What’s in a hue? According to Laurie Pressman, vice-president of the influential Pantone Color Institute, colour is “a critical form of communication, and a way to symbolise thoughts and ideas”.
Because we could all do with an uplift in 2021, Pantone has picked a sunshine yellow called Illuminating, paired with Ultimate Grey – the former “imbued with solar power”; the latter providing “a firm foundation” – as the trendsetting colour direction for the year ahead.
“Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
So, what do designers think?
John McLennan, founder and executive chairman of Indigo Living , which has home furnishing stores in Hong Kong, China, and the Middle East, reckons it’ll be a lemon.
“My initial reaction is that it’s ugly and very difficult to use in home furnishings,” he says. Whereas most greys used in interior design are soft, Pantone’s choice is “a heavy, cement grey”, he explains, while yellow is always tricky to style. “I think [this combination] will be a one-hit wonder. Everyone will latch onto it and it can be kind of fun for a season, then they’ll move on.”
His advice to anyone following this trend is to restrict yellow to a pop of colour – cushions, for instance, or a quirky piece of designer ceramics – that can be changed easily.
Amelia Koo, lead interior designer at Hmlet, a co-living company with operations in Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong, can see how a few sunny accents would brighten the mood, especially for those still working from home and deprived of different interior environments.
However, if you do want to use yellow, stick to that one primary colour on an overall palette of black, white and grey, she advises.
Koo can sense that the Covid-19 experience will manifest itself in interior design in other ways in the coming year. “Consumers are more focused on the function of their space, rather than merely aesthetics,” she says.
Now, “almost everyone wants a home office ”, so designers will be hunting for any spare corners that could possibly hold a small desk, or transforming dining areas to perform different roles during and after working hours.
All that time spent in lockdown has also turned clutter into even more of an irritant, especially as work detritus piles up. Koo believes furniture that doubles as storage space will be a popular solution.
“Like it or not, Covid-19 and quarantine have made many of us embrace the minimalist lifestyle,” she says. “Indeed, consuming less to ‘live more’ might be just the way to go, especially in these trying economic times.”
Choosing furniture in leather or with metallic finishes can give a luxe and classy feel to a minimalist flat, the designer adds.
Koo also foresees wood, an enduring trend, moving beyond the perennial Scandinavian blond tones to incorporate more mid-century modern timbers such as teak, elm and oak.
Additionally, she believes that after a year of pandemic-induced introspection we’ll see more materials such as rattan, a trend already in ascendancy , which for many in Southeast Asian cultures evokes memories of furniture from their childhood.
Keith Chan Shing Hin, founder of residential and furniture design firm Hintegro, which has commissions in Hong Kong, Japan, and Los Angeles, thinks there’ll be more home renovating in general come 2021, as people adjust their living arrangements to the new Covid-19 normal.
He believes the work-from-home experiment has proven to be largely efficient, and designers will be challenged to find pockets of privacy to accommodate that in Hong Kong’s typically small flats.
In one solution, Chan recently created a “phone booth” for a client by clearing enough space in the laundry room for a chair and laptop, and painting the wall behind it white. “When my client needs to take a Zoom call, it looks like he’s in a professional setting – not the utility area of his flat,” Chan says.
More than ever, designers also have to consider their clients’ psychological needs. “Staying home 24 hours a day can drive you crazy,” he says. Planting green walls on the balcony encourages us to take a break and go outside, while indoor pot plants are beneficial for improving the indoor environment.
Chan also expects to see rising demand for “proper” office furniture, such as Herman Miller chairs and motorised adjustable desks, to take care of people’s physical health as they work from home.
“Home automation will be a trend in 2021. These systems are quite mature now and the price is less expensive,” he says. “Technology allows for better [virtual] communication both for work and connecting with loved ones, and you can set lighting scenes or adjust the curtains directly via mobile apps.”
Hygiene concerns will come to the fore during renovations, and Chan expects rising demand for high-touch products with built-in antimicrobial surface protection, such as quartz kitchen worktops from Silestone, and Formica plastic laminates.
Chan is already receiving requests for copper doorknobs and cabinet handles, after scientific studies suggested that copper can kill the coronavirus .
For a closing prediction regarding colour, research out of Britain suggests that if you want a harmonious relationship in the coming year, paint your bedroom green.
A survey of 4,390 couples found that while the bedroom is the site of arguments for most couples, the 89 per cent of people with a green bedroom – a colour said to create a sense of comfort – are happiest in their marriage.
Next are those with beige bedrooms (84 per cent), while couples opting for yellow drop down to fifth place (62 per cent) on the happiness rankings.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.