April 02,2022

Benjamin Moore Unveils Its 2016 Color of the Year: Simply White

by David Stewart

Benjamin Moore creative director Ellen O’Neill is like a private investigator trying to solve her case. Pages upon pages ripped from magazines are pinned to boards. She totes around lists of words or phrases that embody her verdict. She spots signs on the street or online and calls them in to her team. The task? Determining 2016’s Benjamin Moore Color of the Year. Summing up the modern zeitgeist in one hue (especially when the company she works for sells 3,500) is not something she takes lightly. “You can really make a case for almost any color,” she says matter-of-factly. “But I wanted to be really convinced.”

This year’s color made an elegant appearance in January at the Parisian trade show Maison et Objet, showed up in snowy swaths at the Oscars, and was buttoned into shirtdresses all summer. The sleeper hit? Simply White. Yes, that inconspicuous hue that often slips off the color wheel and into invisibility is the shade that captures today’s spirit of polished minimalism. It’s the color we forget how much we love.

Unveiled tonight, the Color of the Year is joined by 22 other shades (including three more riffs on white) that encourage using Simply White with a larger palette. By shooting an ad campaign within four different environments—all artist’s live/work spaces—the scheme is brought into three-dimensional form, helping customers imagine the paints in a context that they can relate to. We caught up with O’Neill last week to ask the big question: Why white? And got an answer that started in Paris and ended with the pope’s unforgettable alabaster ensemble.

Simply White feels right at home amid bisque porcelain in a ceramicist's studio.

Architectural Digest: What were the first signs that the color of the year might be white?

Ellen O’Neill: We were in Paris at Maison et Objet in January, and we had just come off of a photoshoot all about whites. I don’t know if it was because we had had so much snow or what creeps into your unconsciousness that starts to build this kind of epiphany, but one of the first stops when we got to Paris was the Fondation Louis Vuitton. I was more distracted by the physical building than by the collection. There was an exhibition on [Frank] Gehry’s buildings with the maquettes; it was an all-black space with the white iterations in plaster and paper. Everything was white in a black room. Then you step out on this balcony and you look through these great white sails. Throughout the whole trip I just kept seeing white. We saw tons of white at the trade show, and one night I just said, “Why can’t it be white? It should be white.”

  • David Stewart
  • April 02,2022

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