Brave, gentle, urbane, smooth, illuminating – these are some of the words used to name the colours predicted to be popular in 2021 by colour experts from world’s leading authorities on colours, who seemed to be in agreement to pick colours that are soothing and grounding to create a sanctuary at home. 

1. Brave Ground

Brave Ground paired with ochre for a warm, inviting kitchen. 

Described as a warm, natural and neutral shade that reconnects us to nature and the simple things, Brave Ground from Dulux’s Colour Futures 2021 is its Colour of the Year. It chose this shade after months of working with paint company AkzoNobel, trend forecasters, design specialists, editors and architects from across the globe.

The colour in the bedroom with a bright yellow accent.

“Empowering and earthy, the colour provides a firm foundation for living,” says Oscar Wezenbeek, managing director of AkzoNobel Decorative Paints in South-East & South Asia, about the psychological effect of the colour. “Evoking a sense of security, growth and potential, it helps create environments that give us the courage to embrace change.”

It also goes well with the living room plants.

A neutral shade like Brave Ground can play the leading role and the supporting role in our space. Dulux has curated four complementary palettes to bring out its different qualities.

Brave Ground paired with ochre for a warm, inviting kitchen. 

The energising Expressive colour palette pairs the colour with reds and pinks. Trust offers tone-on-tone companion neutrals like clay and chalk. Timeless injects contemporary freshness by pairing it with yellows and ochres. Finally, Earth puts it with the cool shades of the sea, sky, and forest to bring out its restorative effect. 

Paired with minty shade for a fresh look in this home office.

2. Urbane Bronze

American paint company Sherwin-Williams’ 2021 Colour of the Year, Urbane Bronze SW7048 is a sophisticated grey with a bronze undertone.

“Urbane Bronze is a comforting colour, drawing from nature for a feeling of relaxation and serenity,” says Sue Wadden, director of colour marketing. “There’s also reassurance in its sentimentality, with nostalgic ties to the designs of the ’70s and ’90s, but with grey undertones that give it a distinctly modern twist,” she adds.

©2016 George C. Anderson

“Urbane Bronze is just one more way to bring in nature through design and is a great colour to accentuate window trim, columns and accent walls in commercial spaces. It works well with other elements of biophilic design, including large, light-filled spaces and indoor greenery.” 


Hailed as the new neutral, Urbane Bronze’s anchoring quality conveys a sense of comfort at home. Sherwin-Williams recommends pairing it with natural materials like timber, stone or woven textiles for a textured interior that goes well with large windows and biophilic elements.

Urbane Bronze adds intimacy to the bedroom.

Match this colour with other warm neutrals, such as off-whites, for an updated take on minimalism. Or add greens for a modern take on nostalgic retro ’70s feel.

Urbane Bronze also makes the green of plants pop.

3. Gentle Whisper & Smooth Sailing

Nippon Paint has curated four palettes for Asia. In Singapore, it has observed that there is a preference for a muted colour palette called Gentle Whisper, from which the soft blue Smooth Sailing BGG 1565 P is its Colour of the Year 2021.

Smooth Sailing introduces calmness to a room.

“As the name suggests, we hope for smooth sailing this year,” says the Nippon Paint team. The Gentle Whisper palette comprises soothing pastels, including muted pink with a beige undertone and grey and blue enhanced by matte silver and frost.

The light grey from the Gentle Whisper palette. 

The palette allows us to introduce colour into a room while achieving the same spaciousness generated by an all-white space, but with an added breezy and cooling effect. It also helps to create sanctuary-like spaces.

A bedroom awash in Gentle Whisper’s shades of beige.

Nippon Paint recommends keeping to a maximum of three colours in a room – a primary hue such as Smooth Sailing on about 60 per cent of the surfaces and two accent shades. 

A whimsical living room featuring a duo-toned feature wall.

4. Ultimate Gray & Illuminating

Provider of professional colour standards Pantone has picked not one, but two Colour(s) of the Year 2021: Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray, a medium-toned grey, and Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating, a soft, sunshiny yellow.

Says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute, the colour pairing aims to highlight how different elements come together “to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”.

Leatrice Eiseman

“The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray 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 color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”


Although presented as a pair, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating need not be used in equal proportions. Either can take precedence, says Pantone. The two make a great combination to set the mood anywhere at home by adding a dose of sunshine and positivity.

Grey and yellow are perfect for homewares, too.

Adding yellow accents in a mostly grey room infuses vitality and liveliness. A bright yellow front door, for instance, conveys a warm welcome amidst the solid, dependable grey exterior finishes.

The colour pairing trend in fashion translates well for sportswear. 

Flip the ratio for a bright, yellow room with a grey accent that lends a grounding and stately touch. 

The Ultimate Gray and Illuminating colours in beauty products.