There’s a part of my design process I left out of my MOTO introduction from a few weeks back, and that was all the variations of color combinations I played with (even if just in my head-slash-Instagram bookmarks) for specifically my living room. I went back to look at all my saved images halfway through making firm decisions about the spaces, and you guys…there was SO MUCH yellow. To say that surprised me is an understatement. Who even am I? Aside from my blue-and-yellow moon and stars themed bedroom as a kid, the golden hue has rarely ever been a consideration for me in decorating. Sure, I had a gray-and-yellow phase, but really all that was was me buying a set of floral Target pillows from the now defunct DwellStudio line. The draw to the earthy hue lay as forgotten in my brain as all the decimal points of pi I diligently memorized as an overachieving high schooler. BUT THEN IT CAME BACK (the yellow lust, not the numbers).
This was the photo that kickstarted it all for me. The White City House hotel (photographed by Ellie Lillstrom) popped up in my Instagram feed and I stopped and stared at it for maybe 10 minutes. I love a box pleat, so I wasn’t exactly surprised by my visual lust for this room, but there was something about the warm mustard velvet paired with those crisp white bed linens, the mid-century palette rounded out by the icy blue radio and nightstand, and green table lamp…it felt nostalgic yet new. It’s a room that feels robust yet casual, and that is not an easy combination to achieve.
In terms of tone, I’m not necessarily talking about buttery yellow or anything too creamy. This is not to say I don’t love a bright, sunny yellow—is there anything happier than that?—but what really has my eye (and I’ve been seeing used in a fresh, forward-thinking way) are deeper, richer shades like mustard, ochre, butterscotch. Anything almost gold like; all the richness of the metal but none of the glam. In fact, these yellows tend to be very grounding in a way that makes my eyes relax when I see them in a space. They’re a “deep breath” moment in a design for me, and I can’t believe I’ve overlooked it for myself all this time.
Here, in a relatively neutral bedroom by Cortney Bishop Design, the mustard rug rounds out the blues, whites and weathered wood tones. Without it, it would be a beachy, light-filled room that was a bit floaty, but with it, it’s a beachy light-filled room that feels balanced and tethered. Do me a favor. Take your hand and cover up the rug (and the bed’s base). What do you see? Pretty, sure, but almost too visually empty. Now remove your hand…can you see what the yellow does to the space? It’s like your eyes refocus and it just feels…right.
I very much appreciate someone who leans into a color. If my living room is any indication, I LOVE a bold sofa moment, but you rarely see a yellow one and now the inside of my brain is screaming WHY NOT?!? The room above was designed by Alison Cayne (founder of Haven’s Kitchen), and if it looks familiar to you, it’s because it was inspired by the previous (internet-famous) home of Jenna Lyons, yellow velvet English roll arm sofa moment and all. Sure, decorating with yellow can feel like the path of a truly daring design braveheart, but Alison’s home is any indication, it can actually be very mellow and serene. It’s all about what shade you choose to work with and what you pair it with, which brings me here:
I didn’t want to just do a piece that was like “yay yellow” and send you off into the world with yellow fever (hopefully) all willy-nilly. The mission of this blog is to inspire and educate, so let’s move on to the “educate” part of this blog post, mkay?
Because yellow can be a bit tricky, I thought it would be a fun exercise to narrow in on some color palettes that work well in real rooms so either 1: I can further convince you that yellow is wonderful and not scary or 2: I can help usher the color into your home effortlessly for anyone already on board.
Let’s start with one of my favorites that makes the bright hue feel hip and edgy:
Yellow + Slate Blue + Black
This is one of those photos I mindlessly bookmarked in my Instagram account, forgot about, then re-fell in love with when I went back to look. The deep goldenrod yellow of the bedspread mixed with the black rug and leather bench could have felt a bit heavy if not for the white walls and linens and the cool casual nature of the slate blue/gray nightstand. Those walnut-hued herringbone floors certainly don’t hurt either. The room feels worldly, eclectic yet minimal and just plain cool. ::runs out and buys a yellow throw for her bed immediately::
Yellow + Neutrals
In a similar vein is this next idea for how to work with yellow: just pair it with a bunch of neutrals. The above photo (a room by the crush-worthy Studio Ashby) brings ochre in via multiple textiles to create variety but a concise color palette. White walls keep things light, and black lighting and art injects a bit of modernity and, well, downright “coolness” to the vignette.
