That Gorgeous Plum (and Yellow and Mint)

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I get positively giddy when I see a color re-emerge from deep hibernation. As I flipped through Neuland, a new book of German design, I rediscovered all the fine shades of purple, golden yellow and minty-green inside, such as “Leseprobe” (Reading Test), a final student project by Typolabor:

And “85 Appeals to Design Students at the Hochschule Darmstadt in Winter 2008/9,” a page-a-day calendar designed by Charlie Hoffmann and Nicole Skala:

Or this Banjo Music ad by

It’s as if everyone swivels towards the new shades, like the heads of sunflowers. Fully saturated, purple and gold feels debauched and royal, which nobody frankly feels at the moment. But desaturated or tilted into surprising hues like mustard, magenta, and a near-gray, it’s thrilling and discreet, the colors of a new affluence.

And while we’re on the subject of near-gray, that mania for charcoal-gray walls in interiors has lately been giving way to a deliciously creepy trompe-l’oeil: a purple so smolderingly dark and crepey, a tinge of actual color in what seems like a black-and-white scene will startle you. The Tine K Home catalog, for example, as shown on Apartment Therapy:

Here’s an unscientific wager: Tine K Home sells the bulk of this funereal elegance outside of her own northerly latitude, Denmark. Winter in Northern Europe is itself a narrow palette of grays, dimly seen: a slate-blue smudge inside a wavy windowpane, the faintest of bottle-green tints in the roiling sky, always spread with tangled white cotton blocking out a stingy sun. In Berlin, this is the season of cod-liver doses, hugging your light-box for dear life, swallowing Vitamin D, candles guttering in every window, on every surface, and so many lit wicks the room gets a fraction colder when you snuff them all out. Selling color in Berlin is like selling tea in China: you can’t believe how much it’s wanted already, until it’s winter. Then, incredibly, everybody wants more.

Marigold popped up everywhere at Berlin Fashion Week, much more wearable than the highlighter-yellows that bedecked runways a few years ago. Yes, yes, everyone loves the color of Vaseline uranium glass to distraction; that doesn’t mean it does anyone any favors, at all, when wearing it. The Winter 2010 collection from Diesel during Berlin Fashion Week combined both plum and marigold:

Yellow outfits and accents from G-STAR RAW Winter 2010 collection, as seen at Bread and Butter, Berlin Fashion Week:

A video installation, below, of yellow Jil Sanders flats, tossed endlessly into the air. Video by Matthias Schellenberg for Berlin fashion magazine I love you, as seen on the website of Berlin magazine store Do You Read Me?

A strong yellow against gray looks like triumph, doesn’t it? No wonderdesigners have been drawn, over and over, to mix up these paletteslately. Here is CB2’s home design for “Bright New Decade” collection, 2010:

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is radiating strong yellows in upcoming exhibits from Düsseldorf to Japan and back. More than the hectic yellows recently past, you can feel both the warmth and a steady sense of meditation in these yellows as part of the exhibition “Your Chance Encounter,” which just ended atthe 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan.

And lastly: spearmint, which is both a refreshing look and a clever, complementary progression once we’re jaded on yellow and gray, but still lingering on purples, exemplified by Illusive: Contemporary Illustration Part 3, published by Berlin’s Die Gestalten Verlag.

Northerners, tend well to the classic cures. Hot drinks. Plane tickets. Vigorous or meandering sex (or both). And try the new colors, butter, plums and mint!

About the author:

Jude Stewart is a Print contributing editor. She has written on design and culture for Slate, The Believer, I.D., Metropolis, and Good, as well as a column on color for STEP Inside Design. She now tweets on color daily at Design TV’s exclusive video with Jude Stewart: Color Trends and Inspiration