Bright yellow gets major hype for its sunny disposition and mood-boosting prowess, but don’t overlook yellow’s more muted shades. From buttery creams to icy lemons, they are equally upbeat, yet deliciously discreet. 

Yellow Home Decor
Thibaut’s Maris wallpaper dresses a light-filled entry with soft yellow and a delightful, small-scale pattern. Photo courtesy of Thibaut.

Pondering a fresh palette? We’re going to make it very simple for you: consider pale yellow. Forget what you’ve heard about yellow being brassy and overly bright. The color has range, and because its paler shades are subdued, they’re joyous without being jarring. What’s more, many are nearly neutral, so they’re foolproof when used liberally in any space where warmth and cheer are prized. Or they can be injected in smaller doses as accents and accessories that blithely spread their happy hues. 

Yellow Home Decor
Designer Hillary Taylor imagined a soft yellow palette for the sitting area of a Salt Lake City home. The classic patterns and warm, subtle tones foster the room’s soothing ambiance. Photo by Lindsay Salazar.

Salt Lake City designer Hillary Taylor has a renewed affection for yellow, strong or subtle. “I’m in a yellow moment again, after about seven years!” exclaims Taylor, who likes to use it as the dominant color with “some real monochromatic punch.” That’s the approach she took recently as she bathed a bedroom’s cozy sitting room in buttery yellow. The heartwarming hue teams with cream on plaid chairs, checked draperies and embroidered pillows. Barely-blue walls and soft-white trim round out the décor’s comforting palette. The result is both sunny and soothing. 

Yellow Home Decor
Protea Flower wallpaper by Sanderson provides a softly colored, patterned backdrop to a charming kitchen. Photo courtesy of Sanderson.

Pale yellow boasts a broad spectrum, from the likes of Benjamin Moore’s whispery Barely Yellow to Farrow & Ball’s more lively Dayroom Yellow. Pantone—the global guru on color—gave Buttercream high marks for its versatility, calling the near-neutral color an “easy and effortless delicious off-white.” Across the board, luxury paint brands offer an impressive assortment of pale yellows, as do top-tier fabric and wallpaper makers. 

Yellow Home Decor
Lily Leaf wallpaper from Morris & Co. delivers a light golden hue with its simple, small-scale leaf pattern. Photo courtesy of Morris & Co.

Deciding on pale yellow is a no-brainer, but designers will warn you that choosing the perfect shade of paint takes effort and expertise. Test a considered shade in the space it will be used. The appearance of any yellow varies strongly depending on the amount of natural light in a space, as well as the colors of the surfaces around it. Get your choice right and you’ll be rewarded with a room that is as uplifting as the yellow that colors it.   

Read designer’s tips for decorating with yellow!

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Brad Mee
Brad Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of Utah Style & Design Magazine.