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 written about and romanticized since our early human brains first discovered that perfection was possible. A vision of ideality. The land of milk and honey. A veritable Atlantis.

What does Utopia look like? How happy and healthy are its people? Does vitality abound and a sense of harmony exist in every molecule of air? Is it abounding 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 relaxing place on earth. It was a setting so stunning that Zeus handpicked it as the hallowed birthplace of his twins, Apollo and Artemis. Delos was a refuge, impenetrable from harm by the violent gods, just an island hop away from the mainland.

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

These are some of the questions that have captured the Pratt & Lambert color-styling and product-development teams. These departments stay abreast of the cutting-edge research, trend watching, and futuristic planning taking place now in the field of wellness, and they continue to refine Pratt & Lambert products and color selections to maintain this age-old desire for utopian living.

When it comes to what's new in wellness and in color, just what, and who, are the experts at Pratt & Lambert watching right now? 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 takeaways from that conversation were intriguing and inspiring.

The Importance of Surroundings

One star in the fast-growing sustainability movement is carving out a modern-day Delos of his own. Paul Scialla and his International WELL Building Institute introduced the WELL Building Standard, a worldwide system to improve health and well-being through clever building design. Sick-building syndrome is just what its name implies. Environmental toxins, and factors like poor air quality, lighting, and acoustics, can bring about a sick building and, in turn, sick occupants.

Poor ventilation alone is considered to be the reason employees take an incredible five sick days per year. It’s compelling statistics such as this one that have business owners taking the leap to convert their own corporate buildings 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 features—air-purification systems, dawn-simulating alarm clocks, even a vitamin C–infused shower—all chosen to enhance physical and emotional well-being.

Industry leaders predicted correctly that it was just a matter of time before homeowners would demand the same wellness practices being used in the workplace for their homes.

Paint color and formulations are also shown 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 advanced from being a purely aesthetic preference to one that is also a component of wellness.

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

Valuable 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 the residential sector would demand the same wellness practices being used in the workplace for their homes.

In the Bedroom

With goods and services such as Fitbits, juice bars, gyms, and employee-wellness programs, we certainly aren’t lacking the awareness and resources to stay healthy. Our renewed dedication to exercise and to cooking at home with fresh, natural ingredients, paired with the demands of work and family, means something has to give—and often that something is sleep.

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

One health topic proving to be a big concern is sleep deprivation. With 71 percent of Americans catching their z’s with their cellphones and tablets nearby, it’s no wonder sleep loss is teetering on epidemic proportions.

In her book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, Arianna Huffington calls sleep deprivation 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 how to create quiet spaces that are truly restful and rejuvenating. “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

It's common for an American to spend seven hours a day staring at a handheld device or computer screen. Too much of this activity 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 do not get a full night’s sleep every night and 40 percent overeat or choose unhealthy foods. In addition to such problems, conditions related to stress are also becoming more common. Think heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and even depression.

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

Just in the nick of time, there’s a trillion-dollar industry to save us. You probably know about the clean-eating movement, which is gaining mainstream momentum. The movement promotes food being responsibly sourced, prepared, and consumed, which paves the way for greater control of both its healthful 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 slow down for a well-balanced meal, we are healthier, happier, and more productive.

One Final Note

Did you know that the effect light has on color also helps determine our sense of well-being? Light plays a big part in revealing the precision of a color.

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

Halogen bulbs, incandescents, and northern daylight are examples of light sources that have a CRI value near the 100 mark, making them ideal for rendering color. In fact, any light that has an index of 80 or higher will provide optimal color assurance and be easy on the eyes, so to speak.

What’s going to happen next in color and design trends? We’re always watching, deciphering, and sharing. Sign up now for the Design Download, and be in the know.