Nature’s Bounty

by Autumn McGarr

A walk through the woods, a stroll by the sea or a hike in the mountains each trigger a spiritual calm. That disconnect from daily stress is achieved through a connection with nature, the deep breathing of fresh air and the visual play of an abundance of color.

More than ever, homeowners are seeking to bring the colors of the outdoors home with them, carefully choosing earth-inspired hues for cabinets, walls, countertops and more to help them retain the feeling of well-being that goes with being in nature. Whether opting for neutral tones or bright pops, color choices for 2020 and beyond are all about what’s real.

Sarah Kahn Turner of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath notes the trend away from cold grays in favor of mushroom, greige and beige.
Photo: Keith Miller


Due to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, self-care remains a top priority for many as we head into 2020, notes Lauren West, global color and design director for Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood. “Individuals are gravitating toward finishes that bring a sense of warmth and comfort to their homes and offices, resulting in the creation of spaces that allow them to recharge and relax.”

“People are definitely becoming more focused on nature,” emphasizes Dee Schlotter, senior color expert, PPG Industries in Pittsburgh, PA. “They are paying much more attention to their mental health and well-being, and nature makes you feel good.”

For interior home design, Erika Woelfel, color expert, Behr Paint in Santa Ana, CA, expects to see nature-inspired tones continue to rise going into 2020. “As society is overwhelmed by screen time and the notification culture, people are retreating to nature to reconnect and remain grounded,” she remarks. “In their homes, they’re gravitating toward colors that promote peace, mindfulness and well-being.”

Behr’s 2020 Color Trends palette features 15 trending colors that range from neutrals, earthy greens, pastels and bold shades – “all inspired by nature and the world around us” and marketed as “outside colors available inside.” The company’s 2020 Color of the Year, Back to Nature, is an earthy green.

“With all of the directional colors, nature is usually the inspiration,” adds Mark Woodman, owner, Design+Color LLC and past president, Color Marketing Group in Alexandria, VA. A few exceptions are crisp brights that signify moments of frivolity and fun, which are often needed to lighten the mood of a space, he offers.

“Green and blue are going to continue, but it is the earthy influence on tan and brown that becomes new and intriguing, with undertones creating visual interest,” he continues. “Not only are there yellow, orange and red influences, but the aforementioned green, as well.”

“I always see the influence of nature on the colors, but I see the colors becoming less muddy and more clear,” observes Leslie Kalish, principal, Certified Interior Designer and Color Expert, LMK Interiors in Lafayette, CA. She also sees greens emerging instead of blues, and the red violet family like mauve and pinks – “all very soft and wall wearable.”

The team at Benjamin Moore agrees. Its choice for Color of the Year 2020 – First Light – is a soft, rosy hue.

“While we love neutrals, including whites, grays, taupes, charcoals and rich browns, we see a yearning to bring color into our spaces,” reports Hannah Yeo, color marketing & development manager, Benjamin Moore in Montvale, NJ. As a result, the Benjamin Moore color team identified 10 colors that capture the design sensibility that it believes will set the tone for the next decade. From the calm tone of First Light to deep sapphire blues, “these colors are fresh, upbeat and versatile – easy to live with and easy to love,” she adds.

Benjamin Moore’s 2020 Color of the Year, First Light 2102-70, reflects a new definition of the home – a shift in mindset from the material to satisfying the core needs in life: community, comfort, security, self-expression, authenticity and ultimately, optimism, notes the company.
Photo: Courtesy of Benjamin Moore


Nature is influencing the look in neutrals, which are still – and will always be – popular in kitchen, bath and whole-home design. Shades of white, gray and beige have long been staples in the home, though over time their nuances have changed.

“While gray has reigned as one of the top wall colors of the past 10 years, a familiar shade is making its way back into favor – beige,” states West.

“We are moving away from cold grays and using more Mushroom, Greige and Beige tones,” adds Sarah Kahn Turner, designer, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Ltd. in Chevy Chase, MD. She believes the use of warmer color choices is reflective of the mid century trend of recent years, “and I think it just sets a more inviting tone.”

“Warm neutrals are a continuing direction as a tonic for ‘gray fatigue,’” agrees Woodman. “Gray is not departing the palette, nor should it, but it will start to warm up, or be used with warmer hues to keep it fresh.” He believes combinations such as gray and camel, silver and dark brown or charcoal and burnt orange will bridge the looks in the kitchen and bath.

When asked what colors they consider to be neutrals, West notes that designers invariably chose white, gray and beige. However, a few non-traditional options are rising to the surface, such as black, sage green and navy blue.

