Every year, the wonders that are Dulux do a whole bunch of research and testing and watching and listening, and they identify a colour that not only sums up the decorative zeitgeist, but that looks to bring out the best in people’s spaces and sense of wellness in the home. They call it Colour of the Year, and for 2021, it was Brave Ground. Unusually for anything, we both really like it, and, as usual, would do completely, wildly, headline-makingly different things with it. Read on, friends, for a special painty edition of This Is How We Do It. Sponsored post.

Emma on Dulux Brave Ground

I’m a fan. In a frankly awful year, in which none of us were able to go outside, see people or do anything good; in which home became both sanctuary and prison – anything that helps me cocoon and feel like I’m in nature all at once is a Good Thing. And that’s Brave Ground. It has that rich, woody, red clay undertone of sunbaked earth and dusky summer evenings, and it’s run through with a cooler grey that pulls it up before it hits terracotta, and makes it feel somehow very grown-up. It’s greige, yes, but it’s greige that’s been around and seen the world a bit, got a tan, maybe bought some handmade baskets at a far-flung market. On a wall it’s all rich and woody and soft around the edges – the perfect tone for nights in with blankets and some kind of wholesome activity.

Moodboard of a minimal office space using Brave Ground

Robyn on Dulux Brave Ground

I know what’s going through your head. It’s ‘hot damn, Donaldson – what are you thinking exalting the virtues of a neutral?’. But hold your tonal ponies, team. I actually like neutrals. I work with them all the time. They are HARD to get right but they make a maximalist scheme sing. You find a lot of just bleurgh neutrals but Brave Ground is one of those shades that’s got added interest. There’s a music to it. It’s not grey. It’s not beige. It’s so robust you could take a bite out of it. It’s got the tactility of a mouse’s fur. I like it. Like I like my Almost Black, because it’s almost, but so much more than, black. Brave Ground is next level greige.  

Emma on rooms

So, Brave Ground is like bringing the outside inside. And what room would I most like to bring a bit of inspiring nature into? The office. You thought I was gonna go living room didn’t you? But that rich colour just said ‘ideal workspace’ to me, so I’m going with it. I spend a lot of time in my workspace staring at the wall and waiting for the right word to pop into my head, or staring out of the windows at trees, so it makes sense to combine the two and paint the walls a nature-centric colour, right? Stick with me, guys.

A colour swatch of various browns and greiges, ranging from reddy rust to almost-grey and back again

Robyn on rooms

I’m mad for murals at the moment so Brave Ground was always going to be a contributory colour. It’s an amazing accent hue, anchoring brights and complementing neutrals to create something grown-up but with bags of personality. The only place to deploy this sexy af wall art is the lounge – after all, you want all and sundry to see it. It brings a luxurious, polished feel to the space without feeling stuffy and pulls what are essentially a load of painted geometric shapes back from being too Timmy Mallet. Whack-a-day, indeed.

Emma on colour

Let’s not get excited – I’m talking tones. As well as identifying the colour we all need in our lives, Dulux puts together a a few palettes of complementary tones designed to go with the main event. As you’d expect, I’ve opted for the Dulux Trust Colours – a collection of browns in varying shades of chocolate and rust. For my make-believe office, I’ve chosen Cacao Nibs, Blanket Box, Knotted Twine, Vintage Coins and Acorn Cap, which makes me think of headwear a squirrel might choose.

Robyn on colour

So, Dulux release some lovely palettes to match each Colour of the Year but because I’m a renegade who don’t live by society’s rules, no sir, I’ve done a little mashup of a couple to create the luxe 70s lounge of dreams. I wanted a really deep, complex feature wall colour so grabbed the delicious Cobalt Night from the Dulux Earth Palette which is the darkest of dark blues and combined it with Treasure Chest and Spider’s Web from the Dulux Timeless Palette. The result? Just the most incredible pops of ochre, taupe and off-white on an exquisite inky backdrop.  

Emma on office things

So, Brave Ground is a soft colour, right? Which means I’m going to put it next to hard edges, clean lines and super-minimal pieces. Because it’ll soften the edges and turn a cold, hard space into something warm and inviting. Take the Artifox Desk 02, which is black, but wood, so keeps that natural texture running through the room. And the Case 675 chair, that combines a steel tube frame with a beautiful wood grain that harks back to the nature Brave Ground will bring in. See a pattern emerging? The Nordic Knots Norr Mälarstrand 02 rug pulls the wall colour down onto the floor, making the space feel even more cocoon-y, and then I’d wang a fiddle leaf fig in there for a little hit of lush green.

Image shows the Cedar Leather & Oudh candle on one side, with a colour swatch of Brave Ground (a rich greige) and Knotted Twine (a lighter greige)

Robyn on sitting room things

Now to the finishing touches – how do you gild the lily of this outstanding living room? I’ll tell you how: Walnut! Brass! Statement ceramics! Art! With the mural, you actually want the rest of the room to be about texture and interest and not pull too much focus, instead juxtaposing against the geometry of the pattern.  I’m talking a pink (yes, pink) sofa like the Alena one from Swoon and pop that next to a side table produced specifically to balance a cocktail on. This marble, brass and wood wonder from West Elm should do the job. Take inspiration from the lighter shades to choose chunky knit blankets and statement vases and pots carefully scatted around the room. Top it all off with a monochrome abstract artwork or two like this no-brainer from and you’ve created an amazing space made to escape to: full of interest but enveloping enough to allow you to switch off.  

Emma on scent

If Brave Ground smelled like anything to me, it’d be the smell of a log sprinkled in cinnamon that’s just caught fire. Frankly, if you’re not sprinkling your logs with cinnamon before you burn them, what’s even the point? So I’ve paired it with Cedar’s Leather and Oudh candle, with basically all of those notes in it. The person who works in this office is definitely somebody who burns candles all day.

Robyn on scent

I want this space to smell of an old rich man’s wallet, shelves full of books and with a slight whiff of incense. I want it to smell like I imagine Sherlock Holmes’ house did. I’d deploy True Grace’s Library diffuser liberally to create that effect or for a little twist light a D.S and Durga x Johnnie Walker candle to bring a sense of the wild outdoors in. Whisky, peaty, woody bliss.

Emma in summary

In summary: for me, Dulux Brave Ground is a winner. It’s a full-bodied neutral that makes me actively want to spend time indoors. It’s soft, but has an edge, it’s warm, but feels complex, which is how people describe me. They don’t. But I think in this very challenging year, when nobody’s quite sure of anything, to have a colour that feels so solid and attached to the earth is really reassuring. Like a really good hug, it envelopes you and makes you feel warm inside. And that, friends, is magic.

Robyn in summary

This year I am all about creating a sanctuary, soothing the senses and shrouding myself in calming colours. See you later stimulation, it’s hibernation I’m after. Dulux Brave Ground masterfully facilitates this. It’s a really robust neutral with enough interest to not send you to sleep but nods enough to nature to give a little boost when we’re trapped indoors. It’s a colour designed to compliment others and promote feelings of serenity, peace and space, even in a maximalist scheme. It really is the ideal colour for creating a harmonious interior in a year that’s been anything but.

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