Yellow is in the spotlight—in part because Pantone’s Color of the Year is Illuminating, and in part because the design world is shifting from its cool gray-white phase. “I am seeing and designing warmer spaces for clients,” says Chicago interior designer Elizabeth Stamos. “Colors like yellow and even red are making their way back into mainstream trends.” Los Angeles interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s new paint collaboration with Farrow & Ball, which includes the perky Citrona, a lemon tree tribute to California, seals it.
Yellow is mellow, but it can be tricky to pull off. Buttery walls can look classic when the room is styled to highlight the jovial shade. Yet a charming canary yellow can turn childish when painted on as an afterthought. Here, six ways things to consider if you want to bring the sunny shade inside.
Consider the Light (And Window Views)
“Natural light really affects the color that you choose,” says Kelly. Farrow & Ball’s soft Citrona is earthy, allowing its underlying tones to embrace strong light, making a space with a huge skylight or large expanses of windows ideal. “The color also works beautiful with trees and specimens with landscape outside of your window,” adds Kelly. For dim spaces look to buttery pastel yellows that give off luminosity even on dreary days. “Yellow can be a wonderful energizing punch for a dark corner, small kitchen or intimate space,” says Los Angeles designer Michelle Fahmy.
The citrine office of Bridgerton’s Simon Basset is as dashing as the duke himself. Take note, and add traditional tones to honor your home office that VIP status. “To me yellow is very classic,” says Elizabeth. Pale yellows, such as this Ecos Paints Lisa Tharp Colors “Van Gogh’s Highlight”, are a good start, especially for the risk-averse. Its glow adds enough brightness to fuel productivity, but not run circles around your desk. When deciding on which spectrum of yellow to go with, consider this advice by Scottsdale designer Anissa Mendil: A warm yellow has orange undertones and a cool yellow has green undertones. Choosing between a warm or a cool yellow will affect the other finishes in the room such as wood and metals. Silver for example works better with cool yellows while gold finishes tend to work better with warm yellows.
One of the reasons oceans are so mesmerizing is because the various blues dance with one another. Apply this principle by integrating different yellow tones, from soft pastel to deep mustard, to add dimension. The mesmerizing watercolor-like mural by Area Environments creates a warm aura of modern cool. Alternatively, take an all-encompassing approach by flooding the space with this optimistic pigment. “I love to paint everything—all the walls and millwork—to completely saturate the room in the color,” says Kelly. Regardless of whether you dive deep into yellow or layer the hues, décor rich in blues, greens and pinks will make the yellow pop further. Earthy vibes, like a jute rug or a curvaceous wood table add counterbalance, adds Elizabeth.
Perhaps we should thank Kehinde Wiley for lusting after decadent floral wallpaper, especially if it looks like this de Gournay x Erdem confection adorning a guest bedroom created by San Francisco designer Dina Bandman. “I wanted to play off the trend of ‘grand millennial’ and this wallpaper was the perfect back drop,” she says. “Although a completely new design, its chinoiserie theme evokes memories of something older, antiqued; but, the bright yellow background makes it fresh.”
Wary about trying yellow? Camouflage it. “Yellow is a powerful color, so being mindful of its impact is key when using it in design,” says Michelle. “Taking a yellow accent wall, for instance, and create contrast by layering artwork over it. This helps balance the intensity of the color and provide added interest.” Behr makes a delightful “Sunny Side Up” that’ll make your gallery wall pop.
Use It As an Accent A yellow accent makes sense if you don’t want to commit to a full-on yellow room. For a whimsical take on yellow wallpaper, rein in Scalamandre Zebras to liven up any space for both adults and kids. The vibrant, truly happy lemon shade works beautifully with white or navy. “Yellow is a happy color and it makes us feel uplifted and optimistic, which is especially needed right now after what we have all been through with the pandemic,” says Anissa, who used a sunflower yellow wall to encapsulate a stand-alone tub in a master bath of Hotel Valley Ho‘s Executive Suite.