As reliable as the first furls of foliage poking up from the soil, lawns awakening from winter slumber and trees leafing out, green is the surest sign of spring.
Get ready for a greening up of the interior landscape as well. Pink quartz and serenity may be the proclaimed Pantone colors of the year, but a verdant range of green is sooo money.
In January at the Paris Maison & Objet furnishings exposition, palm fronds dominated patterns trends. Why? There's the obvious exotic tropical appeal. But it's all about the green. Green velvet. Green leather. Moody inky tones. Rich emerald. Even that old standby, Kelly. Blue-based spruces are dialed down from teals. Lemon-based. A dash of olive. On sofas, chairs, lighting, housewares.
Fashion designers also are enamored. Green in spring collections include a grass offering at Dolce + Gabbana, a python trench coat from Burberry, lace from Gucci, suede pumps from Manolo Blahnik, agate rock candy bangle bracelets from Ippolita. There's also classic packaging: Think of the iconic Orange verte products from Hermes in the familiar emerald bottles, and a new woodsy fragrance from Armani called Vert Malachite, which comes in a bottle with the gem's characteristic swirly markings.
The trend is not surprising, says Ann Haagenson, divisional merchandise manager for Anthropologie. The retailer shows its fondness for the hue in a number of spring introductions for home decor.
"Green naturally evokes a sense of the season and new beginnings," says Haagenson. "It's been a long winter for some, so a nod to nature is especially welcome. There is an eagerness for positivity and hope, for the optimism that the color represents."
We've certainly seen it before. Just a few years back, malachite was all the rage and, like animal prints, that look never seems to fade.
"Malachite has become a decorator classic. The material -- and the color -- is popular in everything from bar gadgets to decorative accessories, even as the inspiration for wallpaper," Haagenson says. "It's inspiring in spite of its prevalence, especially when it appears in unexpected places like a malachite bench I saw in a solarium of Milan's Villa Necchi. It was striking, and a supreme example of luxury."
And then there's the sometimes kitschy, exuberant chartreuse or those tart lemon-limes that seem to pop up every summer. Still, this new planting of green seems richer, perhaps even a little more sophisticated and nuanced.
"Green is the new black," says interior designer Gary Lee, who also is at the helm of a curated furnishings collection in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.
"The greens we are using are dimensional, with undertones of black and/or gold, like one of our credenzas (for Atelier Gary Lee), which is in noir green," he says. "It relates depth, interest and warmth. When using green, textures are important to how the color works in palettes. There's something very soothing about the new greens. Something very elegant, yet natural."
When Miami designer Sam Robin created a bachelor's loft retreat as part of an Elle Decor magazine-sponsored Modern Life concept house during Art Basel/Design Miami in December, she was trying to bring the outside in. Situated in a 6,000-square-foot penthouse in the city's hip Wynwood Arts District, the condo featured a deck filled with lush plantings.
Also mindful of the artsy vibe, Robin married industrial chic -- using wallcovering that looked like exposed brick -- with style and elegance. Behind a bed, a stunning headboard that looked like a green-and-white agate slab was actually a printed-out version of the stone on aluminum board with layers of resin and sparkle to simulate the mineral, created by artist Alex Turco. Robin laced citrus hues throughout with furniture from Roche Bobois and small tables from Robicara, a company she co-owns.
"In Florida we do a lot of inside out, bringing nature in with incredible living walls. I am loving these greens," she says. "Two years ago I was traveling in India, and there was a scene with gorgeous grasses and women wearing identical grass green saris." The image stuck. Also a no-brainer in Robin's design: the integration of large-leaf foliage. And all the greens pop against the neutral grays.
Then again, certain shades of green may well substitute for gray.
"I love a gray-green that reads as a punchy taupe," says Haagenson. "This color works with both cool and warm tones."
