“Millennial Pink”

Millennial Pink

What is pink? It is the color of love, affection and approachability—not intimidating. Blush. Nothing sounds softer than… blush. Pink was first used as a “color name” in the late 17th century. We associate pink with sensitivity and romantic charm. Personally, I agree with this summary. Why “Millennial” pink? A Millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1986 putting them at 22 to 37 years old. Typically the age group that sets “trends.”

My first encounter with pink was the huge popularity of the Laura Ashley brand in the early 1980s. That introduction was followed by the “Preppy Look” while I was in high school. Who didn’t own a pair of green J. G. Hook wide-whale corduroys and a pink button down? As for pink in interiors, I grew up with “hunter green” walls and smoky camel trim and woodwork. My parents loved a well decorated home. One particular Christmas, my mother decorated the entire house in pink instead of the standard red. I hadn’t cared for pink as a little girl but the romantic lure of Laura Ashley pulled me in to the pink.

My first attempt at this color on walls was five years ago in a guest bedroom in our former Oak Hill home. After 6 test quarts, I chose my pink and… I chose incorrectly. Ouch. The reflection from one wall to the next in a tiny room was just awful. We lived with it and carried on. What’s done is done. It didn’t deter the family with three young boys from buying our house. I asked the new owners which son got the pink room—she said the two year old… he’s clueless.

If you have ever visited The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia you’ve seen the work of the legendry designer Dorothy Draper. Her visionary design work there from 1946 thru the 1960’s gives you a very bold perspective on pink. This bold tradition of Ms. Draper’s interior design legacy was carried on by Carleton Varney, president of Dorothy Draper & Co. While this vibrant vision of pink and many other colors is a feast for the eye and fits The Greenbrier fabulously, the boldness should be left there, in the hotel, at least for my comfort level.

As John and I started the transformation of our “new” (circa 1982) home and I began to think through our color palette, I felt the need to revisit pink. Without any thought or debate, I knew our home palette would be soft. Soft does not always mean neutral. Soft can be full of color. I needed our home to be enveloping, warm, inviting and soothing. The colors of our bedroom, dining room, kitchen, keeping room and library on the main floor were decided in moments but the living room took considerable thought. It would be the most viewed room by anyone who stepped inside. It was the last to be decided upon and the room with the least amount of existing furnishings. Even with the lingering memory of the almost nauseating pink left behind in Oak Hill, I passed by the street, Sewanee Road, and instantly thought of one of the most beautiful rooms I had ever been in. This room was in a vintage home that I had been invited to for a meeting to plan an event I was helping coordinate. While in this lovely living room I remember thinking—I don’t know what it is but I love it and it feels so warm and comforting. It took a second look to realize the room was painted pink. Pale pink. In the corner was a matte black grand piano, there were beautiful upholstered pieces and light-hearted dark wood antiques and not one other drop of pink. Just those soft walls.

The search for the perfect pink for our new living room began. I ordered eleven test quarts of various pinks. I tested three at a time on all four walls. I checked the swatches three times a day. In the morning light when opening the house for workers, at 5:00 pm as I closed up for the day and after dark with random lamps placed on stacks of hardwood as John and I would travel back at night for a progress check together. One by one all the pinks were painted over with primer. Thankfully, I have a patient, kind painter who for 13 years has understood my paint selection process. I am grateful for her tolerance of my method. I pulled the twelfth sample from the Farrow & Ball chart and had Sherwin Williams match it. As a safety precaution, I asked them to then cut the formula in half. Success! Color chosen, room painted.

My mother reminded me that this “trend” was certainly not new and that I had seen it before. She wasn’t referring to the 1980’s Laura Ashley craze but back to her mother, my grandmother. As we talked about it further, I remembered the black and white photographs of my grandparents’ house. The walls were dark and the draperies were light. These “dark” walls were actually a rich green and the draperies were pink shantung silk. She said she remembered these drapes when they were installed. They hung on muted beige wooden rods and my grandmother had hand painted every single drapery ring. She recalled that the furniture was upholstered in a beige tapestry and soft pink fabrics, proving that it has been a versatile, stylish color for years. Since my grandparents’ living room was created in the 1950’s and Dorothy Draper started using the color in the 1940’s, I think our soft pink will withstand the test of time.

John and I have had plenty of guests in our home over the last year and on four separate occasions a guest has walked through the pink living room, admired it and reached the library and turned around to say… oh wait, that room is pink! It is quite subtle and it does sneak up on you. So, I think I reached my goal… quiet, warm, enveloping pink.

Whether it is with art, objects or paint colors… your nest should be well collected.


  • In The Pink Dorothy Draper by Carleton Varney
  • Ann Courtney Grant
  • Sherwin-Williams, Belle Meade
  • Farrow & Ball, Wimborne Minster, United Kingdom
  • Color: Farrow & Ball, Pink Ground

NOTE: For further reading and insights in to the popularity and use of pink for interiors google “Why Mamie Eisenhower Loved Pink” at SaveThePinkBathrooms.com. It is a very interesting read and you will view her in a completely different light.

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