Ochre is a clay-like hue that is not-quite-yellow, not-quite-brown and probably the most “popular” yellow right now. It’s the cool kid in the crayon box and elicits desert vibes. To me, it’s pretty calming and earthy, and works best paired with a whole lot of nothing. White, cream, wood tones, maybe a tiny bit of black, brass…okay that’s not “nothing” but they are tones and materials that act as great support to the star that ochre is in its own right.
If you stopped at that last image and thought it was too “trendy” for you, may I offer you up this warm and welcoming bedroom? This is the room of my vacation dreams. Who wouldn’t want to wake up here every day? I can almost feel the cool mountain breezes and the mosquitos buzzing in my ear. Ha, yeah right. Mosquitos would see this room from the window and know they don’t belong in there. It’s too chill for them. Anyhow, this is just a puffy cloud of neutrals that’s kicked up a notch by the pigment of the linen bed throw. The yellow brings the rest of the wood tones to life in a way.
Yellow + Teal
Moving away from the safer yellow path is yellow + teal. It can be as simple and subtle as the above Paris home by Jeancharles Tomas or as daring and saturated as the below room from Soho House Berlin.
I think what’s important to note here is something we’ve seen in the other palettes already discussed: yellow (in any shade) needs to be “grounded” by wood tones and can be “kicked up” by matte black and brass if you want to lean more modern. Creams and shades of white also help to make a much brighter hue—like the hand-glazed tile in the below kitchen by Lynn K. Leonidas—feel natural and, dare I say, calm?
Yellow + Mint Green
This specific hue or yellow is a little too buttery for me but I like the idea of a deep, rich yellow with a light and playful mint green (grounded by black and wood, as always). The painted black millwork is a bold move, but I think I like it? White might have felt too childlike and playful.
Yellow + Ice Blue
If yellow + mint green isn’t your slice of life, may I suggest yellow + icy blue? There’s really something nice about a warm golden yellow mixed with a light-as-air pastel like sky blue. Be careful though, because this could easily turn the corner into “baby room” territory. Be sure to keep things a touch more serious by adding in plenty of warmer neutrals and “grown up” textures like linen, leather and wood. The gray linen curtains are particularly nice here to add in another neutral layer that isn’t more white (particularly because of all the snow out the windows of this particular room).
Keeping furnishings more abstract or artful is another sure-fire way to make this perfect-for-a-nursery-but-also-adults palette clearly in the “adult” category.
Yellow + Pink
Alot of what I’ve already shown you has, I’ll admit, felt a bit serious. Yellow is supposed to be a “happy” shade after all, so let’s bring in some pep via blushy pinks (and in the case of the below room, shades of blue). If you go this route, be sure to keep your yellow firmly in the mustard or ochre family if you want things to still feel fresh and modern.
Yellow + Rust + Navy
And finally, the earthiest of all the palettes I’ve explored with you today: yellow (mustard) + rust and coral + navy via boutique hotel El Rey Court. Cool tones tend to marry really well with other cool tones, and the same goes with warm tones, but don’t be afraid to cross over, even if just a little bit. The addition of the navy (which is delivered here through the art) balances all the earthy hues nicely here. This could have also been achieved through a navy throw on the sofa or an armchair.
Notice how all but one of these didn’t have bright yellow walls. That’s where things can get scary. I applaud you if you’re willing to plunge into the yellow deep end and go all in, but for anyone looking to round out or add some depth to a palette they already have going, I hope you saw something here that got you excited. As I get to work on some other rooms in my home, you can bet that ochre or mustard will likely make a cameo. It’s hard to beat the warmth or comfort those hues can bring to a space.
Let me know if you’re into the color or even this type of article. I’m not calling yellow a “trend” necessarily, just trying to bring attention to something that’s on our radar. Something doesn’t have to be in vogue for us to love it/want to talk about it. Chime in in the comments friends. I love to hear from you!
I have a deep teal master bedroom (Behr tsunami, which is a GORGEOUS color and looks just as pretty in my north facing bedroom as in my south facing dining room) and I have silver linen curtains and walnut dresser and nightstands. My headboard is an ivory linen…all of this to say, though beautiful, I felt like it’s missing an accent color. I did some rose/blush accents, but now I think what I need is some ochre in my life. That would bring some summertime cheer, with a mustard throw or flowers. Thanks for the inspo!! I love posts like these.
Definitely add some mustard tones! It will be GORG!
