they become trendy. An all-gray room, for example, could easily date to the trend of the 2010s. Your safest bet in choosing a color, says Maria Killam, a color expert in Vancouver, B.C., is to choose paint based on context: Where will it be used, and how? Look to your furnishings and the light in your space for cues. Pandemic and other 2020 angst getting you down? There’s a color for that. We asked Guerin, Killam and other experts to share their favorite classic workhorse shades that can enhance any space. Here are their recommendations. Remember to test your colors with large paint samples before committing to ensure that you can enjoy your choice for years to come. Pale greige One category of neutral that Nicole Gibbons, owner of online-only paint company Clare, says is exceptionally timeless is “greige, a mix between gray and beige.” Greige works well because it includes both of the basic neutrals. “There’s something about the warmth of a greige that creates a beautifully timeless look,” Gibbons says. Killam recommends Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak and Classic Gray and Sherwin-Williams’s Pacer White. Guerin recommends Benjamin Moore’s Pashmina. White White is, of course, always a good paint choice, because it feels elegant, fresh and clean. Plus, Gibbons says, “black and white are the most timeless colors you’ll find anywhere and the most timeless color combination.” However, says Kelsey Hutchins Flores, owner of the interior design firm Flores & Co. in Austin, “some people want a warm white, some people want something bright and stark.” Again, look at your furnishings when deciding: Can they handle the stark whites, or are they dominated by warm colors and creamy whites? Flores recommends putting 24-by-24-inch samples on a few walls in different rooms to decide. (If you don’t want to paint large squares on your walls, try Samplize, which sends you peel-and-stick sheets in your choice of paint colors from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Farrow & Ball and PPG.) AD Flores’s favorite whites include Benjamin Moore’s Glacier White, which is a bit warm; Clare’s Fresh Kicks, a stark white; and Farrow & Ball’s Dimpse, which is a gray that can read “taupey white” on the wall, she says. Guerin recommends Benjamin Moore’s Simply White or Balboa Mist, and for cabinets, White Dove. Complex cream “Most houses won’t look good painted stark white, which is the current trend,” Killam says. So yes, although white is generally a safe classic, if it doesn’t suit your architecture, furnishings or light, it will look off. Killam’s solution is complex cream — “basically beiges that read quite creamy but with either a yellow, green, orange or pink undertone,” she says. “The reason I’m calling it a ‘complex cream’ is because there are more pigments in the palest of beiges rather than just a cream To choose the right shade, keep context in mind. Most fabrics and carpets are better complemented by off-white, cream or greige than a crisp white. “To make sure you choose the right color for your walls, step back and look at the overall color scheme,” and ask yourself which shade will best pull your room together, she says. Killam recommends Benjamin Moore’s Feather Down. In her bathroom, she used Benjamin Moore’s Indian White, an orange-beige that contrasts with the white subway tile. Navy blue “One of the most popular colors in the United States is blue,” Guerin says. Blues are soothing, and navy has a classic sense to it that complements almost all hard and soft furnishings. It looks good with warm browns and cool whites. It works in historic homes and uber-modern spaces. It sings with metallics in accessories and goes with the matte black hardware trend. It’s a color you can leave on the wall for years while other things around it change. Even a small room can handle navy if the light is bright, and especially with pops of color in the furnishings. Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy is “tame enough that it kind of lies flat,” Guerin says. “It’s navy enough that it feels safe for people. It’s great for kitchen islands, for vanities, an entire bedroom.” “Gray medium-green tones conjure up subdued soothing vibrations,” Guerin says, which are perfect for bathrooms, foyers or bedrooms. She recommends Saybrook Sage, part of Benjamin Moore’s historical collection, which fits “into every decade regardless of trends or changes.” Or try Mizzle by Farrow & Ball. Flores painted her daughter’s nursery with vertical green stripes in Clare’s Dirty Martini. “If you have a color that’s a little muddy, like a green, . . . colors like that are also timeless,” she says. “They look like they could have been in a 17th-century home. Those will never get old.”