Pastels have cycled endlessly in and out of fashion for decades. Depending how you style them, they can appear feminine, vintage, dreamy, moody or contemporary. Balance is the key to keeping them looking fresh and modern; offset pastels with harder-edged colors or raw, natural textures to create a look that’s contemporary, not cloying. Here’s how.
Pastels are really just light or diluted versions of brighter colors, sometimes with a hint of grey added for restraint. There are pastel versions of all colors, not just the obvious pink, blue and green. Dove grey, lavender, peach and dusty yellow are sometimes overlooked in discussions on pastels, but all are both soothing and beautiful.
How to Use Pastels
There is almost no limit to the ways you can use pastels in a contemporary home. Add a large pastel area rug or sectional to an otherwise neutral room, or take the opposite route by starting with pastel walls. Just like their full-strength equivalents, pastel green is fresh; pastel blue is cooling; and pastel pink is warm.
To really shake up a space, try pairing your pastel of choice with the full-bore version of a contrasting color — bright yellow with pastel lavender, rich green with pastel pink. If that’s too risky for your taste, opt for a more vibrant shade of the same color, like deep purple accents against a lavender backdrop. Add sparkle by accessorizing with metallics in complementary tones — green with gold, blue with silver, pink with copper.
Pair mint green or powder blue with white for a fresh look that pops, or use black accents for a high-contrast look that makes pastels seem more modern. Prevent a room with a heavy pastel presence from looking too sugary by using deep moody neutrals like grey or Benjamin Moore’s 2017 Color of the Year, Shadow.
Use pastels only on architectural focus points while keeping the rest of the room neutral for a sophisticated look that hints at Scandinavian style. Take it further by pairing them with natural wood or light colored Danish modern furnishings for an effect that’s both light and sophisticated.
When pastels meet geometric forms, the effect is exciting, contemporary and anything but soft. Combine with pops of neon to freshen and energize a pastel palette. A touch of iridescence, whether from a shell or a light fixture, can pick up pastel tones to spectacular effect. Whatever your style, don’t forget the importance of balance; always stabilize your pastels with whites or neutrals; with dark walls, with textured natural wood; or with stone.