I loved the post! Very inspirational and informative! There were some color combinations I would not have thought of that look beautiful! Thank you for sharing
My 2012 wedding colors were mustard, teal, and charcoal. I lived and breathed that color combo for a year while planning, and was happy to take a break from it for a while, but I am still constantly drawn to mustard. I am loving it with the ice blue in some of these photos! And mustard and pink is always a winning combo for me.
That ElRay Court design is everything!
OMG THIS IS AMAZING yellow is literally my favorite color and I have been WAITING for this! Like how can you not walk into a room with yellow in it and smile? It’s such a happy color!
YES! I always thought I hated yellow as when I moved into my 1952 house (that had not been updated since, well, 1952) EVERYTHING was yellow – the linoleum, the formica, the walls, the ceilings. No joke, the white paint we found in the basement was tinted yellow. So naturally I spent years un-yellowing the house. And now? Bringing it back in tiny doses and loving it. I recently bought 20 dried billy balls on Amazon and have tiny bouquets of them in every room and love it. I’m thinking some velvet mustard-hued pillows are next. Even my wardrobe and garden out of nowhere this year has deep rich yellow peaking in and I am here for it. Great round up. My favorite is definitely the yellow and pink.
I have some billy balls too (bought them at Trader Joe’s and dried them myself), and they look fantastic with navy blue!
I love billy balls! such a fun little floral.
So much yes for warmer, darker yellows!! We are in the middle of picking a color for our DIY headboard, and I think a mustard-colored velvet will be the winner! I am even planning on using Brady’s headboard DIY, if I can ever find a company that provides foam rolls in Hungary 😉
Oh yes the mustard headboard will be fantastic! Good luck with the foam!
I’ll be in Debrecen in August, if you want me to bring them!
I’ ve been craving for yellow for some time now so this really hit hard! I loved this post, seeing different color combinations is so inspiring!
I’m with you. Finding new palettes is one of my go-to moves when I’m feeling stale or stuck in design. It opens up a whole new possibility!
I LOVED this post! So well written, funny, refreshing and informative. Would you consider doing a “get the look” roundup of yellow? Please?
I’m normally a blue / green person too but yellow has been calling me recently.
I’m glad I’m not the only one!
I love a good warm yellow! My living room has two yellow/ ochre chairs and my rug is a lake blue with a large floral pattern that pulls out yellow. Sofa is a bittersweet with a yellow sheen to it. Rest of room is neutrals. My bedroom has a Laura Ashley gold on walls and a mix of gold and black with off white in room. Love my warm yellows!!!!!!
I already am using gold in two places in our home – I painted the top 1/3 of our living room gold on a whim and have a gold velvet chair in the corner of our dark green bedroom. I swear its magic the way it brings together other colors and make my house plants pop. You better believe I’m eyeing our sketchy attic stairway for the same treatment.
If I peek over at my living room I see a dusty yellow sofa with an antique ruby red Persian carpet with accents of teal and navy and it looks pretty darn good if I say so myself;). Those Pottery Barn “wheat” colors stand in pretty well for yellow.
Ohhh I love the sound of this.
Love all of this! What are some room essentials that you find to pair well with this color? Like rugs, curtains, etc with links to buy. I guess I kinda want a roundup that could work with almost any room. I love this idea for my house. I currently have lots of gray blue and I’m ready to come into 2019 from 2012.
LOVE this post! I’ve been feeling mustard/ochre for a few years now. I like the way you presented so many different combo possibilities.
This was so timely for me..because the house we bought has soooo many BM Tawny Bisque walls. Mine appear more butterscotch-y than the online paint pics appear…Gives me not so happy flashbacks to the Tuscan trend but now I’m wondering if this could be freshened up somehow??? Because I don’t hate the color, just hadn’t thought of keeping it…until now…
Check out the book by Laurie Smith of Trading Spaces fame. Laurie’s the beautiful redhead and she has always gravitated to pumpkin, ochre, and terracotta in her color palettes. The book on her mid-century home uses her palette in beautiful ways. My preferred palette is different, but I love Laurie’s work, which makes me love her palette.
I have never decorated with yellow and I’m not usually drawn to it (which is a little strange because red and orange are my favorite colors, so why not yellow, too?), but you’ve convinced me with this post! Now I’m on the hunt for yellow pillows and throws!
::mischievously rubs palms together:: it worked! Ha! I get it though, like I said yellow can be very tough, but sometimes a little goes a LONG way to really rounding out a color palette.
Exactly! I already have rust and navy in my apt, why not add a pop of yellow too?
P.S. I love that you included a pic from Studio Ashby. She’s my favorite designer, and I love the way she uses color in her designs.
