The Covid-19 recession of 2020 saw big gains for categories of merchandise including groceries, health and wellness-related products, pet food/supplies, furniture, and the DIY or home improvement category.
It came as no surprise that while spending more time at home, people sought to improve the comfort, safety, visual appeal, and functionality of their environments. A study by Harvard University researchers found that 2020 was a record-breaking year for home improvements, with consumers spending around $420 billion on DIY projects. By May 2020, nearly 80 percent of Americans were involved in one or more home projects.
[callout]Four major paint companies have selected a sophisticated, subtle gray-green shade as their Color of the Year with color experts honing in on a common consumer mindset: a desire for peace, tranquility, and connections with nature.[/callout]
According to NPD Group, dollar sales in the home improvement industry grew by 22 percent in 2020, compared to the prior year, with kitchen and bath sales increasing by 28 percent. One of the fastest and easiest ways to freshen up or redesign a space is with paint, and indoor paint sales increased by an impressive 16 percent.
With such growing interest in interior painting, suppliers in the sector have been studying color trends, the psychology of color, and evolving consumer color preferences. Their research has taken them along paths that have converged on a serene grayed-green as the top color for 2022.
Nature-inspired Gray-Greens Top Lists of 2022 Color of the Year
Four major paint companies have selected a sophisticated, subtle gray-green shade as their Color of the Year (COTY). This convergence in focus on one color is highly unusual, and it suggests that the color experts honed in on a common consumer mindset: a desire for peace, tranquility, and connections with nature.
Though each paint company’s COTY is unique, they all celebrate a natural green that is a calming background for interiors. Here are the Color of the Year selections for 2022 from four leading paint companies.
- Sherwin-Williams’ refers to its sage-tinted Evergreen Fog as, “Soothing after the tumult of the past 18 months but it also leans into a larger green color trend that is slowly gaining momentum.” The company sees Evergreen Fog as being about resurrection, renewal and positivity.
- Behr Paint’s Breezeway is described as a cool silvery-green shade “inspired by the earth’s beauty, renewal, restoration and healing.”
- PPG Paint’s Olive Sprig “Is a relaxing but enticing green that emulates the feeling of soothing Aloe Vera or a fragrant plant—brightening any space with organic liveliness.”
- Valspar’s Blanched Thyme is the leader among its 12 COTYs for 2022, and it describes the color as: “calming and nourishing, this natural green shade encourages balance.”
To envision the 2022 color of the year, think of desert sagebrush, herb gardens filled with thyme and rosemary, and orchards of ancient olive trees. Evergreen Fog and Breezeway are cool colors, while Olive Sprig and Blanched Thyme are warmer in tone—the difference between green leaves seen in shade and in sunlight.
- Retail Touchpoint: Color is key to retail success—influencing everything from the merchandise, itself — apparel and home furnishings; to colors used in the store environment and branding. Using current/desirable colors can establish connections, especially with younger customers who follow trends. Today’s preference for green reflects a shift in consumer values.
The Power of Sage to Cleanse
Green plants have long been known for their healing and cleansing properties. For thousands of years, burning sage bundles (a process sometimes called smudging) has been used by Native Americans in ceremonies to purify spaces where unfortunate or unhappy events have occurred, to eliminate negative energy. Once the negative energy has been removed and the space has been cleansed, a fresh start can take place.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop beauty and wellness Web site features sage bundles to be used for cleansing, even offering instructions: “How To Get Rid Of Evil Spirits In Your House.” Some scientists link sage with clearing up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria in a space, so associations may be practical as well as spiritual.
Perhaps, today, on a subconscious level, we feel the need to cleanse our homes and lives and to make a fresh start. Bringing a transformational green color into our homes via a coat of paint may symbolically accomplish the same thing, replacing the negativity and stress of the past year-and-a-half with calm, optimism and hope.
- Retail Touchpoint: Down time due to Covid-19 gives retailers the opportunity to renovate and refresh stores, welcoming shoppers back with a more positive view of the future.
