Pink is the color of a namesake flower that is a pale tint of red. It was first used as a color name in the late 17th century. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the color most often associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, childhood, femininity, and romance.
A combination of pink and white is associated with chastity and innocence, whereas a combination of pink and black links to eroticism and seduction. In the 21st century, pink is seen as a symbol of femininity, though this has not always been true; in the 1920s, pink was seen as a color that reflected masculinity.
Pink colors are usually light or desaturated shades of reds, roses, and magentas which are created on computer and television screens using the RGB color model and in printing with the CMYK color model. As such, it is an arbitrary classification of color.
The color pink is named after the flowers, pinks, flowering plants in the genus Dianthus, and derives from the frilled edge of the flowers. The verb “to pink” dates from the 14th century and means “to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern” (possibly from German picken, “to peck”). It has survived to the current day in pinking shears, hand-held scissors that cut a zig-zagged line to prevent fraying.
The zenith of the color pink was the 18th century, when pastel colors became very fashionable in all the courts of Europe. Pink was particularly championed by Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764), the mistress of King Louis XV of France, who wore combinations of pale blue and pink, and had a particular tint of pink made for her by the Sevres porcelain factory, created by adding nuances of blue, black and yellow.
While pink was quite evidently the color of seduction in the portraits made by George Romney of Emma, Lady Hamilton, the future mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, in the late 18th century, it had the completely opposite meaning in the portrait of Sarah Barrett Moulton painted by Thomas Lawrence in 1794. In this painting, it symbolized childhood, innocence and tenderness. Sarah Moulton was just eleven years of age when the picture was painted, and died the following year.
In 19th century England, pink ribbons or decorations were often worn by young boys; boys were simply considered small men, and while men in England wore red uniforms, boys wore pink. In fact the clothing for children in the 19th century was almost always white, since, before the invention of chemical dyes, clothing of any color would quickly fade when washed in boiling water. Queen Victoria was painted in 1850 with her seventh child and third son, Prince Arthur, who wore white and pink. In late nineteenth-century France, Impressionist painters working in a pastel color palette sometimes depicted women wearing the color pink, such as Edgar Degas’ image of ballet dancers or Mary Cassatt’s images of women and children.
A dress parade, held in 1949, at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, caused a stir among attendees due to the vibrant pink tones in the dresses and garments. The journalists and critics of the time, seeking to know Mexican designer Ramón Valdiosera’s inspiration, asked him about the origin of the color. The artist simply replied that that pink was already part of Mexican culture, which the New York fashion critic Perle Mesta then described as Mexican Pink.
The First inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953), when Eisenhower’s wife Mamie Eisenhower wore a pink dress as her inaugural gown, is thought to have been a key turning point in the association of pink as a color associated with girls. Mamie’s strong liking of pink led to the public association with pink being a color that “ladylike women wear.” The 1957 American musical Funny Face also played a role in cementing the color’s association with women.
In the 20th century, pinks became bolder, brighter, and more assertive, partly because of the invention of chemical dyes that did not fade. The pioneer in the creation of the new wave of pinks was the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, (1890-1973), who was aligned with the artists of the surrealist movement, including Jean Cocteau. In 1931 she created a new variety of the color, called shocking pink, made by mixing magenta with a small amount of white. She launched a perfume called Shocking, sold in a bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso, said to be modelled on that of Mae West. Her fashions, co-designed with artists like Cocteau, featured the new pinks.
In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, inmates of Nazi concentration camps who were accused of homosexuality were forced to wear a pink triangle. Because of this, the pink triangle has become a symbol of the modern gay rights movement.
The transition to pink as a sexually differentiating color for girls occurred gradually, through the selective process of the marketplace, in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1920s, some groups had described pink as a masculine color, an equivalent to red, which was considered for men but lighter for boys. But stores nonetheless found that people were increasingly choosing to buy pink for girls, and blue for boys, until this became an accepted norm in the 1940s.
The renaissance of this color is not surprising – from the softest blush to the hottest fuchsia, every one of these pink room ideas is sublime
From the palest of confetti through setting plaster and deeper terracotta tones, pink can form a reliable background color that channels anything from a contemporary to a classical country-house spirit. What’s more, it has been named the most beautiful color for a room.
When decorating with pink, you must consider the light conditions of the space. ‘Pink is perfect for warming up north-facing rooms where soft, pale shades with just a hint of apricot look amazing, but cooler blush pinks can look a bit chilly,’ says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux(opens in new tab).
Warm and joyful yet still light, soft pinks are a fabulous way to inject fun into everyday spaces like kitchens. To spark joy in her historic Cotswold home, and bring a modern twist to the space, interior designer Lisa Bowcott chose a Devol(opens in new tab) kitchen painted in Old Rose and Pantry Blue.