Los Angeles-based designer Barbara Barry long has embraced greens as neutrals. In her launch of the new Milling Road for Baker Furniture, designer Kara Mann made some strong statements with seating in suedes and velvets, in a dark, moody shade she called "midnight green."
What to call some of these new greens is a challenge. While so many are just plain "greens," in Europe, some are referred to as "golf." There may be "grass," and then there's the familiar "forest" and "Caribbean." The kicky, saturated bright known as "Kelly," a preppy staple with navy that was especially popular in the 1970s, is back.
"Kelly green is a sporty sense of the color," says Haagenson. "It evokes fun and inspires energy."
Launching its new custom line of furniture, Anthropologie trotted out its ranges of colors in striking rows of the same chair silhouette.
Even the mention of certain colors elicits visceral reactions. For so long, avocado was one of those, forged in the context of kitchen appliances during an era that also included harvest gold. But the shade of avocado that you might see today is a little bit truer to the real fruit; it's just probably called "guacamole" or something else.
So how do you integrate some of the new greens?
Unless you are secure in bold choices, the brights probably are better in accent pieces, like a single statement chair or even a side table. The latter could be in a lacquer (emerald) or shagreen (sharkskin), or stone, either real or faux. A softer green is quiet enough to make a design dent; in an otherwise neutral scheme, it can be simply refreshing. Supplement it with a piece of art in the same shade. A landscape or abstract piece that may include a touch of metallic gold for sparkle also can introduce a verdant touch. If it's hung near a window or door overlooking a garden or trees, it really will make an impact.
Paint the walls -- or one feature wall. Or paper them in a bold green graphic or malachite, a chevron or stripe. Lucky clover stripes at WallPops from Brewster Home (www.wallpops.com) are affordable (recently $10.99 on Amazon) and are peel-and-stick, so you can remove them when you want to move on to something else.
Choose a pendant light that features green. Some glass and metal combinations are like jewelry.
If you don't want to make a huge commitment, try an accessory. Solid color pillows will pop, but patterns may add an artistic touch. One in printed linen at CB2 has a watercolor look that feels like a painting on a sofa or chair. Choose a pretty tray to organize small items on a cocktail table; textures can be welcome for subtlety. Check out beautiful boxes or trivets in agate or other stones, such as those by Anna New York (www.annanewyork.com). Utilize napkins, placemats and dinnerware. Or change out the pulls on a dresser or cabinet.
Of course, any live greenery imported into interiors transforms the space. Bunches of pale green hydrangeas, giant fronds or lacey asparagus ferns refresh. Vertical gardens have captured the imagination in recent years, and there's nothing like having fresh herbs at hand when you're cooking or grilling. At Williams-Sonoma, several styles of hanging containers are available. When the cells are filled, the contrasting foliage is like a living piece of art.
Then there's the once-ubiquitous wheatgrass, a favorite prop accessory for magazine stylists, in low, rectangular containers. Pop one of those on your dining table, and your friends will be green with envy.
-- Aerin Lauder, 866-647-3330, www.aerin.com
-- Anthropologie, 800-309-2500, www.anthropologie.com
-- Arper, 212-647-8900, www.arper.com
-- Atelier Gary Lee, 312-644-4400, www.ateliergarylee.com
-- CB2, 800-606-6252, www.cb2.com
-- Issey Miyake Home collection by Iittala at MoMa, 800-851-4509, www.momastore.org
-- L'Objet, 855-562-5388, www.l-objet.com
-- Lalique, 888-488-2580, www.lalique.com/en
-- Kara Mann/Milling Road, 800-592-2537, www.mr.bakerfurniture.com
-- Roche Bobois, 312-955-0275, www.roche-bobois.com/en
-- Sam Robin Design, 305-375-0727, www.samrobin.com
-- Vista Alegre, available at Michael C. Fina, 800-289-3462, www.michaelcfina.com; www.vistaalegre.com
-- Williams-Sonoma, 877-812-6235, www.williams-sonoma.com
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)