WHEN WILLIE NELSON wrote, “Hello, Walls,” a massive country-music hit for Faron Young in 1961, he surely didn’t foresee a time when virus-spooked Americans would sequester themselves at home for months at a stretch. “I’ll bet you dread to spend / Another lonely night with me,” Mr. Nelson penned of his walls.

These days, of course, we’re all staring at our walls a lot. And our collective edginess seems to have affected our decision-making when it comes to choosing colors to paint them. According to Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, the brand has been seeing strong sales growth for certain greens and blues. This isn’t entirely unpredictable, she said: Gentle shades associated with nature make us “feel grounded and connected to the space around [us]” when our lives are so uncertain.

Makes sense, right? But how to explain another pandemic-fueled paint-trend: a clamoring for black, as reported by a number of paint-manufacturer representatives we interviewed. While black’s growing popularity as an interior paint color might suggest that we’re mired in depression, Patrick O’Donnell, international brand ambassador at Farrow & Ball, sees it differently. While “most of us perceive black as intimidating and difficult to use,” he said, thoughtful applications of black can be soothing, especially in home offices. Farrow & Ball’s data suggests that customers are particularly responding to “more nuanced versions,” such as blueish noirs, instead of pure black. Another possible attraction? Black’s ability to complement another big pandemic trend: house plants. “Black is also a fantastic foil to planting,” Mr. O’Donnell said, “and verdant greens will really pop against this saturated backdrop.”

Here, five shades that saw particularly notable jumps in popularity over the past year.


Farrow & Ball

“Black can—if used judiciously—create surprisingly calming atmospheres,” said Mr. O’Donnell at Farrow & Ball, which saw black paints, such as Farrow & Ball Off-Black No. 57, which skews a bit blue, spike in sales. Mr. O’Donnell noted black’s potential for turning a light-starved room into a cocoon, and for aiding focus of the mind in a home office, “where they are non-distracting.” From $110 a gallon, farrow-ball.com

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