Color Inspiration

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

February 17, 2015

I’m not so sure about these colors of the year lately, are you? Last year, Pantone told us that radiant orchid (post here) was all the rage. Now color experts Pantone are now celebrating marsala for 2015 which is somewhere between a dressed up version of terra cotta and a less intense merlot. For fashion, I can see it – a nice marsala lip or nail works for Autumn just perfectly. But for the home, well that’s a harder sell for  me. In fact, this is a hard post to write because marsala doesn’t appeal to me but since I like to challenge myself, I wanted to source several great spaces that incorporate marsala that even I would like. Ultimately, you can judge whether or not you’d use it in your space but my 8 tips are a great starting point if you’re a little marsala shy. And who knows, by the end of this post, this color may even win me over.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Lonny

1. In a small, bold space. If you live in a charming apartment in Chicago or Manhattan or even a bungalow in LA, and you love a good global, well-traveled vibe, then marsala can be worked in to your interior if you accent with brass and mix in lots of blue and orange. The space below looks like a textile designer, buyer for a great interiors store, mag editor, stylist, author or designer occupies this space. Someone with class and style.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Elle Decor featuring space of Interior Designer John Saldino

2. Global + Bold. Marsala needs to be either all or nothing in a room, in my opinion. A simple accent or over-the-top flashy. This space is positively soaked in tones of red, including marsala. The creamy whites and natural woods ground it as do the white cherry blossoms which make the space feel less formal. I keep seeing textiles, ceramics and art from countries like China, Turkey, Morocco and India because this color is definitely more common in those countries – I’ve been to both Morocco and Turkey and found loads of marsala in the bazaars there in everything from pottery to throw rugs.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Staffan Tollgard Design Group

3. Classy with a bit of Hollywood glam. Marsala works in a space where the foundation is neutral and the lines very classic like this elegant flat which feels very Hollywood despite that it’s in Notting Hill decorated by Swedish designer Staffan Tollgard. It looks oh so glamourous. What works here is that marsala is only used as an accent color on the dining chairs. No where else. The flowers in tones of red and purple help the space overall to feel more balanced so there is less of a contrast between the deep dark chairs and the creamy white floors, walls, ceiling, built-in bank, etc.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Pernille Kaalund for Bolig magasinet

4. A bold single piece. This eclectic modern space with a bright white base and tons of natural light is a nice place to use marsala as an accent color.  Blue, yellow, orange and red work great with this color. If you want to use marsala in this way, stick to a single piece and mix in other colors.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Pernille Kaalund for Bolig magasinet

5. Rugs. Marsala works in perfectly in rugs, have you noticed? And you can find this color in so many rugs that are sourced in Turkmenistan, Turkey, northern Afghanistan, Morocco, Uzbekistan and India. And because they’re on the floor, and usually combined with other colors and patterns, marsala becomes a nice stable tone to ground the room overall.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Pernille Kaalund for Bolig magasinet

6. Small Accents in the Kitchen. A tea box, a frying pan, wood stain, or in a rug. Mixed with indigo, a hint of mustard, brushed metal and reclaimed wood it really works without feeling dated or bad 1980’s (vs. good 80s).

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

image: Houzz

7. With bright primary orange, light gray and red. In a contemporary setting, marsala works great with bright red and orange nearby because both bring heat and energy and marsala neutralizes them a bit. With gray, wow what a winning combo! Makes marsala feel more modern and clear somehow.

8 Ways To Decorate With Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015


image: Brittany Ambridge for Domino

8. Artwork. You may not have noticed the painted above the sofa at first glance because the rug clearly dominates, also in marsala, but the painting really brings the eye up off of the floor and harmonizes the space from a color perspective. This room is really lovely and that rug lifts the room making it feel very peppy and even a little sexy!

So, you tell me – Marsala – Pantone Color of the Year – Hell no or hello? I like it but only if it’s combined in a pattern (like a rug) or in artwork, a pillow, etc. But I don’t like it as a solid color accent (like a chair) or as a wall color. What about you?

(images linked to their sources above)


  • Reply Sue Schlabach 129twigandvine February 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I am not in love with marsala. Maybe because it’s winter and marsala is dark and not cheerful when I really need and want cheerful! Your visuals help me see how I can use it in art for my work, though. All the clients are asking for it, so it’s good to see ways to include it!

