Rethinking Pastels

By Kate Riley January 28, 2014

I’ll admit the word ‘pastel’ makes me cringe a bit. For years, it’s conjured up images of saccharine sweet baby merchandise and Easter decor, but I realized in my study of color that it’s not the hues themselves I’m opposed to, it’s the overuse.  

My most favorite colors to decorate with are pale greens and blues so in fairness, I am fan of pastels. They feel perfectly at home in a child’s room but in adult spaces, pastels are trickier. The key is to incorporate these paler hues in a judicious and calculated way so the softness is sophisticated and not juvenile, and to balance them with neutrals. Here are a dozen examples of favorite uses of a pastel palette.     

Pair painted walls with black and white photography and decorative objects in modern shapes.

pale pink walls with black & white photos

decor demon


Use the hues unexpectedly, such as grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling, as trim on a window treatment, or in a velvet on an accent chair.

blue and orchid living room

better homes & gardens


Embrace your feminine side and upholster a sofa in blush pink or pale apricot, mix with contemporary accents and soft or shiny textures. 

blush pink sofa



Use a pale pastel pillow as an accent to balance patterned or weighty furniture.

blush pink pillow butterfly art

style at home


Partner them with global inspired or geometric textiles for a fresh approach.

ikat roman shade steven gambrel

 steven gambrel


Give a space an airy feel with paint, fabric, and artwork that repeats pale blue hues of sky and sea.

pale pastel hues

emily gilbert photography


Balance soft pastel pillows with bold artwork and textiles and a medley of patterns in a living room anchored by neutrals. 

pale yellows in living room

  jute home


Soft blue and pink linen textiles feel light and airy but are grounded by organic textures found in the wood plank walls and woven base end table.

pale furnishings wood walls house beautiful

house beautiful


Allow the coast to influence the palette with soft blues and pale orchid fabrics.  

pale pastel sitting room

design house of the hamptons


Paint chairs in a pastel pink (or blue or green or yellow) to add cheer to a dining nook. 

pale pink painted chairs

jeanette lunde on houzz


Honor the heritage of a vintage sofa and upholster it in green velvet. Balance with contemporary accent furniture and modern art.

pale green velvet tufted sofa

 the curated house


Paint your kitchen cabinets in a feel good nostalgic mint green, one that makes you happy each time you enter it.  

mint green kitchen cabinets

better homes & gardens


For a glance at a few more favorite spaces in these pastel palettes, hop on over to read my latest article at Lamps Plus taking a look at pale winter hues

What say you ? Are you pro or anti pastel in the home?



  1. I think anyone who experienced the onslaught of pastels in the 80’s has a slight repulsion to these soft colors. I know I do! You’re so right about it being a matter of over use. I love a beautiful room where they are used in a refined and mature way. Even though I know they’re gorgeous I still have a knee jerk reaction to the word “PASTEL”. I’m so glad that they are trending again in such a sophisticated style.

    • “onslaught of pastels in the 80s” – ha Brandyn! That perfectly describes my mom’s peach and sage green living room from that era and today she’d agree with you :)

  2. I am actually a fan of pastels, but I agree you have to use restraint and combine them with other textural or modern elements to avoid looking juvenile. I have two little girls and my next one’s big girl room will definitely incorporate some of these soft hues. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Love it. I agree with you; I’ve never been a huge fan of pastels. However, that Better Homes & Gardens kitchen may motivate me to rethink my preferences… Beautiful!

  4. Purple and pastels are the two things I most dislike… so this is really not for me. I kinda like a good black and white with a hint of mint pastel, why not some light blue or yellow, but no purple. I’ve been hating that color ever since I was a kid and all my friends were crazy for it. I don’t know why !

    Pink and green, purple and blue, those palettes just don’t work for me.

    That last mint kitchen is to die for though. Really, really.

