For 20 years, Pantone's choice for Colour of the Year has been an eagerly awaited date in the calendar for interiors enthusiasts looking to get a head start on the hottest looks of next year. After 2020's Classic Blue, this year the panel of design experts entrusted with making the decision have gone in a very different direction, choosing two tones to share the title - Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 Illuminating and Ultimate Gray

It is only the second time in 20 years that two colours have been selected, the first being 2016's blue/pink pairing of Serenity and Rose Quartz, but the choice makes perfect sense. Neutral palettes, including greys like Dulux's Polished Pebble and Farrow & Ball's Railings, are predicted to be the most popular paint shades of 2021 - no surprise, after a trying year that has had us all in need of soothing vibes. It's the same reason Dulux chose the warm beige Brave Ground as its own colour of the year for 2021!

But most of us are now ready to look forward to a better year, and vivid yellows like Farrow & Ball's India Yellow and Annie Sloan's English Yellow perfectly embody that spirit of optimism and new beginnings.

‘The selection of two independent colours highlights how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one colour or one person, it’s about more than one,’ said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

‘The union of an enduring ultimate grey with the vibrant yellow illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.’

Expert tips for using yellow and grey in your home decor

'Whether you opt for a subtle light tone or a deeper richer hue grey provides a neutral, comforting foundation as the starting point to any room, its versatility and varied tonal shades explains its enduring ever-lasting popularity. Yellow is a natural match,' says Patricia Gibbons, from the design team at

'As an accent it provides a bright, optimistic foil whether it is introduced via upholstery, lighting or accent accessories.'

Judy Smith, Colour Consultant for Crown paints, says this is a pairing that works well in any room. 'Yellow has a bright, warm tone that pairs really well with the cooler grey hues so popular at the moment. The combination gives an easy to live with modern look, with a cheerful pop of colour cleverly balanced by the most loved neutral – grey.

'This combination on the walls or the woodwork would be great for a living room or a dining room, as it creates a statement without looking overpowering. For a bedroom, I’d recommend introducing touches of yellow through smaller accessories.'

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Image courtesy of Crown

Suzy McMahon, Buying Director at Sofology, recommends choosing one colour as your primary canvas - and don't be shy about picking the vibrant yellow!

'A truly cheerful colour, yellow is a statement hue to introduce to the home and can often feel a bold choice,' she says. 'Pairing with a versatile grey will help to tone down the shade and ensure your space remains sunny yet feels contemporary.'

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'Choose one of these complementary shades as the base of your scheme, on the walls or upholstery, and accessorise with accents, that mix patterns and prints, in the alternate colour to add a considered design element.

'Try to the match the tones of each yellow or grey piece so the look is cohesive.'

Emma Deterding, founder and creative director at Kelling Designs and KDLoves, says it's 'important to make sure your home is a true reflection of you and your personal style'.

'Whether you go for a sunny, bright yellow velvet sofa and layer it with cushions and throws in shades of grey in the living room, or opt for a shapely, upholstered headboard in a yellow and grey print, you can really make a statement and transform any room.

'What's more, both colours are truly versatile and have become a timeless combination that can be livened up with accessories in monochrome or pops of colour alike.'


Check out out gallery below for ideas to incorporate these on-trend tones into your home decor.