Last month, when Woonwinkel, Colorhouse Paint, and Solabee Flowers & Botanicals came together for a photoshoot against the backdrop of Colorhouse’s Air.07, Kristin Van Buskirk and Puji Sherer had a chance to talk about pastels. Sherer, President of Colorhouse, and Van Buskirk, owner of Woonwinkel, have some things in common: fine art degrees from the Midwest, long careers as color experts, and a really strong desire to get color just right. Oh, yes, and Bisque.02 their dining rooms.

Kristin: Puji, you were just in Europe...what did you see for interior color trends?

Puji: Yah—I was in Amsterdam for 2 weeks and did shorter trips elsewhere. Amsterdam is such an amazing city for design—the mixture of old and new converge to make a very layered aesthetic. Smoky pastels like mauve and muted seafoam greens were showing up in both home decor and apparel and I also saw a lot of rich and earthy rust colors. Together, the combination of gentler, sweeter hues with grounded, more terracotta colors created an unexpected palette.

Kristin: Smoky mauve…like Air.07?

Puji: Bingo!

Air.07 / Free Standing Plant Box 

Kristin: I remember when we first met you talked about what makes a great paint color. How do you get it right for pastels? 

Puji: Well, the same principles apply for all architectural colors—the biggest thing to take into consideration when designing an architectural color is scale, as the color will grow in size from a tiny chip in the paint store to hundreds of square feet once applied to your walls. Making sure that the undertones in a color do not become overtones when painted is the key. For example, yellow oxide and black can create a beautiful neutralized green color when combined. However, if too much black is added, the color can go off track and go too cool too quickly and change the overall tone of the color. So instead of adding more black to neutralize the color, a better option would be to add raw umber to keep the color warm, but also desaturate it. Since there is such a small amount of colorant in pastels, you are not given much wiggle room to get the undertones right. 

Kristin: You mentioned desaturating…is that what people should keep in mind when choosing from paint swatches, too? Choose something relatively neutralized? I love it when pastels can act like a neutral—so you can pop complementary brights against it. 

Glass.02Large Clear Jug, Round Coral Cutting Board, Medium Container Mint

Puji: Yes—it helps to remember that that tiny swatch will feel more—well, more everything (more pink, more bright, more whatever)—when you blow it up to large scale. So even when choosing pastels for a kid’s room you can go slightly more neutralized. It’ll keep the room light and airy but then you can layer in punchier gender or age-specific hues with textiles and art. Light green, blue, and peachy/yellows transition easily from infant to toddler to preteen—and are good backdrops hues for layering in brights like pink and purple or classic colors like navy and red.

Metal.03 / Create.01 / Cubebot 

Kristin: I love how much boys and men are embracing pink! Even with girls and women, though, these days you need to add something funky next to it to keep it from getting too cute—like ochre!! I guess that’s kind of like the pastels + terracotta combo you saw a lot of. 

Puji: Yah! Our newest pink, Sprout.06, was designed for kids rooms. While it’s a tad sweeter, it doesn’t go overboard at all—you can easily layer in the funk!

Sprout.06 / Knit Cotton Throw 

Kristin: Okay, I have a love/hate relationship with pale blue. I think I worked on way too many pale blues as a sportswear color designer. Help me out. Whatcha got for me?

Puji: I hear ya. For some reason, I have a hard time specifying straight blues that have very little complexity for interiors as well. My go-to when I want blue but not BLUE is our slightly aqua color called Water.06. This color is the perfect mix of blue, green, and grey. You can layer punchy brights on top of this color or keep it chill with grays and browns. Check out Bisque.04 if you want the whispery pastel version of this color.

Kristin: You're so right!! I looooove it!


So, How to Live With Pastels?

  1. Slightly desaturate
  2. Use it as a neutral backdrop for punchier colors
  3. Add earthy, warm accents

Kristin is the owner of Woonwinkel. Always happy to talk color, drop her a line if you need a hand choosing the right colorful accessory for your home or office.

Puji is the President and Chief Color Nerd of Colorhouse, an interior paint company that makes premium paint with artist-crafted hues. They offer complementary online color consultations with a paint purchase through Colorhouse.