    • Isn’t it funny Anne-Helene how some colors just repulse certain people? I’ve heard that about purple from a few people – and neon :) I agree with you on the kitchen, it’s really lovely

  5. My neighbor gave me a beautiful Lee sofa that is about a year old…it was taupe…the dye did not take to the fabric well and the entire sofa turned a light peach color..It is currently in my craft room and the color is really growing on me..looks great with my SW Silvermist walls…The BHG kitchen is dreamy!

  6. I am equally torn between icy pastels (think Scandinavian country or what I think of as New England style) and dark rich cozy colours. Perhaps this dichotomy is because I live in an area of Canada with icy winters and warm summers… tons of snow and then sweltering heat)… In the summer I crave pastels and white and cream and in the winters dark and cozy.

    When we lived in a rural area my preference was for the winter pastels and that looked great with all the rustic country pieces we had scored at estate auctions and/or flea markets etc. Now we live in the city in a boring townhouse and I find I like it dark and cozy. The pastels seem to beg for a nice view out the window and that we don’t have any longer so I prefer to hole in and try and create a library/study feel to the house.

    Great blog, by the way… came across it via your “Painting a Kitchen Table” post – we just picked up the same sort of oak table and we can’t decide whether to stain it dark or paint it white. See… can never choose.

  7. I can appreciate the beauty of all these rooms, but I don’t find myself wanting to spend time in any of them, you know? Sorry pastels, I’m going to be passing on this trend.

  8. Hi Kate!

    Please help! Over the last 2 weeks I have been getting popup from our antivirus software whenever I try to access you site. There is a high threat mal ware attack attempt. I accessed your site today via another blog that lists you. I am concerned about safety in terms of hacking for me and also your site. My husband just said not to access your site and expressed exasperation that the blogger needs better protection. I have been a faithful follower and only look at 3 sites total Monday throught Friday (Sew for Home, you and another decorating blog. I love your site and have told many people about it … basically anyone who will listen. Thanks!

    • Hi Pat, thank you for sharing! I had a problem a few weeks ago that I clarified with my tech support and everything should be fine now but I’ll have him check again. Meanwhile, try a refresh (CTL + F5) and tell me if that doesn’t work, I do appreciate you sharing that with me, you’re not the only one to mention the issue, so thank you!

  9. When I first read and heard about the coming trend of pastels in home decor, I vowed, “NOT in my house!” I was not going to live in a bowl of pastel wedding butter mints!
    Imagine my surprise when I started thumbing through decorating magazines and visiting blogs showcasing the new look of pastels from and I really got excited about them! The pastel colors we’re welcoming are a far cry my grandma’s bedroom with its lilac walls and lacy lilac printed bedding. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in the sea of my powder blue bedroom of the 1960s.
    I noticed the richness of the colors, (if a pastel can even be called rich) and how when added with care, they made a room sing. I thought about my mostly grey and cream living room punctuated with a pastel here or there and I couldn’t wait to add something pastel. I’m still shopping and scrounging to come up with some new ideas and items to sprinkle about but I still won’t allow a candy dish with pastel mints on one of my side tables.

  10. We don’t have pastels in our main rooms, only in our and the girls bedrooms. I find them soothing and feminine. Our main rooms are tradtional and neutral colors with pops especially in the kitchen. They are soothing. Thanks for sharing all the photos.

  11. Enjoy your staycation Kate!! LOVE your blog. Can’t tell you the pleasure it brings me. I’m always showing everyone your DIY makeovers. I’m gearing up to get the nerve to start one of my own!

  12. Can you give me the color name of the greyish purple in the first pic? I am wanting to paint my guest room a similar tone. Thanks

    • I wish I knew Jessi ! If you write to Bryan Patrick Flynn the designer, he or his team might share it.

  13. I don’t understand why everyone slams whatever was before. In twenty years, whatever is popular now will be subject to the same derision. If you like it, use it. If not, why not be respectful of other people’s tastes? I prefer strong, saturated colors but I can see the beauty in any of these spaces.

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)