Pantone color of the year and Barry Dixon

It just so happened that the same day Barry Dixon came to Boston to give a talk on color was the same day that Pantone announced Marsala was its pick for color of the year.

Boy, did the reddish brown color choice cause controversy! Social media just about blew up after the announcement and comments were about five to one against the color. Interior designers were especially harsh voicing comments like “the 80’s called and wants their color back” and “Pantone is way off the mark on this one”. I personally was simply surprised by the choice as this was not a color that was on my radar. Oxblood Red yes, but Marsala is much more muted than oxblood and is more purple.

Now that I’ve had a few days to adjust to Marsala, I don’t love it or hate it. It’s really all about context and what colors are being paired with it. It would look quite nice as an accent color with dark greens, blues, or gold.  Is this a color that I will be suggesting my clients paint their walls? highly doubtful, but then again, I never suggested last years color Radiant Orchid either.

The thing to remember is that the Pantone color of the year is all about marketing and I would say they hit a home run in that respect. It got everyone talking and even made the national news that evening.

Now, back to Barry Dixon. The talk was so timely because his idea on color is just the opposite of Pantone. Whereas Pantone is all about what’s hot right now, Dixon is all about timeless, classic beauty. He opened his talk with a beautiful image of a room the we all assumed was completed recently. He surprised us all by saying the room was done fifteen years ago.  So what is his secret for choosing a timeless interior color palette? He looks out the window.

Barry Dixon

Barry Dixon

Pretty simple right? If you bring the natural surrounding colors into your home it will never be out of style. According to Dixon, “steal color from the outside elements-the sea, the sky, evening blues, lavenders, purples and grays”.

With his new paint line for C2 paint, Dixon did exactly that. He studied the surrounding colors on his farm in Virginia. He looked not only at the obvious like the grassy fields and surrounding trees and flowers but at hay bails, fence posts and the winter sky just before a snow fall. He “stole” the color of the eggs his hens lay and the early morning fog rolling across his lawn. He looked at the many colors of the sunset and sunrise and even the fur on his dog.

Barry Dixon

Barry Dixon

So here are my two take-aways from both the color of the year and Barry Dixon.

#1. Color preference is really personal and if you are not a fan of Marsala we have a saying, “if you don’t like the weather in New England just wait a few minutes” Mark Twain….. if you don’t like Marsala just wait twelve months.

#2. Nature never gets it wrong…if you bring the surrounding outside colors into your home it will always feel fresh.

SOOOOO what side of the fence are you on? trending or timeless?


11 Responses to Pantone color of the year and Barry Dixon
  1. Karen Reply

    I think it depends on what it would be paired with. I don’t dislike it. I didn’t like the Emerald Green from a couple of years ago.

  2. lori fischer Reply

    Hi, Linda!

    I’d have to see the color in person (hard to tell sometimes on a screen) but it looks similar to oxblood which I have seen popping up in accessories for a while. I just worked on a house where the one item that the homeowner wanted to keep in the room was a mirror with a wooden frame painted in a color similar to Marsala. I wasn’t thrilled at first, but… with an updated color palette of gray, cream and indigo and that color as accents in the accessories, the room came out beautiful.

  3. Lori Sawaya Reply

    I don’t recall ever *hating* a color. And I kind of don’t understand all the drama. But, you’re right, Pantone certainly got the buzz they probably wanted.

    I happen to like Marsala because it’s quiet. I feel Pantone has been hammering out very vivid colors for the last several years. It’s a nice break.

  4. Janis Reply

    I have to say I loathe this color and have no plans on using it – ever!

    I cannot explain my reaction to it, but somehow it is depressing to me.

  5. Veronica Domurat Reply

    Well said Linda and nice comments from your readers too

  6. Kathy Reply

    As a designer, I’m not a color hater, but also not of fan of anything that dates an interior, which ‘trends’ have a tendency to do. In a conversation about bold statement papers, two other designers told me a client asking if a bold blue grass cloth paper would fade was insulting, as interiors should be completely redone every seven years. They laughed at me when I questioned it too because, in my mind, that’s a financially and environmentally irresponsible stance. There’s a reason Barry Dixon’s designs, and those of many others, stand the test of time. Designing with neutral (almost anything can be a neutral) colors, fabrics and finishes the client feels most at home with, then making inexpensive tweaks with trends they see and love over time is more realistic and responsible. Great design is meant to last. As for color, you are so right, Linda. Nature never gets it wrong!

  7. Kelly R. @ Interiors for Families Reply

    Another thing illustrated well by the lovely Barry Dixon dining room is that a sophisticated monochromatic palette with classic design references can never go out of fashion or look dated. That room could be in Winterthur or in a fancy townhouse on Park Avenue (though I’m sure it’s closer to the latter 🙂 ). A true pro can take marsala – or virtually any color – and do ingenious things with it, if it is appropriate for the project.

  8. Donna Frasca Reply

    I agree with Lori Sawaya. There are pros and cons about EVERY color but I just don’t understand how a Designer can come out and say “oh this color is horrible, it looks like blood”. This just tell me the Designer is a bit limited, which is fine, the life of a Designer is constantly evolving. Just don’t eliminate a color because you’re not sure how to handle it. Going back to what Lori said, I’m just so tired of seeing all the “baby colors” and actually find it refreshing to see a mature hue for once – and it’s not blue or turquoise which is also really long in the tooth.

  9. Holly Reply

    Love your take on this Linda and that yes Pantone’s announcement each year is a huge marketing boost. I wouldn’t recommend this for walls either but I don’t love or hate it – and I really think it’s getting harsh criticism because the past few years colors have been so crisp and didn’t have the warmth that Marsala has in it. Anyway, glad I got the chance to read your post.

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  11. Kelly Martin Reply

    Excellent post, Linda! It is about the marketing and getting people talking. Great commentary and perspective.

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