Concluding VitrA’s year of colour themed events, articles and talks, Design Update reviews the colour trend predictions for 2023 with Francesco Draisci – Associate and colour authority at AHMM Architects, Grace Chihane – Senior Interior Designer at Squire & Partners, and Erdem Akan – VitrA’s Director of Design.
Every year, trend prediction agencies and paint companies announce their colour of the year. Hues for 2023 include Viva Magenta, Digital Lavender and Wild Wonder. Are colour trend forecasts relevant to your work, and what do you think of this year’s crop of colours?
Grace Chihane. Image: Squire & Partners
What’s interesting to me is the behavioural psychology behind the trends – for instance how the colours reflect reactions to recent global upheavals. Whereas Viva Magenta is all about optimism, Digital Lavender is about mood boosting, and the pale-yellow hue of Wild Wonder references nature and wellbeing. Colours are very personal, so while some people will respond to events by wanting soothing, calming colours, others will have a desire to express freedom in brave, bold colours.
In interior design, context is key to colour. Squire & Partners’ design approach is narrative-led, and we research our colour inspiration in a place-specific way from a wide range of sources – from nature to fashion to art. I’d say we keep an eye on colour trends indirectly, through other disciplines.
Francesco Draisci. Image: AHMM
Colour trends are certainly relevant because you can’t ignore them! To me, forecasting is a function of the world’s manufacturing processes and the technical side of things – it’s a way of streamlining the pigment pipeline in a coordinated way to match created demand. We’re all subject to it – even if we don’t really like the idea of being manipulated.
I’ve always worked with colour, beginning my career with Richard Rogers who was as much a fan of colour as AHMM are. We often use colour to highlight contextual, cultural or architectural narratives, and I try to be aware of forecasts too.
Personally, I’m quite intrigued by Viva Magenta. It has a lot of depth with lots of red and a tiny bit of blue – it has the potential to make spaces feel quite intimate.
Erdem Akan. Image: VitrA
We follow the forecasts more in terms of palettes than individual colours. Our main aim is to get a sense of shifts in the undercurrents of hues, with either more or less blue, red or yellow.
For us, Viva Magenta is perhaps not so relevant but Wild Wonder is in line with our own predictions for generally warner palettes for bathroom décor. The concept of colour in virtual space behind Digital Lavender also aligns with the thinking behind a new tile range we’re launching in 2023.
What kinds of colour palettes are you working with on current projects?
In the UK we’re using a lot of terracotta shades, from light pink through orange to brown. The face of London – it’s image and identity – is historically based on brick colourings, and we’ve been exploring these colours in projects like our No 1 Blackhorse Lane development for Scape Living in north-east London. Similarly, our Norton Folgate project nearing completion near Liverpool Street in London is a good example of warmer terracotta shades in interiors, with splashes of lighter blossom-like colour against the raw materiality of exposed brick and concrete.
Terracotta shades at AHMM’s Blackhorse Lane for Scape Living. Image: Pixelflakes
Colour is very dependent on place and geography. Designing with colour in London is different to Italy or anywhere else in the world. In London, cool blues tend to look very dull in the grey light of a winter’s day. So lavender, which has a lot of blue in it, would not be my go-to for buildings and spaces in most circumstances.
At Squire & Partners, we don’t think about colour in isolation but in relation to compositions of texture, light and form. We tend to add colours to our interiors in less obvious ways – not solely through paint finish but through surfaces like patinated metals or perhaps a coloured marble with beautiful veining or tinted mirrors. Our approach to colour depends on the type of project, whether that’s private residential, commercial or developer-led housing. Overall we tend to pair relatively neutral background colour palettes with pops of colour or striking materials as accents.
Generally, VitrA is inspired by colours in the natural world. In bathrooms, the ‘hardware’ of basins, toilets, taps and showers need to work together in complementary tones over time, weathering shifts in general interior colour trends and accents. Sanitaryware itself is not fast fashion – in that respect VitrA is more of a marathon runner!
Voyage by VitrA and Arik Levy
What factors have inspired or influenced your use of colour in a recent project?
