Inside Stories

Why Millennial Pink Interiors Are Too Soft for the Tense Times We’re Living In

Erin Magner

Photo: Getty Images/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Earlier this year our homes went from being the places where we'd catch a few winks and spend nights bingeing 'Queer Eye' to our gym, office, school, restaurant, etc. Here, a collection of stories that celebrate our homes and the integration of wellness under one roof. See More

It’s hard to remember a time when millennial pink wasn’t absolutely everywhere in our homes and offices. From salmon-hued French cookware to blush-toned sofas and chairs, there’s basically no corner of the interiors industry that this now-iconic hue hasn’t touched. Love it or hate it, millennial pink isn’t just a fluke success story. “As a color, it’s a good neutral tone that complements other colors and works well digitally and on products—food, fashion, and interiors,” says color and materials consultant Kuan Chi Hau. “It’s a flattering color to wear or be surrounded in.”

It’s also a shade that’s intimately connected in many people’s minds to a certain cultural attitude: the selfie-snapping, rosé-sipping, unicorn-toast-eating joie-de-vivre emblematic of 20-somethings in the mid-2010s. “It’s the first trend color named after a generation—a generation of gender-fluid non-conformists,” says Hau. “Millennial pink developed many connotations. It’s ironic, approachable, positive, fun, retro, smart, and luxurious.”

But it’s 2020 now, and the world feels drastically different than it did even a year ago. If you’ve got salmon-hued cookware, it probably hasn’t seen a dinner party in six months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while your millennial pink furniture serves as your place to eat, work, and chill, it may not be providing as much comfort and calm as before. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health issues have been on the rise since March, and even those millennial pink scented candles and chunky throw pillows no longer feel like enough to elevate the prevailing mood.

“Millennial pink is of another time when we could go out and enjoy cultural experiences, socialize, and Instagram it,” says Hau. Indeed, many of the most recognizable millennial pink moments became off-limits in 2020. One of these is the Gallery Restaurant at Sketch London, which has been tagged in over 70,000 Instagram posts. “Artist David Shrigley and designer India Mahdavi updated the space in 2014 with pink walls and pink velvet chairs to complement Shrigley’s illustrations,” says design journalist and trend forecaster Rohini Wahi. “The restaurant gives the room to a new artist to redecorate every two years, but this color was so popular that they decided not to change it.” Sketch London was closed for much of this year due to COVID-19, as were other millennial pink design landmarks such as the Museum of Ice Cream locations in San Francisco and New York City; Glossier’s boutiques in New York City, Los Angeles, and London; and the Alfred Tea Rooms in Los Angeles and Japan. Just like that, the sprinkle pools and strawberry boba that once dominated our social feeds were suddenly replaced by sweatsuits and homemade banana bread.

So what’s next for our homes now that the millennial pink of the 2010s is starting to feel out of step with the times? For starters, pink hasn’t disappeared entirely. It’s just evolved. “In interiors, [pink] remains important and has morphed into a warm, tinted neutral—blurring the line between pink and beige as a refined, yet muted and quite versatile hue,” says Gemma Riberti, head of lifestyle and interiors at trend forecasting consultancy WGSN. “It acts as a key shade with a calming impact on mental well-being…[and] it also evokes the organic quality of raw clay, which taps into the growing appeal that artisanal, crafted, and tactile designs have on consumers.” We’re seeing this toned-down version of millennial pink in bedding by Urban Outfitters, tableware by Our Place, and wall paint treatments.

Pink aside, expect to see earthy tones gaining in popularity during the remainder of 2020. “Greens, browns, ochre yellows, and burnt oranges have a relatable, nourishing, and grounding quality that helps reconnect and comfort us, especially in times of uncertainty and anxiety,” says Riberti. One example? Target’s new Casaluna bed and bath brand incorporates nature-inspired shades of deep terra cotta, faded granite, and sky blue. Wahi notes that paint brand Dulux’s color of the year for 2021 is Brave Ground—a sandy taupe color—while she also predicts that shades of green will remain popular “in a bid to replicate the benefits of nature indoors.”

We’ll also see a new wave of home items in sharp, striking hues. “On the other side, color goes very clean, very crisp, and almost clinical to answer the demand for hygiene and cleanliness,” says Riberti. “Bold brights and saturated pastels are key to lift the mood.” Hau says that fresh greens, pure whites, and bright yellows are colors to watch, as is Pantone’s color of 2020, Classic Blue. “Blue is the favorite color of most people and psychologically represents security; it’s comforting, familiar and strong,” she says. “We will probably continue to see blues for a while.”

And although millennial pink may not be quite as ubiquitous as it was even a year ago, it will still be hanging around. Rather than playing the leading lady, it’s now taking on more of a supporting-actor role. “Millennial pink can play on both sides: It has the reassuring and natural quality of a warm neutral that feels soft to the eye, while it can also work well in very clean and solid applications across hard materials and even tinted transparencies,” says Riberti. “It remains relevant and integrates the other palettes as a discreet, yet familiar supporting hue.” So don’t ditch your rose-colored wine glasses just yet.

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