Coral crush

This sea-inspired red hue is totally cheerful and on trend

Hjelle Glimt Pillow, $215 DWR // dwr.com
Barrel Back Dining Chair in Coral Zebra by Scalamandré, $689 The Inside by Havenly // theinside.com
The Big Salad Set in Persimmon, $83 Ekobo // by-ekobo.com
Hollis Metal Framed Upholstered Chair in Coral Performance Velvet, $420 Interior Define // interiordefine.com
Schoolhouse Electric Clock, $299 Schoolhouse // schoolhouse.com
Bardot Persimmon 70” x 55” Recycled Cashmere Throw Blanket, $300 Crate & Barrel // crateandbarrel.com
Cavanagh Small Lantern in Coral & Gild, $819 Visual Comfort & Co. // visualcomfort.com

The Pantone Institute named “Living Coral” its Color of the Year back in 2019, and as color trends tend to go, it took a couple of years for such a fashion-forward hue to seep its way into the home space. But coral has officially arrived, with Benjamin Moore choosing a coral called “Raspberry Blush” as their Color of the Year for 2023. This vibrant shade of coral is a departure from the more subdued hues the paint company has picked for the past four years. “We have seen a progression toward warmer, more saturated colors. People are becoming more comfortable with using bolder colors in their homes and being more expressive in their designs,” says Arianna Cesa, associate manager of color marketing at Benjamin Moore. “We felt it was the right time to highlight a dynamic, charismatic color that encourages color confidence.”

At first blush, coral may feel more like the shores of the Caribbean than the coast of Maine, but coral is right at home on any coast. It’s a hue that plays especially well with Maine’s favorite interior color: blue. Coral is rooted in the sea, taking its name from the reddish “precious coral.” While we think of the hue of cooked lobster shells as red, it’s not a true scarlet but rather an orange-ish red some might call coral.

Weaving coral into your home is a great way to bring in a bit of bold color. It’s also an instant burst of cheer and energy. We talked to decorators in Maine and beyond to find out how to make this color work in your home.

Add coral to a white room.
An easy way to work with coral is to pair it with crisp white. “Coral is such a bold and complex tone that white gives it room to fully shine,” says Jennifer J. Morris, the principal of JMorris Design in Brooklyn, New York. Morris notes that putting coral in a white room “keeps the room bright.”

Try a tonal color scheme.
Emily Butler, an interior designer based in New York City, points out, “If you look at a peach paint color and then move down the color card, you’ll find yourself looking at coral shades.” For a foolproof scheme, Butler suggests using these lighter variations on your coral tone, especially “when you want color, but you don’t want it to feel so bold.” For example, Butler likes combining coral accents with peach walls, so the coral moment does not feel overly bold or overwhelming.

But skip it with pink.
Coral is a color that pairs nicely with many other hues, but Butler advises steering clear of true pinks. “Coral tones have some lovely orange undertones, and that warmth is what really makes this color so pleasing,” she says.

Make a cool combination.
Butler particularly encourages combining coral with cooler tones. “Coral plays well with cool tones to balance its warmth,” she says. Think blues, greens, and aquas. Butler has paired coral with everything from the palest blue to deep navy. If you are having trouble figuring out how to coordinate coral with a blue, Butler suggests lightening up the blue to a quieter shade.

Lean into greens.
“Coral and green naturally pair so beautifully together, as they are complementary colors,” says Yarmouth-based interior designer Samantha Pappas. In a design for a preteen girl’s bedroom, Pappas combined coral with small touches of green. “The green helped cut through the traditionally ‘feminine’ shades and elevated the design,” she notes.

Use it where you want a little “wow.”
Decorators often talk about adding a “pop” of color to an otherwise neutral scheme; in the case of a recent Cape Elizabeth project Pappas designed, coral really does jump forward. Pappas used the hue in two places. “When guests walk into the home they see this pop of fun color on a pair of French doors, setting the tone for the rest of the home,” she says. “As you turn the corner, you see the same coral in the kitchen stools. I wanted the color to be striking and fun but not overwhelming, so I used it sparingly.”

Try it in a dining room.
If you’re feeling bold and would like to try coral on all four walls, Cesa suggests, “Use it in a dining room as a modern, blushed update on the classic, deep red dining room.” She adds, “Consider using it on the walls and trim for complete color immersion, and change up the sheen for a subtle contrast.”

Put it where you want to look pretty.
It’s almost clichéd advice to experiment with bold color in a powder room, but Cesa points out that all pinkish colors, including coral, have an added benefit of flattering the people within the room, so it’s a good choice for a spot that prominently features a mirror. If you go this route, she suggests using it on the walls, trim, and ceiling to create an unexpected and impactful design.

Kids will love this hue.
“I think kids get overlooked for being able to enjoy complex color tones that are tints of the primary colors,” says Morris, who used coral on the upper half of a playroom’s walls. “Coral is a really fun color—it gives great energy and glow—it’s an ideal color for an active kid’s room.”

The Color Coral

When used as a color name, the word “coral” refers not to the colorful, living corals found in tropical reefs, which can be a whole rainbow of colors, but more specifically to the Corallium genus, known commonly as “precious coral,” which is found in cooler waters. The Latin word corallium is likely derived from a Semitic language: in Hebrew, goral means “small pebble,” and in Arabic jaral means “small stone.”

There are thousands of different species of corals, but there are only 31 in the Corallium genus. The difference between this group and other corals is their skeleton. Most corals have white skeletons (which is why reef die-off is often referred to as “bleaching”), but precious coral’s skeleton is red or pink-orange. Both types of skeleton are composed mostly of calcium carbonate, but the precious coral’s is tinted by carotenoids.

The red skeleton of this coral has long been prized for jewelry making. Precious coral was used for decoration as far back as 8000 BCE, the date ascribed to some coral amulets uncovered in Neolithic grave sites. Precious coral has been valued in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia from antiquity to today, and as a result coral has been intensively exploited. While no precious corals grow anywhere near New England, in 2013 soft, deep-sea corals, including red tree coral (Primnoa), were discovered in the Gulf of Maine. Coral in Maine—who knew?

1513: The year “coral” was first recorded as a color word in English