Soothing pastels are this year’s top colors

Hard times call for soft colors.

American paint companies chose soothing pastels as their go-to hues for the new year.

For Sherwin-Williams it’s Aloe, a minty green with a 1950s vibe. Benjamin Moore selected Lemon Sorbet, a citrus shade slightly brighter than cream that also has a nostalgic look.

“It’s not only a softening of the palette, but a softening of the lines in design,” said Sonu Mathew, senior interior designer for Benjamin Moore.

“There’s more tactility in fabrics and surfaces. We’ll find things that shimmer and shine next to things that are dead matte.

“These pastels won’t look wimpy. They’ll be paired with edgier brights and deep saturated colors. Aloe with chartreuse and coral, for example. Lemon Sorbet with peach and raspberry,” Mathew said.

Yellow represents optimism, “and as the world seems to be gradually turning the corner on recessionary times, this whispery tint of the color is timely and evocative of the uptick,” Mathew said.

How to use it: Create a palette of three to five colors, Mathew said, and allow one or two colors to take the lead in each room or space.

Lemon Sorbet can serve as a backdrop for striking color.

Or, in a gray room, use Lemon Sorbet on the ceiling for an unexpected punch. It also could be used to paint chairs, tables or bookcases for pops of color.

Best bets: Kitchen, dining room and playroom.

Kansas City designer Lisa Schmitz is using Lemon Sorbet an accent with warm gray and muted gray-purple. “The soft yellow adds brightness without being too bold,” Schmitz said.

Aloe by Sherwin-Williams is also a pastel, a nostalgic nod to the mid-20th century.

“This is no ordinary pastel: Aloe is funky and glamorous, demure and free-spirited,” said Sherwin-Williams’ director of color marketing, Jackie Jordan.

“While Aloe’s vibe can verge on retro, when paired with caviar blacks, crisp whites or soft grays, suddenly Aloe has a new soul and attitude,” she said.

Designers are also digging this shade of green. The Kate Spade brand is pairing it with coral. In a recent interview, designer Jonathan Adler says the green color of Claridge’s luxury hotel in London — reminiscent of Aloe — is his current favorite.

How to use it: As an entire wall color.

For a tranquil aesthetic, Jordan recommends using Aloe with natural textiles, tarnished metals and warm wood tones in light to medium finishes.

For an energetic look, she suggests combining Aloe with vintage chartreuse, floral lilacs and vivid corals.

Best bet: A bedroom or bathroom, but the tub area only. “I’d steer clear of the sink area,” Jordan said. “It’s probably not the best color for skin tones.”

In a dining room use it with modern black and white accents.

Paint the walls Aloe in a gender-neutral nursery and add periwinkle and lavender accents to make it feminine, or yellows and grays for masculine look, Jordan said.

Schmitz says Aloe is beautiful set against Carrara marble and stainless steel with hot pink or coral accents. She calls it retro without harking back to the pale pink accents of the 1950s.

Simple color rules

Yellows (like Lemon Sorbet) go well with greens and oranges. Blues and yellows — complementary colors — create a classic interior combination for an upbeat, fresh environment.

Green (like Aloe) is often used like a neutral color to balance a room since certain shades of green can go with almost any other color.

Source: “The Color Scheme Bible” by Anna Starmer ($19.95)

Choosing a shade

Grab a stack of paint chips and take them home. Fan them out and weed out the ones that don’t appeal.

Look in a mirror and hold paint chips near your face. Some, especially those with too much blue, don’t complement skin tones.

Buy a sample can and paint a test board. Move it around the room at different times of the day to make sure it’s what you like.

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