Cloudy with a chance of mermaids: Sherwin-Williams sets the tone with its Color of the Year

With "Game of Thrones"-esque certainty, winter is coming. (As Clevelanders anticipate another 80-degree day in October, we wouldn’t know anything about that, but we’ve lived here long enough to realize it could snow by nightfall.)

Before hunkering down to hibernate, redecorating may be in order—especially if your walls reflect those increasingly gray skies. Thanks in part to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the color has been popular for the past five or six years, but the tide is turning, according to Sherwin-Williams’ director of color marketing Sue Wadden, who announced this week that Oceanside (SW 6496) is Color of the Year 2018.

Dubbed by Wadden as "the color of wanderlust," Oceanside is a hue of vibrant sea blue with hints of jewel-toned green—meant to evoke "mermaids and expeditions across continents." The color joins past selections such as Indigo Batik, Aloe, and Exclusive Plum as the eighth honoree of Sherwin-Williams Color of the Year.

Design buffs got their first hint at this year's hue when Sherwin-Williams released its ColorMix 2018 palettes in June as part of its yearly trend forecasting initiative. The three palettes (Unity, Sincerity, and Connectivity) were introduced to about 120 architects and designers during an hourlong presentation at Cleveland Institute of Art last Thursday. (Oceanside is represented on the "Unity" palette.)

Although Wadden’s own home is several shades of gray due, in part, to her 12-year-old daughter Reilly wanting a gray room with black, white, and gold accents and her 10-year-old son Matthew requesting a “rustic” theme with a charcoal-colored sky adorned with stick-on stars, she repaints “all the time” and envisions Oceanside as being a welcoming front-door statement or reading-nook color because of its calming effect.

The lifelong Lakewoodite joined Sherwin-Williams as an intern three days after graduating from CIA in 1998 with a degree in interior design. Six months later, she became a color consultant who worked on bridge, highway, water tank, and even chicken-processing plant projects before climbing the creative-yet-corporate ladder as senior designer on the Colormix forecast team.

In 2016, Wadden was promoted to director of color marketing. As part of her new role, she touted Poised Taupe—a gray-brown blend—as Color of the Year 2017 to Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, and about five million “Today Show” viewers during a third-hour segment. Sherwin-Williams, headquartered in Cleveland, sponsors the show to help consumers and present the 150-year-old paint company as an industry leader, says Wadden.

The ColorMix palettes have now been in the proverbial mix for nine years, and choosing them (along with Color of the Year) takes about 12 months each. During the selection process, color marketers from different departments within Sherwin-Williams meet to discuss what they’ve seen at European shows and North Carolina’s High Point Market, which, with 2,000 exhibitors in 180 buildings, is the world’s largest home furnishings trade show. They also consider what's trending in wood and consumer electronics.

“Then, you start to put together color stories that are predictive,” explains Wadden. For example, this year’s Sincerity palette, Wadden’s favorite because the creamy whites, soft pinks, and gray-greens are “so soft and so lovely,” is inspired by the "idea of just decompressing, like kind of breaking away from the technology that is influencing us so often. Our minds just need a break.”



Conversely, the Connectivity palette, in purple, orange, yellow, and Organic Green, derives inspiration from "the progressive movement of virtual reality, productivity, and youth culture,” according to a company press release. “In Silicon Valley, Austin, Berlin, and Beijing, techies are the new hippies, full of breakthrough ideas and utopian ideals.”

As for gray, Wadden feels consumers’ love affair with the color has hit its peak. Judging from the feedback she’s received from designers, “they’re excited that the colors we’re showing are a little brighter, a little richer,” she says. “I think the next couple of years are going to be an exciting exploration of color.”

Starting, of course, with Oceanside.

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