Rich blues continue to trend in the home, especially in the kitchen, and that is reflected in the Color of the Year choice from Sherwin-Williams – Naval SW6244.
Photo: Courtesy of Sherwin-Williams


Indeed, blue and green have enjoyed a good run in kitchens and baths in the last few years, and the interest in these colors is not waning.

“We’re still seeing the trend toward blues and greens, but the tones are changing. They’re getting more energy,” stresses Schlotter. She notes that dark navy is getting mixed with cobalt for a brighter tone. As an example of a more energized blue, she offers PPG Industries’ 2020 Color of the Year – Chinese Porcelain.

“We’re also seeing softer greens and blues, more muted mint colors,” she continues. “Pale green is also gaining interest – a more grayish green.”

“Other trends include the use of deep, bold tones like navy and hunter green, and a movement toward more color in general,” reports West. A navy tone is reflected in Naval, the Sherwin-Williams 2020 Color of the Year, which is inspired by the nature of a deep night sky.

Jodi Swartz of KitchenVisions believes pops of fun colors in tones of red, blue and green will continue to trend in 2020. In this kitchen, BlueStar appliances make a statement in red.
Photo: Michael Patrick Lefebvre

“The rich colors we’ve seen are less ‘jewel’ and more freshened,” agrees Woodman. “Mulberry, light teal, sharp reds and ‘jewelry box’ turquoise look good with the grays in place and with the emerging warmer neutrals.”

He adds that variations of turquoise, aqua and deep teal will emerge worldwide in 2020. “It is an excellent, fresh-feeling bridge color between blue and green, feels natural without conjuring the usual nature inspirations and coordinates with a multitude of other colors and stains, with various undertones. The type of hue will balance the warmth of the neutrals coming, as well,” he observes.

Jodi L. Swartz, CKBR, UDCP, founder and principal designer, KitchenVisions in Natick, MA, notes that multiple hues of blue and green will be popular, along with jewel tones and “pops” of fun shades of red, burgundy and plum. “I’m scheduled to do a cream and deep teal kitchen in the spring,” she notes.

While she acknowledges the current popularity of blue and green, Schlotter believes this interest will transition to eggplant in the next few years – “not a burgundy, but a rich, dark color that has energy. When you use a color like that on a piece of furniture, the walls can stay pale and neutral,” she notes.

The striking blue-toned countertop in this kitchen by Jodi Swartz gets a boost from the glossy and modern all-white cabinetry.
Photo: Michael Patrick Lefebvre


With regard to color trends, all of the previously mentioned tones are having an impact on kitchen and bath design. Grays and whites are warmer, browns are gaining momentum and color is making an impact.

“White and gray remain go-to neutrals for homeowners – especially in the kitchen and bath spaces,” notes Woelfel. “Lately, we’ve seen warmer tones of neutrals as dominant choices, like Painter’s White and Creamy Mushroom on cabinetry.”

Schlotter agrees that grays are moving away from cool tones, with beige grays trending now. “They are easier to use with the browns we’re seeing in the counters, and with the great wood tones now.”

Those woods are a little different than years past, with choices like black walnut, teak, sapele, hickory and white rift oak. “We’re not seeing heavy browns in woods, but rather more of the midcentury modern tones,” notes Schlotter.

Turner loves using deep, saturated tones on cabinetry as an alternative to gray, such as in this kitchen where an up-and-coming shade of red in leather makes a textured statement on the island against the neutral woods along the perimeter. Photo: John Cole

Turner also loves the use of deep, saturated colors on cabinetry, and notes that paint manufacturers, cabinet makers, designers and, most importantly, clients are embracing them as an alternative to gray. “Color can be a neutral and great way to infuse your style into the most used spaces in the house – the kitchens, bathrooms and built-ins,” she remarks.

Schlotter notes that, even in the bath, “we’re seeing darker colors on cabinets. A dark color works on the bath cabinet to anchor the space.”

Bold and interesting colors are finding their way into the kitchen especially, often in countertop, appliance and fixture choices. “We’re seeing a lot of orange-browns on the rise, amber and saffron, and earthy stones,” offers Schlotter.

Woelfel adds that some homeowners are looking to add energy and accents to high-traffic areas like kitchens, and they’re tapping tones like Rumba Orange and Cider Spice.

In fixture finishes, black and gold continue to take center stage.

“I’m seeing clients back off brass a bit and look at matte black finishes again in hardware and fixtures. These tones are more in keeping with finishes found in nature, and they work nicely with these more colorful open spaces,” remarks Turner.

“Charcoal, matte golds and matte black finishes for hardware, plumbing and lighting are surprisingly popular,” adds Swartz. ▪

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