What It’s Like to Live Your Life in Pastel
Here’s how four people elevate candy colors.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:32 AM
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Bad ’80s bathrooms. Coastal clichés. Barbie’s Dream House. Pastel colors’ public relations rep has done a terrible job—but the past few years have provided the hues with something of a reputation revamp. We’re seeing them in our favorite collections, from Hay to Target, and in seemingly every Scandinavian tastemaker’s apartment. Ganni’s founder can’t get enough of them; British design duo 2LG swears by the tints.
However, it’s one thing to pick up the odd lilac vase, and quite another to spend your days surrounded by softer shades. Since it looks like this palette won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, we decided to tap the pros to see how they’re decorating with it: Meet the people who live their lives in pastel. From rosy kitchens to daffodil yellow reading nooks, they’ve turned their spaces into candy-colored confections.
On her decor philosophy: I’ve always lived in rental apartments in Sweden, and having adjusted to seeing design as temporary instead of permanent, I don’t take it so seriously or treat it as an investment. My previous home had an avocado green kitchen! It’s related to my overdose of beige and grays when I worked as an interior architect and saw all this ‘traditional’ Scandinavian style; somewhere around 2013, I was feeling the urge to test something totally different and started experimenting with bright colors on a new platform called Instagram.
On a (literal) happy accident: It wasn’t until we got water damage in our living room and free renovation from our landlord that we really had a reason to change, so we painted the room pink. That was the start.
On picking the right pastel: They make me feel inspired and comfortable at the same time. But I would never have used the pale yellow I have in my kitchen in my bedroom, for example; that would be too energizing.
On the secret formula: “Always use something flirty with something dirty,” as my friend Iwa Herdensjö says. Put a heavy mustard or ochre together with blush, or pair baby blue with warm brown or burgundy.
On taking the plunge: I am not the black-and-white type; I enjoy change and playing with colors. Pastels look fresh and pleasant—because they’re tinted they’re not as overwhelming as other hues. There are a few basic shades that have been in our home a long time, like nude and blush pink.
On her boldest buy: I loved Reform’s powder pink cabinets…but a whole kitchen in color? We thought about it for a long time, and decided to take the risk.
On her current favorite: Lavender—but it has to be a very bright one. Mixed with nudes, pink, terracotta, beige, or even white, it works wonderfully. In my home, I have it in textiles and a beautiful Hay lamp.
On the emotional effect of color: Pastels are like balm for the soul. They affect my well being unconsciously: When I’m in a completely white room, it feels different than if I’m somewhere with warm tones.
On the trick up her sleeve: I usually never have more than three colors in a room, and I pay attention to how they interact by making mood boards first. For example, with lavender, it’s important that other shades give way, otherwise it will be too restless: I pair pastels with white, beige wood, and a little bit of black or gray.
On letting the architecture set the tone: I always take the surroundings into consideration: Different situations need different colors. Our previous space was a renovated house from the 1960s, and as we love to live with a lot of art, we decided to paint the walls white. Now for this old manor that has red brick buildings all around, pastel seemed to be perfect. We found terrazzo floors and frescoes in the home, which were the basis for my palette.
On her pastel MVP: Pink is so easy to combine with other colors and makes you feel very cozy. It’s so interesting if you look at color theory: My children go to a Steiner School, and the younger kids are all educated in rooms painted a very soft pink. It’s meant to give them a “nest” feeling, and indeed, I have the feeling that it’s doing that in our home, as well. I have it in our library, because it is a very large room and it’s a challenge to make it cozy.
On color as a mood ring: They change from room to room: We needed very calming colors for the kitchen, where so much happens. The hallway needed a friendly welcome. Pastels can make you happy or invigorated; you just need different feelings in different rooms.
On her tip for elevating soft hues: Materials are important. If you use velvet, take care that your pastels don’t get too cheesy; you need a counterplay, like a side table in wood.
On pastel therapy: Four years ago, my husband and I returned to Denmark after two and a half years split between Angola and South Africa; six months later, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Colors became my escape, and when I found one that made me happy or calm, I implemented it in our house.
On the purchase that started it all: I think it was one of my pink Archimede Seguso vases. After I got it, I realized how good pink and orange look together, so more orange items came along. Then purple became a favorite. I’ve always loved blue, so with a sudden overload of pink and purple, I’m currently focusing on adding more blues and greens to our home.
On her current palette: We are expecting a little girl, so I’m planning her room. I think it will be a mix of light yellow, pastel purple, and beige, with a lot of wood added.
On decorating intuitively: Pastels add so much joy and energy, but we also love bold colors! I spend a lot of time finding the right ones to set the energy that I want in a room. For example, our blue bathroom is very calm with a soft gray tone on the walls and wood beams. It’s such a great way to wake up in the morning.
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