How to Design Interiors with the Color Coral in 2019

by Vicki Nemeth
2019 is here, and the color coral is hot. Actually, it’s a warm and expressive response to the middle of winter. Pantone made Living Coral their Color of the Year for 2019, to provide a needed sense of optimism. For the rest of us, coral can be an encouraging reminder to lower our carbon footprints and take care of our reefs.
How to design interiors with the color coral in 2019
So how can a homeowner use the color coral in their interior design? The first step is to understand the color theory and history underpinning it.

First, what is “coral”?

How to Design Interiors with the Color Coral in 2019

The color coral comes from a particular genus of coral in the ocean called Corallium. Corallium is a group of coral species which humans commonly call precious coral or red coral. Various species live in the Mediterranian Sea and off the eastern coast of Asia. Throughout history, humans have harvested precious coral to create art, jewelery, and folk medicine.

Today, local fisheries and conservationists are debating different ways to protect the species and harvest them responsibly. But coral has established its legacy as a sophisticated tertiary color.

It’s not pink, it’s light orange-red

The color coral is not a pink. It’s partly orange. The confusion comes from the fact that orange contains some red, and pink is a tint of red. But coral is a tint of orange-red.

It’s good news for blue lovers

Coral’s red-orange origins affect which complementary colors match. While pink is an adventurous off-match for blue, coral complements blue more directly. On the other hand, pink is a better complement for various greens than coral is. Prefer blue-greens like cyan and teal? Coral and red-orange are perfectly opposite to those, perfect complements.

There are always neutrals

Neutrals may go with everything, but everything has a unique effect on neutrals. Coral is louder than pink but gentler and more sophisticated than orange. It is a color of joy: happiness that is employed wisely. A pop of coral in a neutral environment is not just stylish but also rich and welcoming.

Use your eyes, not your computer screen

When deciding where to put any color, it’s imperative that you get physical samples and view them in various kinds of lighting you plan to use, on the materials you plan to use and the angles you plan to see them from. For example, you may want to view a paint swatch in indoor daylight and evening lighting.

Different materials and textures can affect the way a color looks in real life. For example, a computer screen can’t simulate all the dimensions of a fabric weave. Plus, computer screens differ from one another. Your computer screen can help you make preliminary color choices, but it won’t represent colors accurately enough to ensure your final decision.
Since different colors interact with light differently, you should even use real samples to view complementary colors together, to ensure they match the way you intend at different times of day.

Can’t find coral-colored decor solutions? Try using the light

Since coral is a relative of pink, you can use lighting to temporarily turn a pink or red object coral. For coral in daylight, place a translucent red drape over a sunny window to turn it coral in appearance or to shine coral light into the room. For coral in the evening, select light bulbs that are warm in color to add that golden tint to a pink or red item.

Brands always have a different idea of what a color name means

Another reason why your computer screen can’t finalize your color decisions is, your paint and textile brands have their own meanings for color names. Coral pictures and swatches you find online may not look the same as the color any given brand calls “coral,” and brands will differ from each other, too. That’s why they have their own palette and sample booklets. Sometimes they even require you to view swatches under certain light and light color levels to make sure you’re seeing the sample color they meant for you to see.

The difference between coral and Living Coral


Coral Living Coral

Pantone creates its colors by mixing pigments, so they can never quite show up properly on a computer screen. When designers do their best to simulate Living Coral on screens, the result is a pinkish red-orange, while most coral colors are orange-red.
Wait. Red-orange? Orange-red? Yes, those are different colors. Red-orange has a more red hue. Orange-red has a more orange hue. All coral colors are lighter tints of these hues that you can see between red and orange.

Orange-Red Red-Orange

Another trait that distinguishes Living Coral from many coral colors is daring brightness and saturation. Living Coral catches the eye almost as though Pantone managed to create a new color. Its perpetual youth is challenging enough to please eyes hungry for stimuli, as the web and gaming generation begin to gain traction and become a buying audience.

Other similar colors


Coral Pink


Coral pink is, not surprisingly, a pinker version of coral. It’s a perfect complement to teal.



The color coral is one of the most trending shades of this yearBittersweet is another orange with a little bit of pink in it. It came into its own at the turn of the twentieth century and is a luxurious member of the Art Nouveau palette.




Salmon the color is more pink and delicate than coral with hardly any orange. Use it to send a gentler message or to balance a greener blue-green.


Light Salmon


Light salmon, with its lighter tint, may be easier than salmon to use in room designs. Nearly a neutral, it can set a calm mood while providing more color than traditional neutrals.


Tea Rose Orange


The color coral is one of the most trending shades of this year

Tea rose orange is inspired by the pink and gold spectrum of hybrid tea roses which Europeans started breeding in the 1800s. These hybrids combine Chinese tea roses with English hybrid perpetuals to create petals with strong shapes, often with dual coloration fading from a yellow at the heart to pink at the tips. Tea rose orange is in the orange category, unlike regular tea rose, which is in the rose category.


Terra Cotta


Terra cotta is a subdued red shade with brown undertones. Rather than hot, it’s a warm color reminiscent of ancient clay.

Get inspired

With its tertiary personality, coral may seem like a challenging color to use in a home design. But it’s actually a human, emotive answer to quiet interiors stricken with the blues.
Do you plan to use the color coral this year? Reply in the comments below.

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