‘I want every room to make me ‘feel’ something. I like it when people smile because they love the pink kitchen,’ she says.
Bold pinks are a fabulous way to create interiors with impact. With it’s red undertones, this Leather shade from Little Greene(opens in new tab) brings wow-factor to this living space while also keeping it feeling warm and inviting. Streamlined black side tables and boxy neutral seating gives the space a sophisticated and contemporary edge.
If you’re looking for a wall color for a tranquil country bedroom then you can’t go wrong with a soft pink.
‘Soft Pinks are really rising to the fore, as they provide warmth to a space whilst remaining light and welcoming. They can be used in multiple spaces because they are warm enough to make us feel cosy and playful enough to not be taken too seriously,’ explains Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene.
In this scheme the delicate pink brings gentle color without distracting from the beautiful rural vistas and characterful period features including the original wood floor.
Decorating with white is guaranteed to keep kitchens feeling bright and airy, however, often bright white and cool whites can leave spaces feeling cold. Opting for white with subtle hints of pink is a a lovely way to bring warmth. ‘South-facing rooms with plenty of light can take cooler whites with their undertones of blue or green, but we recommend warmer whites for darker, north-facing rooms,’ explains Dominic Myland, director of Mylands Paints(opens in new tab).
‘This kitchen is painted in Mylands Kensington Rose™ No. 22, a soft white with a hint of red ochre, and Holland Park™ No.5, a versatile off-white; the colors work cohesively with the natural marble surfaces. The soft pink tone dictated the color scheme for the whole kitchen and introduces distinctive color without taking over the room,’ add the team at Mylands.
Rose pink is a joyful wall color for a vibrant living space; seen here is Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink. It’s a surprisingly accommodating backdrop, sitting happily alongside the multitude of other shades in this colorful scheme – from emerald and cobalt to deep burgundy and gold – all tied together in this painterly rug from The Rug Company.
The atmosphere of a kitchen can be greatly influenced by the color you choose. ‘There’s so much to consider when designing your kitchen, and color is one of the most effective tools you have when it comes to creating atmosphere and character,’ says Stephanie Nix, kitchen designer at Neptune(opens in new tab).
‘Pinks work beautifully with the undertones of Carrara marble, and mix with pale or darker greys to create a calming cooking space. You could also introduce black accessories through lighting or black-bronze handles to keep the look chic and sophisticated.’
For a seamless, uncluttered look, use the same rosy pink hue across both walls and kitchen cabinets. Where space allows, keep cabinets to floor level only to give your kitchen an airy feel. This Suffolk kitchen in Old Rose paint is by Neptune.
Set against soft grey – which is a beautiful paneling paint idea – pink is surprisingly sophisticated, and this classic combination is a good way to minimize the color’s sugary undertones.
‘Blush pink has a very alluring quality. It draws you in, is welcoming and easy on the eye. But you have to be really careful not to get too sickly sweet,’ says interior designer Samantha Todhunter. ‘To dial back the sugary nature of some pinks, look to use shades with tones of grey.’
This elegant table setting combines plain cloths with painterly patterned napkins and glass and metallic accents. A blush linen table cloth lends a relaxed look, while an Art Deco-inspired light fitting adds a hint of glamor.
For a relaxed and balanced living space, use plain blush pink curtains as a canvas to offset botanical prints and enhance the sense of light in the space.
In this scheme by Clarke & Clarke(opens in new tab), sash windows lend themselves to an elegant combination of Roman blinds in Gardenia in Blush, and sumptuous full-length curtains in Kelso in Blush.
An accent chair and mix-and-match cushions tie the scheme together.
For a country cottage look, opt for a pretty wallpaper and keep it simple by choosing a two tone design – then it can act as a background for vintage paintings and decorative plates.
This Flower berry(opens in new tab) Pink wallpaper is from a selection designed by Penny Morrison. Its floral silhouettes sit perfectly on the slightly worn pink background.
Making a pink room look elegant relies on it being used alongside other colors that suit it. You can paint all four walls of a room pink and get an elegant result, just as you can add accents of pink to liven a neutral space.
To create a pared back look, match pale pinks with white and other pale colors; for a richer scheme, put deep, musky pink alongside really earthy tones, like honey and beige.
Pink of all tones can also look wonderful alongside black. The key is balance – but neutrals next to pink will always make it look elegant.
Mixing up numerous prints and patterns makes for an interesting scheme and don’t forget to throw in a few sumptuous textures too.
How about a room that has more shades of pink than any other color? ‘Gentle pinks are here to stay,’ says interior designer and creative director Birdie Fortescue(opens in new tab).
‘A color that was once reserved for bedroom schemes can be used to add freshness and give a cheerful warmth to other areas of the home. Here, muted rose pinks make a statement without being too bold or overbearing.’
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