Forest Bathing, Cleansing the Soul
The pandemic has generated renewed interest in nature and in outdoor activities, including hiking; camping; mountain biking—even golf. Dick’s Sporting Goods reports that comp-store sales were up by close to 10 percent in 2020, year-over-year, with outdoor gear playing a leading role. Being outdoors in fresh air and sunlight, surrounded by open space, affords social distancing and lessens risk of exposure to Covid-19. Visits to National Parks increased dramatically in early 2021, with traffic at some parks, increasing by as much as 30 percent.
For those who are not into outdoor sports or travel, Forest Bathing may offer a local and accessible option for everyone. Forest Bathing (shinrin-yoku) is based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices but became “a thing” in Japan in the early 80s. It was a reaction to society’s stress levels and increasing incidents of mental illness. Going into a forest or wooded area and bathing in the green energy, taking in the sights, smells, sounds and other sensations, (while leaving digital devices at home) has become a popular path to relaxation and rejuvenation. Forest bathing advocates cite studies that associate forest walks with lower blood pressure and lower cortisol levels, due to a chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, which can also boost the immune system. Japan now has 48 official “Forest Therapy” trails, designation for forest bathing. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) educates and informs about the activity, which is rapidly becoming mainstream, worldwide.
- Retail Touchpoint: Freestanding stores should celebrate nature by enhanced landscaping design in surrounding green areas and store entry ways, and by adding open-air patios/terraces for yoga classes, al fresco dining, or just relaxing.
Plants Are the New Pets
One of the big surprises of the pandemic has been a form of “plant mania,” a huge social media trend supported by Instagram, Facebook groups, and TikTok (with plant influencers on #planttok, #plantoftheday, etc.). Millennials and Gen-Zer’s rush to post photos of their plant-filled home environments, vying for bragging rights for the largest, rarest and most attractive plant pets. Plant parents are keen to swap plant health tips and even to exchange cuttings.
Young people stuck as home because of Covid-19 have discovered that house plants are a good substitute for furry pets (and for kids), and they don’t require as high a level of commitment or take up as much time or money to maintain. It is a way to get around apartment landlords who don’t allow pets, and for those in small units in urban environments with limited outdoor space, it is a way to bring nature’s healing and stress-reducing greenery inside.
An industry survey found that two-thirds of nurseries in the U.S. increased their sales of household plants by 15 percent in 2020—with most of those sales attributed to 18- to 34-year-olds—and with 12 percent of sales going to first time plant buyers. While most plants are readily affordable, a recent online auction saw a rare New Zealand plant, a type of Monstera, selling for $27,000 ($19,000 USD).
- Retail Touchpoint: Plan special events around nature themes. Consider an in-store pop-up shop for plant pet adoptions, complete with photo booth for photos of pet parents and develop into a social media event. (Contract with a local nursery to supply suitable potted plants.)
Biophilic Buildings: Plants as Design Elements
Many companies, including Google, Apple, and Amazon, are thinking bigger about plants than a couple of potted palms in the corner. They are experimenting with a growing trend called Biophilic Design: incorporating elements of nature into built environments. Research conducted by these companies and others has shown that plants in the work environment can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and heart rates, promote creativity, productivity and well-being, while enhancing concentration, engagement and cognitive ability. Architectural and interior design are bringing natural elements, including plant walls (some even grow vegetables) and living roofs into commercial buildings, restaurants, hotels, and homes. As a celebration of nature, Amazon’s dramatic, plant-filled The Spheres at its Seattle headquarters, contain 4,000 square feet of vertical plant walls that attract workers and tourists alike.
The term “Biophilia” was popularized by biologist, E.O. Wilson in the 1980s. He thought people suffered when they cut themselves off from nature by moving into urban environments, dominated by concrete, steel and glass. Since then, technology and digital dominance have added another layer of separation from nature, sucking up our time and leaving us little opportunity to rejuvenate our mental and physical energy via outdoor activities. Over the past decade or so, we have heard a lot about work-life balance. In the future, as we pursue health and well-being, we may hear more about achieving a balance between man-built or artificial environments and natural environments.
- Retail Touchpoint: Incorporate biophilic design where appropriate. Grocers could introduce plant walls, where shoppers could clip their own herbs. Malls might think “Nature Court,” instead of Food Court—or combine the two concepts into a unique, light, air- and nature-filled space.