I’m always fascinated by the roots of color trends.

I remember when red and black were popular in clothing some years ago, and a color marketing pro told me it was because the Chicago Bulls were so hot at the time.

That’s right. Michael Jordan was the reason you just had to have that red leather jacket back in the ’90s.

I’m aware that marketers consider social forces, major events and even our entertainment preferences when they’re determining which colors are likely to capture our fancy. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the inspirations for some of the paint colors that are expected to be popular in 2014.

But math and mad science? I never saw those coming.

They’re two of the major forces behind the color palettes paint maker Sherwin-Williams will be promoting this year. The company shared those palettes and the catalysts behind them at ColorMix 2014, a presentation for interior designers and others in the building industry at Cleveland’s I-X Center recently.


To me, it looks like there’s a battle of the brain hemispheres going on.

Two of the four palettes in the forecast had romantic roots, which isn’t surprising. But the other two had interesting intellectual influences.

As presenter Cindy Rohde put it, “Gray is the new black, math is the new sexy.”

And the bizarre, it seems, is now beautiful.

Those are the forces between two of the company’s new color palettes, one called Reasoned and the other, Curiosity.

Reasoned is inspired by the importance of math, economics and technology in our lives, with colors designed to appeal to our inner geek – the gray residue on a chalkboard, for example, and the understated tones of a stockbroker’s suit. The palette is black, white and shades of gray, colors intended to work well with angular or organic shapes.


A room with the palette might have piping on the sofa, decorative wire forms for art and crisp pleats and folds in the fabrics. It’s a sophisticated look, modern look.

Have a slightly darker side?

You might be drawn to Curiosity, which is inspired by the weird and wondrous. Think ravens, mad scientists’ labs and the whole steampunk look that centers on old-style machinery.

Curiosity’s colors are grayed-down and a little edgy, including subdued plums, the colors of metals and a deep teal inspired by peacock feathers. Not for you? That’s OK.

Those palettes stand in stark contrast to Diaphanous, as delicate and dreamlike as Reasoned and Curiosity are hard and logical. Its barely there grays and cosmetic colors were inspired by our new respect for feminine strength, our desire for simplicity and peacefulness and even exotic culinary ingredients such as pale sea salts, Rohde said.

Vibrant colors aren’t out of the picture, either, thanks to our shrinking world and the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Multiculturalism has long influenced color, and this year is no different. Sherwin-Williams calls its ethnic-inspired palette Intrinsic, and it’s filled with the happy colors of folk costumes, hand-dyed fabrics and ancient crafts.

Those are the kinds of colors I tend to be drawn to, but I have to admit I kind of like those urbane grays, too.

I guess my left and right brains will just have to fight it out.

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