Finding Joy in Ultimate Gray

Ultimate Gray or a Silver Lining? Hope for Our Golden State

December 2, 2020. By Isara Ongwiseth: We started 2020 with a firm commitment to new habits that harness nature to support happiness. Throughout this year, these practices buoyed my heart and informed my approach to designing for others.
Then. Then: The Pantone Institute named “Ultimate Gray” as one of two colors of the year for 2021. Seriously Pantone? I couldn’t help but think: “Ugh. Reaaally??? Hasn’t 2020 given us enough gray?” It’s such an interior color!

As Ultimate Gray creeped into my heart and imagination, I turned to the habits I’ve so consciously developed throughout the year to save me. Open the door. Walk in the meadow. Wait, watch, wonder.

Suddenly, I found the silver lining in Ultimate Gray. We may be the Golden State, but we are full of silver linings. Ultimately, we have three main strategies for harnessing gray beauty. We can:

Make It Pop

At times and in spaces filled with vitality, a touch of gray will draw attention. A green meadow, the lush leathery leaves of Hummingbird Sage, abundant tree canopy, all lovely. Yet, where does the eye go here? Straight to the Ultimate Gray wands of silvery White Sage (Salvia apiana).


Backdrop It

When all seems gray, focal points of gentle greens can feel unusually vibrant. Darker greens, normally backdrops, feel dramatic. Here, silver Canyon Prince (Leymus condensatus) makes the velvety lime green foliage of Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia calycina) seem beautifully bright.

This strategy also works when the hardscape, be it concrete or flagstone, brings the touch of gray.


Backdrop & Brighten

Nature herself uses this strategy. So much of California’s silvery-gray foliage delivers its own bright, bold blooms. This is certainly true of Brittlebush, Bladderpod and Sulphur Buckwheat, each of which bring both of Pantone’s 2021 color of the year selections.

In conclusion, Ultimate Gray can be useful. You have to have conflicts to make the story interesting. Gray may be the color that we shun, but it will emphasize the importance and beauty of other elements. So, Pantone, 2021, bring it. We’re ready!

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