2014 colour of the year is bloomin’ baffling

Oh, my aching eyes. I’ve been spending some time studying Pantone’s 2014 colour of the year, “Radiant Orchid.” So what’s a radiant orchid? The big, frilly kind your granny might have worn as a corsage. It’s a sort of purple, but it‘s bluer than a true purple, and it’s pinker than lavender. But it’s more purple than pink. You figure it out.

Around the start of every new year, the Pantone Colour Institute, announces its colour of the year with much fanfare. Pantone is indeed THE colour authority, defining colour standards for the design industries. Many of the fabrics, paints and printing inks you see conform to a special formula set by Pantone and identified by a number. So even if you’re colour-blind, you can ask for Pantone 18-3224 and be sure you’re getting Radiant Orchid.

Radiant Orchid is the colour of the year, according to the Pantone Colour Institute. There are no guarantees it will reproduce accurately on newsprint, but Welcome @ Home columnist Mary Fran McQuade does her best to describe the hue’s defining characteristics.
Radiant Orchid is the colour of the year, according to the Pantone Colour Institute. There are no guarantees it will reproduce accurately on newsprint, but Welcome @ Home columnist Mary Fran McQuade does her best to describe the hue’s defining characteristics.

Creative, complex, magical        

Each year’s colour is chosen to – supposedly – reflect “what people are looking for, what they feel they need, that color can help to answer … an expression of a mood, an attitude, on the part of the consumers.”

The decision-making team looks into its crystal ball for “that one color seen as ascending and building in importance through all creative sectors.”

Films, art, popular travel destinations, new textures and effects – even technology and major sports events are all grist for the colour-grinding mill.

So why is this the year of the Radiant Orchid?

“The very special thing about the colour is that it encourages us to innovate,” says Pantone Colour Institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman. “Why? Because it’s essentially in the purple family. It has some pink undertones, so it’s complex, which  intrigues people even more.”

Eiseman enthuses that purple is magical and a colour that symbolizes creativity. “… so wearing it enhances your feeling of being more creative, being more innovative. And that is so important in today’s life. We’re all looking for that touch of uniqueness.”

She compares Radiant Orchid to amethyst gemstones, which change in tone depending on lighting and their composition. Like them, she says, “This colour has some very, very absorbing undertones that really appeal to people. It is absolutely magical.”

Feeling radiant yet?

All that may be so. But I find Radiant Orchid a difficult colour to deal with. Supposedly, it’s flattering to many hair, eye and skin tones. In my own colour trials, though, I found it turned very fair skin a somewhat sickly blue and made darker skin tones rather muddy. It made a fabulous combination, however, with honey-coloured skin shades. So if you have a golden tan, go for it!

I can’t say I’d want a room bathed entirely in Radiant Orchid, unless it’s a fancy boudoir. But anyone who’s decorated in neutrals – beiges, greys or whites – can easily update their space with shiny cushions or soft throws in this eye-catching hue. It also works with olive green, pale apricot and darker shades of purple. If you really want to light some fires, throw in a lipstick red.

On the other hand, you can see the colours of hundreds of real radiant orchid flowers at the amazing show presented by the Southern Ontario Orchid Society. It’s this weekend, Feb. 8 and 9, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Ave. E. at Leslie. Admission is $12 cash (children under 12, free). Go to soos.ca for a $2 off coupon. Free parking.

This is my last Welcome @ Home column. I’m turning it over to fresh eyes and fresh ideas. I will, however, continue writing my column, Garden Views, about gardens and gardeners for this paper. See you there!

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