While some design aficionados are raising a glass to celebrate “Marsala,” the 2015 Pantone Color of the Year, others are shrugging it off as nothing more than a made-up marketing scheme to sell products under the guise of their being new and trendy. This year’s chosen color is a deep reddish brown that is supposed to be an earthy hue reminiscent of the Italian wine it’s named for. But color, obviously, is quite subjective. To me, Marsala looks like raw meat.
In 2014, “Radiant Orchid,” a jewel-toned violet color, won the top spot. While I like it much better than Marsala, it seems more suited to trinkets with a short shelf life, like coffee mugs and nail polish, rather than high-commitment items, like cars or interior design schemes. Ask any homeowner who’s chiseled pistachio-green tile off her bathroom wall, and you’ll see that we need to be quite picky about where exercise our color du jour.
Architect Jim Hunt, president of Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC and a Behavioral Healthcare blogger, tells me that the yearly color trends are not rooted in any psychological meaning and shouldn’t be given any more significance than that of a passing preference, especially in facility design. Marsala and Radiant Orchid will likely have no impact on healing for patients and clients, he says, but it’s possible that our human nature has us wanting variation in our surroundings, so a color update that keeps your facility fresh can be warranted at times.
“I see that spectrum colors are also coming back,” Hunt says. “That was the case in the late 1970s when we were designing the replacement hospital for the Menninger Clinic. We used about 15 accent colors—all very bright spectrum colors including deep reds and purples. These worked very well and were well liked until pastels came back into vogue, and then we painted over them to keep the units from looking dated.”
Think about first impressions and how bygone colors can instantly imply a lack of credibility for a treatment center, making patients and their families wonder whether your clinical protocols are equally obsolete the minute they walk in the door. Pistachio tile equals vintage healthcare.
“I really doubt that we are going to be able to change whatever mysterious force makes different colors popular at different times,” Hunt tells me. “If our main goal is to create spaces that make the patients comfortable and relaxed, then let's just go with the trends on surfaces that are easily redone periodically such as paint and upholstery.”
If what you have in your budget for 2015 is less than a full refurbishment, consider a small investment in the trend colors, knowing they aren’t going to last long, but they will serve a purpose.