Sherwin Williams Color of the Year - Cavern Clay, Leaves Me in the Dust

This year, as in so many years past, the Sherwin Williams “color of the year” is getting some serious shade from my design peers.

SW Cavern Clay

SW Cavern Clay

Truth be told, I don’t really like it either, but I knew it was coming.

Warm earthy tones do nothing for my complexion, which is weird considering these dark auburn (and yes - grey roots). For me personally, and I suspect my designer friends, its just a little too close to memories of groovy shag carpets in shades of synthetic rust that may have housed some questionable funk. Scratchy olefin upholstery you could put a cigarette out on, and Macramé plant hangers with mom’s special blend growing in the living room. Don’t even get me started on corduroy overalls!

That’s me. Circa 1972

That’s me. Circa 1972

Fashion has been tap-dancing around this color for seasons, edging ever closer to the drain. Think back to copper accents, rose gold, and even millennial pink. Pretty similar, but still all palatable. This just takes it over the edge of no return into the land of greyed down earth tones that look like old photos of a Woodstock concert dug out a lock box from dad’s garage stash of memories.

Obviously, I don’t love this color.

But let’s think for a minute about WHY this color is resonating with our younger clients and why in the word it even matters.

Notice the faux Fur? That was a big hit at Summer Las Vegas Market

Notice the faux Fur? That was a big hit at Summer Las Vegas Market

 I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but fashion is no longer trying to “woo” our old and set-in-our-ways dollar bills. Fashion has kissed us goodbye and moved on to what they hope will be deeper pockets. Grooming if you will.

Millennials love this color family. One step into an Anthropologie or H&M should show you that. Its full of these muddled earth shades. Think about the influence on these kids. They were the first generation that wasn’t allowed outside to play for fear of stranger danger. They spent their entire childhood in a mix of Barney Purple or Blues Clues Blue and Steve Green.

What is the opposite of that? Cavern Clay SW 7701

Millennial buying trends are now fully upon us mainstream and inescapable. At 25% of the population, they are the largest influence on production design and account for $170 billion in purchases. Yes, their buying habits are different from ours. Yes, they say that 53% Millennials prefer to spend on experiences rather than objects. But what about the 47% who can’t take off for a week and go rafting and glamping? Buy a pillow that makes you believe you lost your shoes at Coachella.


Every generation also tries to reach back and connect to the lifestyle and color family of their grandparents. Growing up my house was full of rust, browns, sunflower gold. When I started buying household furnishings, the very last thing I wanted was anything yellow! Yuck. Too much mom. But grandma’s stuff was fabulous! Cabbage roses anyone?

I’m willing to bet that you have experienced the same dagger in the heart feeling I have when setting your beloved daughters up in their new homes – they hate your stuff and don’t want anything to do with your leftover Tuscan style or Chocolate cherry stained whatever.

So, my dear designing friend, embrace the fact that our grandbabies will someday want our dusty Waverly throw pillows and stainless tchotchkes, assuming of course you still have them because we are the disposable era. In the meantime, get your own house in order before these dusty, dirty colors infiltrate everything and there’s nothing peacock blue left on the shelves!

Kisses to you! R