Ultimate Gray and Illuminating make a beautiful color combination for living rooms, kitchens, exteriors, and more. Learn how to incorporate these trending colors into your home.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

This week, Pantone announced two diverse shades for its 2021 color of the year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. The juxtaposition of a soft, livable neutral with sunny yellow is meant to represent strength and positivity, offering a message of hope at the end of a long, difficult year. The two colors balance each other beautifully, and you can expect to see the combination pop up throughout the fashion, beauty, and interior design industries in the new year. To work this duo into your own home, try one of these ideas for decorating with Pantone's 2021 colors of the year, both indoors and out.

updated gray marble fireplace in corner
Credit: Jeff Herr

1. Add color with small updates

Color trends come and go, so one of the best ways to incorporate them is with accessories that you can easily and inexpensively swap out. Pillows, area rugs, throw blankets, wall art, and other accessories offer a simple way to try out Pantone's colors of the year without going all-in on new furniture or wall paint right away. Start small with a few colorful updates and see how the shades play in your space. If you still love the look after living with it for a while, consider a more substantial dose of gray or yellow.

grey kitchen cabinets, yellow chairs
Credit: David A. Land

2. Use gray and yellow in the kitchen

Ultimate Gray is a timeless neutral that makes an excellent choice for kitchen cabinetry. The versatile color easily pairs with a variety of other hues, so it's easy to switch up if your tastes change over time. To incorporate Illuminating into your kitchen color scheme, pull in chairs or barstools in a sunny shade or roll out a runner with a bright yellow pattern.

Linen White + Sunny Yellow + Dove Gray bright clean bedroom
Credit: Kim Cornelison

3. Layer in cozy fabrics

Choose textiles in gray and yellow tones to add another layer of comfort to rooms. The warm tones lend an inviting feeling that's especially cozy in bedrooms and living spaces. Drape a quilted throw ($24, Macy's) at the end of your bed, pile your sofa with plush pillows, or dress windows in gray and yellow curtains ($53, Wayfair). These versatile hues work well with most neutral color schemes as well as colors like blue and green.

gray bathroom with white tile
Credit: Adam Albright

4. Try gray and yellow in a bathroom

Use Pantone's colors of the year to update your bathroom with a modern look. Ultimate Gray looks gorgeous as a bathroom paint color, on a backsplash, or as floor tile. Add in splashes of yellow through rugs, hand towels, and countertop accessories. For added contrast, opt for a gray paint color that's a few shades darker to make the yellow accents really pop.

muted blue exterior with bright yellow door and lush landscaping
Credit: Laurie Black

5. Paint your front door yellow

Set a welcoming tone from the street by painting your front door in a bright, happy yellow. The color stands out particularly well against exteriors with gray siding or roofing materials. Outline the door with white trim to emphasize the contrast.

bedroom with neutrals and yellow
Credit: David Tsay

6. Decorate your bedroom

Gray is an inherently soothing color that makes a relaxing addition to bedrooms. Apply the soft neutral on large surface areas, such as walls or bedding, to create a calming backdrop. Then mix in a yellow patterned area rug ($130, Wayfair) or mustard throw blanket ($22, Target) for a pop of energetic color to help wake you up in the morning. Metallic or mirrored accents provide a variation on gray that adds shine and dimension to the bedroom color scheme.

deck with woven patio furniture and gray and yellow cushions
Credit: Dustin Peck

7. Outfit your outdoor space

Bring Pantone's 2021 colors outside for an inviting patio, porch, or deck. Create a neutral foundation with gray patio furniture, then accessorize with yellow pillows and other bright accents. For example, shiny yellow garden stools ($163, The Home Depot) can stand in as side tables or provide extra seating options. Place a gray outdoor area rug ($70, Target) underfoot to make the arrangement feel homier.

kitchen with yellow accents
Credit: Jean Allsopp

8. Accessorize with yellow

Layer in yellow accessories to add personality to a neutral kitchen. Start with a base of gray on cabinets, walls, countertops, or tile treatments, then introduce yellow in smaller ways. These colorful accents can be as simple as yellow dishware displayed on open shelves, a bowl of lemons on the counter, or a touch of yellow on a patterned Roman shade.

Comments (1)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
January 3, 2021
Can't we PLEASE have a year without grey??!! It's about as overused as it can get. My painter thanked me for not choosing a shade of grey because he said his men are tired of it, too!