  • Reply julia I mintlametta February 17, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Marsala – like it too, but as well just in combination with other colors … it is the same with interior and fashion …. I got an old leather bag from my grandma, it is marsala too, I already use it for years but now it is really fun and stylish to combine it with my daily outfits (love the combination marsala-white-light grey) – all the best, julia

  • Reply Ujjaini February 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I love Marsala….!!

  • Reply Aileen February 17, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    I recently wrote a post about decorating with marsala too! I’d love for you to check it out:

    I agree, it’s definitely not my sweet spot, but I like to step out of my comfort zone sometimes and try new things. I won’t be painting the walls marsala anytime soon, but I might try a few small accessories.

  • Reply Robin // Robin + Rose Design February 17, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I’m with you, I don’t like it either. It looks like dried blood to me. I does like ok when it’s a rug as you pointed out, but that’s about it for me.

    I also challenged myself and made a wedding inspiration board for it. I liked it pretty well when I was done with it, but I ended up using shades that had a cooler undertone for the most part… I liked it better, but made it not really marsala, I suppose.

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      @Robin – Dried blood!!! YES!

  • Reply Kriste February 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    This color is so gorgeous mixed in with neutrals as a pop of color! It’s still natural but adds so much depth and richness.

  • Reply Lesley Myrick February 17, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Oh man, Marsala! I wasn’t a fan at first – I immediately thought it looked like an 80s/90s leftover. But after watching Pantone’s webinar about the Color of the Year, my mind was changed a bit.

    I like their reasons for selecting it – Marsala has a lot of brown in it, which plays on the lushness of chocolate, leather, coffee, and other contemporary indulgences in that color family.

    I think you’re right on, Holly, with your thoughts on Maralsa on rugs and accent pieces. It’s not a color I’d like to see as the dominant color in a room, but it can be a beautiful accent. I prefer it in fashion – I’ve seen photos of a Marsala leather jacket that is TO DIE FOR. But personally, it’s not my taste in decor. I gravitate to cooler colors – teal, chartreuse, aqua.

    Also – the name? Terrible. I immediately think of Marsala sauce, which is not something I want slathered all over my living room. Just sayin’. Why not call it Bordeaux? Or Chocolate Cherry? Or something sexier?

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      @Lesley – I agree – the name hurt my ears too. But “Radiant Orchid” from last year was no better. I think they need to hire me to name their colors going forward, they are too used to numbering them I guess. :) Don’t we all want THAT job, to name paint colors? And while we’re at it, nail polish and lipstick? That would be so much fun.

  • Reply The Office Stylist February 17, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    All these spaces are amazing! I love it!!!

    The Office Stylist

  • Reply Tracy Gooding February 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I really love the Marsala colour in the rugs as the darker rugs do ground an airy room. Thanks for the lovely examples, I can now happily use my dark red rug in my airy dining room!

  • Reply uschi February 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    marsala is gorgeous and so are your finds

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      @Uschi – I imagine it’s very common in Austria right?

  • Reply Erin February 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I agree. Pantone’s 2015 color did not resonate with me, but I like your idea of incorporating it with a patterned textile.

  • Reply Clever Girl Reviews February 17, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I need to keep my eye out for a throw with this color.

  • Reply Andrea Hamann February 17, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    I’m a lover of it…I have altogether too much marsala in cushions, kelims, sari’s and throws…but then, my design style is like a budget version of the first photo. Despite that, I have a penchant for light bright white and grey too…just never manage to pull it off in my house…always gravitating toward the righ warm colours.

  • Reply beate February 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I like Marsala in autumn and winter. I have a Borge Mogensen armchair in marsala leather, its from the early Seventies and is really nice. In summer I tend to dress a beige linen cloth over it.

  • Reply Alyson February 18, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Hey guys! We like our Marsala in small and interesting doses.

  • Reply Mariah February 18, 2015 at 3:21 am

    I absolutely LOVE the first and last look! What a beautiful color. I can’t wait to get my own place so I can use this shade!

  • Reply anastasia February 18, 2015 at 4:12 am

    ha! I was also going to post about Marsala this week!
    I am not a huge fan especially not in my home and only in small doses…I love the ethnic rugs, the rich shades would add some interest…

  • Reply PerfectFitSystem February 18, 2015 at 8:10 am

    We think Marsala is a pretty gorgeous colour. It has a hint of class, even some kind of sexiness, like that. The color of the year would be such a huge title for it though. But it is a nice shade to incorporate even through little side pieces.

