Pastels are having a bit of a moment (or decade, rather). While we are all comfortable buying the occasional mint napkin or blush throw pillow, there is still a lot of anxiety about choosing the right pastel paint color (if any) for your walls. The fear that it will look like a baby’s room is a legitimate one – it often can and will, forcing you to cry like that little non-existent baby whilst repainting it the safe gray that your husband/partner/lover begged you to in the first place. To prevent these divorces based on paint color, we tested and rounded up our favorite, most beautiful pastel paint colors that can live, maturely, in any room simply because they are standalone lovely colors. I love an all white room, and obviously I am a professional at painting rooms gray. But there is a world of color out there that we can use, we are just often so scared that it will look bad and not work. Well, off to the wizard, you Cowardly Lion because by the end of this post you will feel as confidant with that perfect lavender as you did with your standby taupe.
To remind you what a good pastel can do to a room …
Exhibit A: This was a girl’s bedroom but it is one of the more popular rooms I’ve ever done and yet it is a pastel. This is Quartz Stone by Benjamin Moore and I do love it very much. It didn’t make it into our top six for blue because it is fairly saturated and can go really young, but my goodness it worked here.
Exhibit B: Nicolette’s pink dining room which we painted Piroutte by Divine Color for Valspar. This color is fairly saturated (not a subtle tone of baby pink) so make sure you can handle that baby in your room. This didn’t make it into the final color because it is indeed too ‘pink’ to work universally, but Its a good inspiration for how pink can look grown-up.
Exhibit C: The beautiful Theresa’s Green by Farrow and Ball. This room color is even more gorgeous in person. So soft, soothing and happy. It made it into the top six unbeknownst to me (we didn’t look at the names while we were eliminating) and continues to be a color that I reach for often.
Lastly, my guest room which was painted Old Faithful by Dutchboy was definitely on the powdery, baby side but I loved it. Ironically I redid it when I actually turned it into Elliot’s room.
As you can see I love to paint non-kid/baby rooms a pastel but even I have been scared that the results would look too young, especially if that kind of California/fresh/bloggy/Pinterest world isn’t your jam.
Back in the day (the 80’s and 90’s) we painted walls soft colors and they did a lot for the ambience of the space. In the aughts (early 2000’s) we went for gray in every room and the last few years has been a huge all-white trend. We, the EHD design team, are both victims and perpetrators of these color trends love (and the subsequent saturation, no pun intended) and we long for some soft, pretty colors back on our walls.
So we bought 137 pastels from our favorite paint companies (all of them, really) and tested them out. Just recommending colors based on internet research didn’t seem right this time because they really often aren’t totally accurate on screen, plus your eye is being informed by the colors near them. We wanted the best colors that could stand alone next, naked, to white.
Once we received them we got to work.
Brady and Jeff (our PA) painted two coats of each color onto large watercolor paper and labeled them.
After they were dry we narrowed the colors down to our favorite 6 in each color family – pink (blush), purple (lavender/lilac), blue (baby/powder), green (mint), yellow (er, really light yellow) and orange (peach). We didn’t look at the brand or the name so that our usual preferences didn’t inform the vote.
Decision time. Since our intent was for the walls we had to put them up against the wall. By putting them together as a family we could really discern what was going slightly too ‘bright’ or even too ‘dull’. They each had to be able to be by themselves as well as compare to others. But much like The Bachelor first impression rose, a lot of it also came down to gut reaction.
Before I reveal the winners, let me make a number of important disclaimers here.
1. While any/most colors can be BEAUTIFUL in the right space, with the right light, our goal was to choose more muted, easy to mix pastels that we considered even SAFE. We eliminated many more saturated colors that we love and might use otherwise, based on this criteria.
2. Paint colors vary a lot from room to room depending on a few things: 1. Your light (or lack therof). 2. The other colors you have in your room or 3. even the color you have underneath it. If you already have a color on the wall and you are testing a new one, the original wall color underneath and around the new one will drastically change your perception of that color. Paint on a piece of paper, like this, so you have at least some white around it.
3. Since these colors can vary in many ways, please sample these before you commit. These were our favorites but it doesn’t mean that they are going to work in everyone’s home.
4. We didn’t test every color in the world so yea, yours might not have made the cut simply because we didn’t try it.
Here you are, folks. Our favorite colors in each color family. We tried to get a variety of shades and tones of each to give you variety, but we stand by each one of these whole-heartedly.
Nosegay | Soft Silk | Violet Tinge | Unknown | Violet Dusk | Calluna Sorry that we didn’t write the fourth one’s name dark enough and now have no idea what it is. Hopefully it wasn’t your favorite. “Soft Pastel” is a generic name we made up.
While I could tell you what I love about each of those 36 colors above, it would surely get wordy, redundant and unnecessary. They are all beautiful because of the tones and pigments that make up the ultimate color – whether they go slightly redder or cooler is obvious.
However … not giving you our strong editorial expert bias seemed like a missed opportunity to fully control your opinion (and thus your home). Here, we present to you, our favorite pastel colors of each family all together as one happy, light, trendy family.
What you might find funny to know is that we all agreed on those six colors. After staring at so many you’d think our eyes would be unable to decifer the difference, but we truly all gravitated towards these colors. They look really colorful up here, sure, but they are all so soft and beautiful that I believe they have enough sophistication and variance of tones to have real longevity on your walls. In other words – while these are ‘colors’, you won’t get sick of them like you might with other pastels.
There you have it.
Now, stop staring at that mesmerizing gif and figure out what room in your house you are going to take your pastel plunge in. Craving more color recommendations and trends head check out, 4 Colors from the 90’s that You’ll Want In Your House Right Now, Brady Picks A Gray, and some of our color trends: Powder Blue, Buttercup Yellow, Lavender and Fiesta Red.
*Pastel Mint Chair from West Elm
**This was our first color testing post and we sure had fun. Now that we’ve got the system down we are happy to do more so let us know what you want next and we’ll put it into production. Best darker/moody tones? Best bright/happy colors? Or simply Best blues? I think a ‘Best warm but not beige’ white post might be in our future because I just had to choose one for the outside of my house and man it wasn’t easy (p.s. I chose this one and I love it).
***Photography by Jess Isaac