We try to keep our feet on the ground in terms of colour and fashion, because in architecture and interiors we’re thinking in terms of longer timespans.
Location is very important to colour decisions in the built environment. With colour we’re projecting forward over time, across the different light conditions of the seasons. Inside, a south-facing space with lots of windows will require very different treatment to an artificially lit north-facing space.
Colour is a bit like music. When you listen to a lot of music you begin to distinguish the different instruments. And when you work with colour, you become very attuned to the constituent parts – blue, yellow, red. It’s that vocabulary of experience that helps build atmosphere.
We draw a lot of inspiration from nature as well as the immediate context of the project. Our recent workspaces at Colmore Row in Birmingham, for instance, take inspiration from local terracotta brick materiality. In contrast, a current project for a villa by the sea in Oman is inspired by the surrounding beachscape in its use of soft pastel shades. In our own office refurbishment, The Department Store in Brixton, we exposed at lot of the existing fabric with its original colouring, revealing layers of history.
Found colour at Squire & Partners’ The Department Store in Brixton. Image: James Jones
Time and how people use space are really important factors, so we look at function and how spaces will be occupied – perhaps adding bolder accents to less frequently used spaces. At a recent workspace project on St James’s Street in London, for example, we used a vibrant floral wallpaper as an accent to a bathroom’s otherwise neutral colour palette We’re also thinking about changing light conditions and different orientations, as well as the light reflectance of materials.
In bathrooms, I’d say tiles do a lot of the work in establishing atmosphere and mood, and our tile colours tend to reference greens, greys and some pastel shades. Having said that, we’re currently developing a new tile range called Pro Colour. Set to launch at Cersaie in Summer 2023, the colours are influenced by the digital world – with fresher and brighter accents designed to work in combinations alongside existing palettes.
Is there a colour that has a particular emotional resonance for you, and why?
I enjoy combinations of colours and I’ve noticed that tones of green tend to be my bridge colours – perhaps because in nature hues of green are often a backdrop to the more vibrant colours of bright insects, birds or fish. Greens are great for balancing warmer and cooler palettes.
Plural Matt Moss Green Washbasin by VitrA and Terri Pecora
I feel very comfortable with cool and calming desaturated colours with a sense of timelessness. If I wanted to contrast that with something bold, I’d probably go for dark and cool nature-inspired forest greens or navy blues.
My emotional response to colour varies with the season and is also influenced by prevailing trends. However, for a few years now, I’d say that the optimism of yellow has been a guide for me.
Do you have any personal colour trend predictions for 2023 in interiors and architecture?
My prediction is that the colours of self-finished materials will come to the fore. Over the last few years, we’ve become a lot more aware of the chemical make-up of the colours that we add as a finish – from both environmental and health points of view.
I’ve just finished my own house project and all the colours are self-finish, including six different types of timber and raw plaster. The result is slightly less vibrant but more natural and without harmful VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds]. The bathrooms use a semi-transparent solid surface material in a neo-Rococo palette of pink or turquoise – a bit like an old-fashioned bar of soap becoming more transparent at the edges.
The story behind materiality is becoming far more influential in our design decisions, with truth to the source a key principle. On the other hand, nature does some very vivid things with colour, so it’s not necessarily about being pale and muted.
I think the trend for mood enhancement with colour will continue, whether that’s with bold, bright colours or pastel shades. Another trend I see continuing is basic neutrals – linen colours like off white and ecru – in combination with textures. Looking further ahead, I think we’ll see increasing use of colour in ways that question traditional associations. In fact, I think we’ll see a shift in colour associations in general – pushing boundaries and emphasising personal expression.
I think it will be a yellow tone because yellow is a super-happy colour. With war, pandemic and the environmental picture, there’s been a lot to worry about in the past few years and I think we all need more optimism.
One of the reasons colour trends fascinate me is that they involve collective understanding and shared feelings. In a way, our colour trends are about communication and connecting people. What are we seeing, and what does it make us feel? I believe that finding common ground about a subjective subject like colour helps humankind feel more united.