If ever a color were to be associated with an emotion (okay, blue, we see you), it’s got to be yellow. Upbeat and welcoming, it’s a hue that’s easy to love. But it can be tricky to use when decorating.
Bold yellows are eye-catching, but color experts advise caution. Unless you’re prepared to live with bright yellow’s peppy assertiveness, softer, creamier versions might be more prudent choices.
Will Taylor, founder of the color blog Bright.Bazaar and an interior design expert at Marshalls, loves yellow in all its iterations. “To me, it’s happiness personified,” he says. “As soon as I see it, I feel joy.”
Better Homes & Gardens Style Director Jessica Thomas calls yellow “sunshine in a can.”
And Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager for PPG Paints, says yellow is often seen as the signature hue for “happy.”
“Bright, energizing yellows are known to enhance the mind and help creativity flow,” she says. “We saw ‘Gen Z yellow’ bubble to the surface last year, with colors like Crushed Pineapple reflecting the optimism and boldness of that generation.”
Schlotter says yellow was a close runner-up for PPG’s 2019 Color of the Year. Night Watch, a moody green-gray, ultimately took the title, but Golden Field – a dramatic mustard yellow – was a strong second.
A tip when you’re in the paint store:
“We recommend first looking at the bottom color on the paint swatch to find the root of the yellow,” Schlotter says. “For example, if the bottom color is green, the yellow at the top of the card will have subtle hints of green infused into it.”
Go two or three shades lighter than you think you want if you’re painting a room. And “warmer yellows tend to work better on walls,” Schlotter says. “Brighter variations are perfect on a front door, as an accent wall in a bedroom, or in a dining room to provide a rich, striking look.”
Taylor’s got some favorite yellow paints, including Dayroom Yellow from Farrow & Ball, Bicycle Yellow from Behr, and Hawthorn Yellow from Benjamin Moore.
“Yellow’s the queen of accent colors,” he says. “It goes with neutrals to blacks and blues. Think of adding pops of yellow across art, pillows, throws and flowers. It will instantly add visual interest, giving the eye a place to land, and it prevents a room from feeling flat.”
Lemon motifs and prints are a fresh, fun way to bring the color home.
“Lemon print wallpaper in a bathroom or closet is a cheerful way to add yellow,” Taylor says. “Every time you step in it will make you smile.”
Check out Spoonflower, Etsy and Walls Need Love for lemon-y wallpapers that range in style from realistic to retro.
Marshalls has some festive, lemon-printed melamine serveware that would add zest to summer parties. For more dressed-up get-togethers, Williams-Sonoma has porcelain plates decorated with Meyer lemons and framed with a vintage-look botanical border. Ballard Designs offers Sunbrella fabric by the yard with a pretty lemon-and-leaf print that would be great on patio pillows or cushions; there are faux lemon branches here as well, to tuck in a vase or basket.
Kitchenaid’s buttercup yellow mixer is a softer version of the hue, while Chantal’s sunny yellow Anniversary tea kettle is a waker-upper.
If you’d really like to commit, consider a piece of yellow furniture, or even an appliance.
All Modern has well-priced upholstered seating, with clean-lined silhouettes that let the color take center stage. West Elm’s got a set of velvet curtains and a distressed rug in a hue called wasabi that has a golden tone.
Bertazzoni and SMEG stock equipment like stoves, fridges and range hoods in fresh yellows.
Ready for more? Scandinavian manufacturer Vola has marked its 50th anniversary by releasing Arne Jacobsen’s original 1968 designed bath faucet in a rainbow of colors, and a kicky yellow is one of them.
Or put the wild on the walls, with glass subway, mosaic or free-form ceramic tiles from Modwalls. Even the names are as fun as this color: Daffodil; Sunflower; Limoncello.