  • Reply Humaira February 18, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Amazing way to decorate. You’re right, for beauty and fashion, great colour but so much harder for decorating! Great job. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply Lukario February 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I wasn’t sure at first when I saw marsala, but I’ve experimented with a little pillow in an overally clean, white-green space and, strangely, it accentuated it perfectly!

  • Reply Joy February 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I agree with the comment that it looks like dried blood. To me it looks a lot like mud, or a non-color made by mixing other colors together. I have no desire to make myself like this color, but I applaud all the creative people willing to give it a go!

  • Reply Dina February 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    I thought I wouldn’t like marsala at all. But I have to say that some of the photos you posted grew on me over night – especially the first one, with a couch and rug in marsala. In a cold, cold climate (such as the one I’m in right now!), the marsala can look very warming.

  • Reply Julia February 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I do not love Marsala and was surprised when I saw the pick. I do like the rugs you selected, maybe in small home decor I would consider it. great picks!

  • Reply Kristin at Interior Nature February 18, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I was surprised that such a moody color would be chosen when the home markets are so dominated by whites and greys. When scientists have looked at color for healthcare industries – they have found the darkest colors have the most individual reactions and the pastels have more universal reactions. So dark Marsala is kinda like a happy or serene punch bowl delight for some people and an ouchy Punch maybe “knock-me-over” for others.

  • Reply Sage @ Plaster&Disaster February 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    We bought a house in the fall with a living room painted marsala, and we painted over it within 8 hours of closing on the house. I think you’re right that it can work as an accent color, but on the walls it was way too much. Our light gray living room feels so much bigger and airier:

    • Reply decor8 February 19, 2015 at 8:32 am

      @Sage – Wow what a difference – the gray is much better in your space, you’re right.

  • Reply andy February 18, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    aye beautiful reds too, love reds!

  • Reply MIREYA PIZARRO February 19, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Oh what a beautiful color….I love the first picture.

  • Reply Judy H. February 19, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Sorry, not a marsala fan…it looks like a browned maroon shade to me I can handle the smallest of tinge as in the 1st and 3rd rugs, but on walls, curtains or furniture or clothing…no thank you.

  • Reply Tammi February 21, 2015 at 1:23 am

    I too thought Marsala was an interesting color for the “it” color of the year. It is not my favorite but I agree completely that used wiesly marsala can be rather nice in most interiors. Your tips are very much on the button — art, rugs, one large item, etc. to incorporate the color.

    Lovely examples and great decorating advice.

  • Reply Wrenaissance Art February 21, 2015 at 2:13 am

    Marsala–love it in zabaglione! Lol.
    Yes, definitely a color that works more easily in fashion than home decor. Though those kilims are lovely!
    Also, real Marsala is more of a golden brown than a red, isn’t it? Port and madeira are more reddish.

    Tangerine Tango was the last exciting color of the year, IMO. Emerald was too close to phthalo green, one of my least favorite colors, while Radiant Orchid was pretty, but kind of little-girlish.

  • Reply Michelle Endersby February 21, 2015 at 8:18 am

    As an artist I love to find out what the Pantone Colour of the year is and create an artwork that sums it up and complements it. This year I am proud to present my Marsal Swirl Rose.

  • Reply Velvet K February 25, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Marsala is really a “muddy” burgundy hue – a bold color. As such, I believe it matches great with neutral colors like greys and off-whites. However, it most certainly matches also with deep blue hues, black, and a muted guilford green.

    In the last photo for Domino, the coffee table does not complement in any great way the rest of the setup. It’s a mismatch because all I see is the different furbishing piece by piece rather than the setup as a whole. On the contrary the two black velvet armchairs stand out making an equally strong statement as the rug. I believe this setup needs more bold colors, placed higher almost at eye level to balance things out. Perhaps, a different a mirror would do the trick.

  • Reply alicia wagoner March 18, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    I am obsessssssssed with the kitchen cupboards. I zoned out for a moment and day dreamed briefly about my dream home in the future. I love the all white looks of homes but I often like the dark and bold colors. I daydreamed that my house would be a dark vs. light house. Half all white, half bold and daring, with white a white staircase with black steps. Then when I snapped out of my dream world, I saw the kitchen – all white – with colorful but deep toned drawers and cabinets and swooned. Love it. Want it. Eventually.

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