'Living Coral': This punchy shade of peach is Pantone's colour of the year

Every 12 months, the colour expert Pantone announces a colour of the year, based on trend-forecasting research from the Pantone Colour Institute, a sort of international colour-trend think tank. So its colour for 2019 is PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral, officially described as “animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energises and enlivens with a softer edge”. More literally, it’s a punchy shade of peach. According to the Pantone pundits, it’s a reflection of the spirit of the times.

The Pantone colour of the year is usually fairly startling. Last year’s colour was a frightening purple known as Ultra Violet. The year before it was a toxic-looking green. Both were tricky to use in the home. So it’s worth mentioning before you rush out to get your home pink flamingoed, that Pantone doesn’t sell paint. Its colour trend predictions are for everything – fashion, cars, interiors, you name it. Its colours are reproduced under licence by the Irish paint company, Fleetwood; but once again, the colours weren’t specifically designed to work in interiors. So think carefully before splashing out on paint in Living Coral.

The other big gurus of interior colour trends – the Dulux people, announced their colour of the year for 2019 a few months ago. In contrast, Spiced Honey (a kind of tan brown) has been created by a paint company, so it has been fully tested for interior schemes.

Getting back to Pantone Living Coral though and it seems not everyone adores the hue. Michelle Ogundehin, former editor of Elle Decoration UK, simply can’t abide it. “This shade is simply too saccharine, bright and ripe to be remotely relaxing,” she writes in an extended rant for the design publication Dezeen. She goes on to describe Living Coral as: “loud and strident, recalling municipal tiled bathrooms, cheap toilet roll colours, and the sort of bridesmaids’ dresses that people refer to as meringues”.

One of Ogundehin’s (many) objections to Living Coral is ethical. The colour references the pigmentation of healthy ocean coral. “This seems an unfortunate symbolism, as headlines rage about climate change and the associated destruction of reefs worldwide,” she writes. She also objects to the notion that a single colour can be put forward as “representative of the current clime and context”.

“The complexity of the times that we live in need more than one-dimensional colour trend statements. Especially one that’s emblematic, by association, of mankind’s systematic destruction of the natural world.”

Deep breath. It’s only a colour.

Olha Kelly, independent chromatist and colour consultant with MRCB paints, doesn’t have a bad word to say about Living Coral. In fact, she welcomes it with open arms. “Love it! Love it! Love it!” she says. “People are scared of coral, especially in Ireland, but it’s an interesting colour and it works well in the Irish light. It’s a very versatile colour. It works beautifully with copper, brass, pewter and stainless steel. It works with pink marble. It works with sage green, or rusty orange, or dark chocolate, or grey, or black.”

The trick is to choose the right paint for your room. And, while Fleetwood Pantone Living Coral (€43 for a 2.5 litre tin) is up there with her favourites, coral comes in many different shades.

“For the choice of coral tones, Benjamin Moore is unbelievable,” she says. Paint from Benjamin Moore ranges from €60 to €105 for US gallon (around 3.7 litres). If that’s too pricey, she recommends Salmon Beauty from Colourtrend (€86 for a 5 litre tin in ceramic matt).

“In a period house, I might go for deep rich coral tones in the sitting room – something like Benjamin Moore Coral Gables or Coral Spice – and offset it with woodwork in white or cream. Corals will work with softer off whites and with stark sharp brilliant white, rusty oranges and soft pinks, deep dark chocolate browns like Little Greene Chocolate Colour, Little Greene Cordoba, or Bruno from Paint & Paper Library,” Kelly explains. “I’d use a different shade of coral in the bathroom, with sage green tiles. It works well in a nursery too. Coral is softer and warmer than pink and it’s more versatile in terms of what you put with it. You see it a lot in American interiors but it’s not a typical European colour.” With Irish, Spanish, Ukranian and Polish heritage, Kelly has a wide perspective on European colour preferences.

When it comes to coral, Kelly practices what she preaches. “My own home has a coral bedroom and a coral living room,” she says. Her bedroom is painted in Sweet Salmon from Benjamin Moore, a soft, peachy tone in a matt finish that covers the entire room – walls, ceiling, and woodwork – apart from an alcove painted in a deep chocolate brown called Zoffany Tabac (€61 for a 2.5 litre tin in elite emulsion).

In her living room, the walls are painted in Sunlit Coral from Benjamin Moore with woodwork in Paean Black from Farrow and Ball (€61 for a 2.5 litre tin in estate emulsion). Surprisingly, coral combines well with pink, and she recommends Setting Plaster or Pink Ground, both dusty pinks from Farrow and Ball that pair nicely with stronger, deeper corals.

Coral works well as an upholstery fabric, especially in velvet, stone-washed linen, or wool. While spending big money on items in trendy colours is generally ill-advised (the trend wanes and you’re stuck with the item) the Ligne Roset Toa armchair looks particularly lovely in coral (from €2,700 at Arena Kitchens). Coral accessories abound in the shops too. Currently, they include the Coral Effect cushion cover (€19 from Zara Home Ireland); the knit-look Tweedmill Illusion panel coral cushion from Harvey Norman (currently €9 in the 40cm size; and the Phenix (sic) Flamingo coral cushion from Beaumonde (around €45). Have fun, but Kelly recommends that you keep it matt.

All paint prices courtesy of mrcb.ie. See also beaumonde.co.uk, harveynorman.ie, arenakitchens.com. Contact Olha on [email protected]

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