With its spectrum ranging from deep pinks to reddish-orange tones, coral is the color of positive energy and welcoming connotations. Few colors conjure such joyful associations -- the elegant branching forms of an undersea reef, the ocean's voice heard in a conch shell. The color elicits a human response, making it a natural choice for interior spaces. Here are suggestions for using coral in your home.
Coral's inviting capacity is well-recognized by decorators. "It's not just for coastal settings," says Palm Beach designer Brooke Huttig. "We have no problem pitching it to our clients. It sets the mood and says, 'Get in here, you're going to have a great time.'" Versatility is part of the color's appeal. Coral creates impact amid earth tones and pastels, as well as white, beige, camel, and honey-gold tones. It's sexy when paired with Asian-inspired deep-brown or black surfaces, and it turns chic alongside graphic patterns such as Greek-key borders.
For premium impact, use coral in moderation. "You don't want to oversaturate or use dated colors. But used sparingly it can produce dramatic results, even if your personal taste is more reserved," says Florida designer Phillip Sides. Often, just a few details will create the desired effect. Sculptural branches of real coral, as well as clever look-alikes (see tieback at left), are great eye-openers. Cushions, rug borders, trim, stitching, and framed art are all ways to introduce the color. A unique furniture item can do the job too. "I can imagine a bright, coral-colored leather ottoman working wonderfully," says Sides.
For those who find the color's reddish pop especially irresistible, coral walls are not out of the question. Huttig and design partner Mimi McMakin have completed several such projects. "We've used the color in living rooms with a double-comb glaze treatment. It has an amazing depth, with some of the underlying color showing through," Huttig says. "We've also used it on tray ceilings and then calmed it down with an overlaid white trellis pattern."
Because coral can be so powerful, there are some applications to avoid. Unforgiving surfaces, such as flooring, tile, and countertops, may not be appropriate. And designers, when considering coral fabrics, will usually pass on bold or shiny prints in favor of those with more detail. "Coral fabric works best when it's prominently textured," says Sides. "It's much prettier when light can move about the fabric."
Experiment with the color by substituting coral accents for those in tried-and-true colors such as black, navy, and red. Working with less permanent pieces, such as lamps, vases, and pillows, will afford greater freedom as a room comes together. "Coral is flexible enough for any space or style," Huttig says. "In fact, I can't think of a place not to use it."