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SHADES OF SAFE A SOLID CHOICE

While you're still deciding where to spend next year's summer vacation, color forecasters have already predicted what color your bathing suit will be for the year.

The housing crisis, ongoing war, historic election and economic downturn have combined to shape Americans' color tastes. We're searching for the color equivalent of mac and cheese: safe, traditional and comforting.

But the pops of bright colors, from crimson to acid yellow, suggest that we're ultimately hopeful about the future. Neutrals are now, especially in larger purchases like cars, sofas or carpets.

"For those big-ticket items, we'll make the safer choice such as neutrals, from rich gray to camel," says Emily Kiker Morrow, director of color, style and design at Shaw Industries. And, she continues, "We're using trendier colors, like acid green or amethyst, as accent pieces."

Denise Turner, founder of Color Turners and a color forecaster, agrees. "Neutrals continue to flourish, as companions for brighter hues or as stand-alone, monochromatic color schemes."

Both forecasters see chocolate brown on the wane, though Turner notes that brown is still the go-to color in nearly every industry, from auto manufacturing to fashion to home. The guard is changing, however, as lighter browns begin to make an appearance. Morrow says, "We're seeing browns shift to the colors of spices and beverages. Think mocha and cinnamon."

Which neutral might just surpass brown as the favorite? Gray. And it covers a wide range of hues, which span soft gray to charcoal to hematite, and gain interest from metallic and pearlescent accents.

Green continues to gain strength from its association with the growing shift toward eco-consciousness. It will show up in everything from fabrics to accessories to countertops.

You'll see red as a bold accent in black-and-white designs; and look for pink in romantic bedrooms, the modern girl's living room or even the kitchen, from cabinetry to appliances.

Violet came in through the back door, catching fire in the Goth trend in high schools (think purple-black T-shirts, eyeliner and fingernail polish). From there it made its way to the runway, and now it's lightening as it crosses into the home; popular variations include violet and wine.

The trend toward violet, wine and amethyst is edging out soft lavenders or true purples. These colors, which were so popular in the 1980s, have taken a back seat to their bolder cousins.

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