The Colors of Wellness

Exploring the Link Between Trends in Wellness and Trends in Color with Our Very Own Color Adviser, Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID


It has been dreamed about and romanticized since our early human brains first caught sight of what could be. A vision of Utopia. The land of milk and honey. A veritable Shangri-La.

What does Utopia look like? How content are its people? Does vitality fill every crack and crevice and a sense of harmony permeate every molecule of air? Is it overflowing with the fruits of the earth, where wonder is beheld from every object?

In Greek mythology, the island of Delos was deemed to be the healthiest, most peaceful place on earth. It was a setting so beautiful that Zeus handpicked it as the revered birthplace of his twins, Apollo and Artemis. Delos was a sanctuary, impenetrable from harm by the temperamental gods, just a boat ride away from the mainland.

Don’t we all have a longing for a Delos of our own? And if we do, how do we even begin to dream it, design it, build it?

These are some of the questions that have been on the minds of the Pratt & Lambert color-styling and product-development teams. These groups stay abreast of the innovative research, trend watching, and futuristic planning going on right now in the field of wellness, and they work to refine Pratt & Lambert products and color selections to support this age-old desire for utopian living.

When it comes to trends in wellness and in color, just what, and who, are the professionals at Pratt & Lambert keeping on their radar? We called upon our very own resident adviser, Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, Pratt & Lambert’s color marketing and design manager, to give us the scoop. As fellow designers ourselves, the insight she offered was intriguing and inspiring.

The Importance of Environment

One pioneer in the fast-growing sustainability movement is putting together a modern-day Delos of his own. Paul Scialla and his International WELL Building Institute originated the WELL Building Standard, a worldwide system to improve health and well-being through creative building design. Sick-building syndrome is the very thing its name implies. Environmental toxins, and factors like poor air quality, lighting, and acoustics, can lead to a sick building and, in turn, sick inhabitants.

Poor ventilation alone is said to be the reason employees take an astonishing five sick days per year. It’s quantifiable statistics such as this one that have companies taking the leap to convert their own corporate structures and factories. Other illnesses—from fatigue and headaches to respiratory illnesses and depression—also have been tied to building concerns.

Color in Wellness

In a groundbreaking project at the MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas, guest suites were equipped with an array of wellness amenities—air-purification systems, dawn-simulating alarm clocks, even a vitamin C–infused shower—hand-picked to enhance physical and emotional well-being.

Industry leaders predicted correctly that it was just a matter of time before the residential sector would demand the same wellness practices be incorporated into their homes.

Paint color and formulations have also proven to have a measurable impact on happiness and well-being. Paint coatings, especially, have developed from the old oil-based standard to latex and water-based formulas. Reducing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is now common practice, and color selection has evolved from being a purely aesthetic decision to one that is also tied to wellness.

Pratt & Lambert® Paints has answered the call for better indoor air quality with the development of its zero-VOC Pro-Hide® Gold Interior Primer and its Red Seal® Supreme interior paint line. Both products are Greenguard Gold–certified, which means these paints have among the lowest chemical emissions in the industry. The brand’s Pro-Hide® Gold Zero-VOC Primer also has antimicrobial properties that reduce the growth of microbes on the paint’s surface. These kinds of paints are becoming the standard in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and are rapidly being adopted by homeowners, who also have an interest in removing toxins from their environments.

Helpful efforts like the Stay Well Program at the MGM Grand have contributed to more widespread wellness practices. Industry leaders accurately predicted that it was just a matter of time before homeowners would demand the same wellness practices be implemented into their homes.

In the Bedroom

With access to Fitbits, juice bars, parks, and employee-wellness programs, we're in no way lacking the awareness and resources to stay healthy. Our renewed dedication to activity and to cooking at home with natural foods and methods, paired with the demands of work and family, means we end up sacrificing something—and often that something is sleep.

“Deeper hues, like a rich gray purple, are known to enhance healing and spirituality.”

One health topic getting a wellspring of attention these days is sleep deprivation. With 71 percent of Americans turning in for the night with their cellphones and tablets nearby, it’s no wonder sleep loss is teetering on epidemic proportions.

In her recent book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, Arianna Huffington calls out sleep deprivation for being the new cigarette smoking. She claims, “Not getting enough sleep at night can be just as detrimental to your health as smoking.” From performance sleepwear to long lists of biohacks, getting a better night’s rest is on the minds of a lot of Americans.

