The Secret Lives in paperback. Plus: eye-bending colours; Facebook’s nadir; and bricks-and-mortar shops in a digital age


It won’t shock you to hear that I spend a lot of my time thinking about colours. Bright ones, pallid ones, extinct ones, ugly ones: come one, come all. This interest, of course, led me to write The Secret Lives of Colour — an extended paperback version of which is coming out in September [below, left]. But my interest didn’t end there, of course. I still profile individual shades for Elle Decoration in a column of sorts that I have been writing now for five years! Early in the year I held forth on Vantablack and the VBx2 coating used at the Winter Olymptics in Seoul for both CNN  and Marketplace. In the past few months I’ve also explored the beauty and power of colour names; Werner’s Nomenclature, a reference book used by Darwin aboard HMS Beagle; the Forbes pigment collection at Harvard art museums [paywall]; and Pantone’s  Ultra Violet. And finally: later this month, Color Factory, an interactive exhibit, will open in New York after a wildly successful stay in San Francisco last year. And I’m thrilled to say that I was asked to collaborate on part of the space.

isbn9781473630833But of course there’s always more to think about and more to learn. Although it’s a couple of years old now, I recently re-discovered (and still love) this Crayon chronology. On a more serious note, this excellent article in Bloomberg looked at the chemist searching for a bright, stable red: a colour that could be worth a billion dollars. While this trend-focused one from the Guardian shows that black, for many years a fashion stalwart, is losing ground to brighter hues in the era of Instagram. An assessment, incidentally, that the Pantone Institute, agrees with. So powerful is the effect, they argue, that it’s beginning to shape not only high-street trends and spending habits but retails spaces, restaurants and museums. Perhaps my favourite find, however, is the mind-melting work of David Novick, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas, an example of which is reproduced above. He enjoys creating images, or illusions, which show how easily we can be deceived by colours. In the image above, for example, the circular dots, although we perceive them as four different tints, are actually the same colour: RGB 250, 219, 172.

Away from the dizzying delights of the spectrum, below is a selection of things that caught my eye this month as well as some of the pieces that I’ve worked on. Enjoy!

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It’s been a very rough two years in the insular world of Facebook

A vivid, teeming painting that foretold the grim fate of wealthy family of 17th-century landowners

This copy of the Declaration of Independence was hidden behind some wallpaper in a home in Virginia

Burberry incinerated stock worth £28m in the past year alone

Over on Always Take Notes we’ve spoken to a range of brilliant guests, inlcuding Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman and the author Jeremy Gavron

How the point — and design — of bricks-and-mortar shops is evolving in the age of internet shopping

Mary Ellis, who began flying Spitfires in Britain 1941 and was among the first women to get equal pay, died earlier this month aged 101

How Gwyneth built Goop

The bacteria responsible for petrichor: the smell of rain

Have you watched ‘Killing Eve‘? If not, do so immediately! I’ve also recently reviewed ‘Sharp Objects‘, ‘Phantom Threads‘ and ‘Patrick Melrose

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