Years ago, my husband picked Benjamin Moore’s York Harbor Yellow for our family room. I guess he was ahead of his time! We have loved it- so rich and warm. Now I am dreaming about millennial pink paneling in the living room and dining room. I agree that the color combo is a good one!
Here’s a fun fact about yellow: it is helpful to the central nervous system.
That goes for most yellow hues, except that horrible icky yellow used too much by advertisers! You know, the yellow and black deal that screams “This stuff/service is cheap! ” THAT particular yellow also induces babies to cry and/or throw up. Fact.
Because of the first yellow fact, I chose a color to paint the outside of our Australian Craftsman, since I really wanted to create some calm for my stressed brain and central nervous system that had been sole project manager for the whole-of-house restoration while we lived in a tiny townhouse down the street. Hilariously, the name of the color is “Open Sesame”, a sunny yellowy with a tiny touch of ochre-ness . It was a bold, scary choice, but the little kids next door immediately named the house “The Happy House”, so it was purrrfect! 🙂
Yes! It can be scary when you see it in a bare room. Move in the furniture, art and accessories and it sings. It’s PERFECT for a Craftsman.
I am firmly in the anti-yellow camp. Unless it is on a fresh flower keep it out of my house. Not even the stunning designs above can convince me to bring that color into my house. Maybe it’s because those yellow shades are precisely the color of baby poop?
HAHA this made me chuckle. Thanks for taking a look anyway!
I had an inspiration photo for my living room that included ochre colored walls. I painted many (many!) test swatches of colors that definitely looked ochre on the sample strip, but ended up looking yellow-yellow on the walls. Ultimately I used the ochre/yellow I hated the least just to be over the decision-making. I lived with it for a few years but never loved it, so I finally repainted last year (not ochre or yellow). So be forewarned that the lighting in your room may be an issue!
Arlyn you are speaking my language! Yellow has been creeping into my house more and more over the past few months. I’m thinking I may need to add in more. 🙂 Great post!
I never knew I liked yellow. Till now. I think my gateway was leopard print or tiger stripe, both from the land of ochre.
I do love a good leopard print…the gateway animal print
Arlyn, what about mixing yellows and some very neutral warm grays? I suppose it would depend on the tones but guidance would be appreciated!!
I think that’d be great! I’d definitely go for a warmer gray, and maybe layer in other neutrals if you want something that feels relaxed and welcoming. Maybe let the grays and neutrals be about 60% of the color palette, the yellow take 20%, 10% maybe another color if you feel that’s a little flat (a slate blue would be awesome I think, or even a warmer rust or coral depending on your vibe), then the last 10% be metals (matte black or brass).
I hope that helps!
I don’t think my first instinct would be to call any but one or two of these yellow. I’d call them gold. That’s the color we painted our living/dining room in our townhouse about 13 years ago. We have a rather cold light in that room, and we had originally painted an accent wall blue about 25 years ago. It was SO depressing.
Gold is nice because it’s a great background for art and furniture. White walls make art and furniture pieces stand out TOO much, and it all looks like a disorganized collection of pieces. Color ties them together.
I have never been a yellow fan but do find the earthier ochre/mustard color appealing. Really liked this post!
Love it. I am here for a bit of desert-glowing yellow, it’s like adding a splash of sunshine.
I like gold as an accent color in a neutral space. I have some paintings that are blocks of gold, rust, teal, avocado green. I use one or more of those colors in curtains, vases, pillows.
What a funny coincidence! The photo with the yellow throw and slate blue nightstand is from The Line Hotel in DC. I stayed there last weekend so it looked so familiar that I did a double take! It was a very cool hotel.
I like the variety of color combinations here. I most like mustard/ochre tones as an accent for other dominant colors or as a pop for neutrals. I am using it in my wardrobe this way too.
Looking at all the examples, I see this color almost as the new fresher version of chocolate brown, from the second half of the 90’s. It’s paired with a lot of similar colors, blues, pinks, greens, as well as light neutrals. This color can still ground a space (like in that coastal style bedroom) but has much more life to it! Just a thought in case anyone still has chocolate brown hanging around in your house, desperately calling out to be updated.
This is a fabulous post. The variety of colors, styles and text make it one of the more informative discussions I’ve seen on color and it’s many uses. Look forward to many more.
Guys! I’m so disappointed! I was pumped for this post because I’m looking for a good paint color- there are none! Could you suggest something in the butterscotch- ochre- saffron – curry paint department?