Color in Wellness

We asked Noble to provide insight on creating quiet spaces that promote rest and rejuvenation. “Cooler room temperatures create an environment of rest,“ she said. “Even textures and soft layers in upholstery or bedding can promote respite. Deeper hues, like a rich gray purple, are known to enhance healing and spirituality. For example, try Pratt & Lambert’s Never Compromise Color® Quiet Time 29-18, named perfectly for the mood it evokes. Speaking of color, it’s important to remember to turn off blue light. The blue light used to light our cellphones and tablets has a negative impact on our natural circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep patterns.”

Create a restful retreat with these Pratt & Lambert Never Compromise Color® hues: Quiet Time 29-18, Meditation 26-23, Hearthstone 28-27, Leek 21-27, and Durango 33-24.

In the Home Office

The average American spends seven hours a day staring at a device or computer screen. Too much of this can cause a condition called digital eyestrain, which, American Optometric Association cautioned, can lead to blurred vision and other physical problems, like headaches and neck and shoulder pain.

“Bright, saturated hues can also distract you from your work. A better option to try is a cool blue, which is known to reduce eyestrain while also increasing creativity.”

We asked Noble what colors are best suited to reduce eyestrain and promote focus in a commercial workspace or home office. “It’s wise to stay away from bright whites, especially if you’ll be engaging in lots of computer or mobile-platform work,” she said. “Bright, saturated hues can also distract you from your work. A better option to try is a cool blue, which is known to reduce eyestrain while also increasing creativity—a win-win. Neutrals like grays and taupes that are so on trend right now are also great for reducing eyestrain. Lighter colors also help reduce VOCs, so those are excellent choices for an environment where you will be spending eight or nine hours a day.“

Focus on productivity in your office with these shades: Copenhagen 24‑6, Starlit Blue 26‑4, Argent 24‑29, Havana Cream 7‑27, and Dawn Mist 32‑25.

In the Kitchen

The American Institute of Stress claims that 44 percent of stressed people lose sleep every night and 40 percent overeat or choose unhealthy foods. In addition to our sleep and eating problems, conditions related to stress are also becoming more widespread. Think heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and even depression.

“A healthy kitchen derives inspiration from the healthful food we put in our bodies.”

Right when we need it, there’s a trillion-dollar industry to save the day. You probably know about the clean-eating movement, which is gaining popularity. The movement advocates food being responsibly sourced, prepared, and consumed, which paves the way for greater control of both its dietary properties and its impact on the environment.

“A healthy kitchen derives inspiration from the healthful food we put in our bodies,” said Noble. “The crisp greens of basil, thyme, and lemongrass not only make for aromatic cuttings on your counter but also invite an invigorating canvas as a paint color. Green is calming and healing. It reminds us to sit and take our time when enjoying a meal. Fresh citrus colors, like orange and lemon, along with spices of curry, cayenne, and clove are known to stimulate metabolism while the brightness or boldness of their colors makes for appealing enhancements in textural surfaces like area rugs and hand towels.”

Color in Wellness

Promote wellness in the kitchen with these colors: Northern Green 18‑27, Artichoke 18‑22, Tangelo 7‑8, Old Linen 12‑6, and Riviera Sand 12‑28.

It’s no secret: When we relax our bodies and minds, decrease stress, and take the time for a well-balanced meal, we are healthier, happier, and more productive.

One Final Note

Were you aware that the effect light has on color can affect our sense of well-being? Light plays a big part in revealing the exactness of a color.

Optimal color accuracy results in what's called color assurance. Experts say it’s what we should strive for when desiring healthy home and work spaces. But how can it be achieved, you ask? The quality of light is measured by something called the color-rendering index (CRI) that goes from zero for a source like a monochromatic sodium-vapor lamp to 100 for an incandescent light bulb.

Halogen bulbs, incandescents, and northern daylight all have a CRI value near the 100 mark, making them excellent at rendering color. In fact, any light that registers at an index of 80 or higher will give you optimal color assurance and be easy on the eyes, so to speak.

What’s next in color and design trends? We’re always watching, clarifying, and sharing. Sign up now for the Design Download, and never miss a thing.