Maybe to a board with multiple choices so we can see differences?
I need your color pick!! Xxoo
Oh nooo. Ugh yellow paint is honestly VERY hard. Most of these rooms use yellow as an accent color, which is probably the safest way to do it. I do, however, LOVE the way Babouche (from Farrow & Ball) looks in Dabito’s dining room (http://www.oldbrandnew.com/blog/2017/5/one-room-challenge-week-6-dining-room-reveal).
We also pulled some yellow paint colors in this post that we like: https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/best-paint-color-trends-2019 (though we haven’t tested them ourselves)
I’m just going to do a vertical stripe with it, as wide as my bed, with some fun edges done with stencil.
I think I’ll do the farrow and ball- I had eyed it already. Will tag u guys on insta 🙂 THANKS
Yes, yes, oh heck yes! I’m glad to see almost ANY color after the nearly endless all white/all gray trend! I have a light gold sofa with two not-too-light/not-too-dark blue upholstered chairs trimmed in the gold piping. They are grounded with a patterned rug of almost every color you can think of. I’m not sure if I’m over-the-top in love with it or if I should feel like it’s a little too much. But color makes me happy, so I’m stickin’ to it!
I LOVE THIS! I’m all twitterpated by the ochre/dark teal combo with the neutrals!
I absolutely adored this post. So much great information shared. I vote for more of these posts! The splashes of yellow are rays of sunshine in a room. I also love how the pictures you shared showed different styles of furniture in different rooms-that kitchen is stunning! Thank you!
I like these pictures, but yellow just isn’t a color I’m drawn to the way I am to other jewel tones. I’ve always wondered if part of the problem is that yellow doesn’t look good on me with my pale skin and golden-blonde hair (sort of like how bright reds and pinks can clash with red hair). I don’t think I would ever do a large decor piece or walls in yellow (there are just other colors I’d get more joy from), but in small doses, it really does make a room pop.
Oh and you’re right, I think Pinterest’s barrage of grey-and-yellow-and-chevron made people stray away from yellow for a while 😉
This is my color and I have it all throughout my house! I even have a yellow couch!
I think I love this but it scares me, too. Many years ago, I had a masterfully disastrous experience decorating with yellow. Since then, I have avoided the color yellow in all things except food. The richness of the ochre color, especially with velvet is gorgeous and especially enticing. It might take me a while to trust yellow again, this just might do it.
I’ve been on this yellow kick myself lately pushing it in my friends for their homes! After reading this article I know say, “Hey! Why don’t I inject it somewhere myself?!” – – which now will mean that tomorrow I’ll be making a trip to target to get the gorgeous velvet mustard floor cushion from opal house that I’ve been eyeing for months. Thanks, you did it again??.
Yes! I literally see this colour everywhere. And I love this colour so much, but I would only use it in accessories and I wouldn’t buy a yellow couch or something like that.
Appreciate this column! I have been liking this yellow trend, too, and although I like the color I’m still playing around to see how to make it work in my home. I’ve been using yellow wood and yellow-toned baskets to bring in that cheery color, to go with our warmer brown sofa, ivory, and greens. It is good to know that navy is a positive color to mix in, too!
give me all the yellow +rust+navy. A combination I’ll never tire of.
Keep more content like this coming, Arlyn. Great choice of photos. Glad to see golden hues making a comeback.
Love the color and I love the article! My library couch is a channel tufted mustard linen against a deep navy black wall with pops of blush-y coral in the warmer months, and deep greens in the cooler months. I get crazy amounts of love for that room — I definitely see this as a strong color trend.
This type of article is super interesting — keep ’em coming 🙂
What does MOTO mean?
I love the color combinations you’ve included! Some I don’t think I ever would have thought would be so gorgeous! HUGE fan of that mustard couch!
Love the roundup, but wanted to note some disappointment over the use of “image source” as a credit. I’m sure the sources—from Architectural Digest to Remodelista—would appreciate proper credit with the links. And as a large site, you set a standard for up-and-coming bloggers.
I appreciate, result in I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for. Youâ€™ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye
You are preaching to the choir with these yellows! Despite the fact I only use it very sparingly in my home as an accent color I have never lost the love for a really mustardy yellow. Perhaps it’s because I have a deep rooted love of vintage and also for aspen trees. It’s just such a happy color while being more grounded than its cool-toned lemony counterparts. I adored seeing all the different ways of playing with it within this post!
Love, love the touches of yellow/gold especially with the blue. Saving to some of my favorites!!