The Ultimate Pantone Tropical Color Guide
“Livin’ la vida loca” when it comes to home décor brings to mind the lush tropical colors found in places like Miami Beach’s Art Deco district or island getaways such as Bermuda and the Bahamas. While such colors lend themselves to sandy beaches and palm trees, using them in a home is another story altogether. But first, it’s important to break down the best tropical colors. Nest Casa founder Sara Colombo culls the top five tropical colors as recorded by the color authority, Pantone
Tropical Color: Green aka Pantone 2272-C
According to Nest Casa founder, Sara Colombo, green is the basis of tropical color. Afterall, the word tropical primarily conjures up visions of palm trees, Amazon Elephant Ear, Bromeliads and other lush green tropical plants. Paired with neutrals such as ivory and white is a gold standard tropical design color combo while a touch of grey makes it even more sophisticated yet.
Furthermore, tropical green lends itself to large upholstery pieces, textile patterns - who can deny a great tropical leaf print and of course, as a wall or paint color.
Tropical Color: Coral aka Pantone 20-0056 TPM “Coralessence”
Generally, a beautiful color reef surrounds most tropical locales so naturally this scores high on Nest Casa’s tropical color scale. It’s also a prominent flower color for balmy island destinations thus naturally ranks as tropical.
As demonstrated here in this parlor room, the bold coral walls are accented with turquoise on wicker chairs, lamps and even coffee table books. Correspondingly, accent pillows in coral and turquoise emphasize the combo. Moreover, neutral beige grounds the combo with a tony flair. Not to be overlooked is also how well the color coral works well with green, especially on an accent on upholstery
Market Edit: Coral
Tropical Color: Turquoise aka Pantone 13-4720 TPG Tanager Turquoise
The beauty of Turquoise in a tropical setting is that it tends to reflect not only the inviting ocean waters that surround it but also the sunny blue skies above. It can also be surprisingly elegant. This hue pairs exceptionally well with pink tones and quite unexpectedly, green ones as well.
Pictured here in this refined living room is a sofa covered in a Hertex fabric in a deep turquoise full of lush tropical flowers elevated without a trace of frivolity. Furthermore, the tone is driven home in a curved edge ottoman and within the print on an accent side chair. A rich olive green steadies the color combo via ample drapes.
Market Edit: Turquoise
Tropical Color: Yellow aka Pantone 113 C
Of course, these colors thrive in tropical colors as they mimic their surroundings. Naturally yellow is a tropical color staple as bright yellow sunshine goes hand in hand in those locales.
Sara suggests yellow paired with pink. This combo also can easily mix with green. Furthermore, she offers that yellow and pink mix with neutrals as to not overwhelm and become overly colorful..
Market Edit: Tropical Yellow
Tropical Color: Pink aka Pantone 1767 C
The tropics are one place where the flowers display every imaginable color of pink. From light pink to deep fuschia, pink flowers such as bougainvillea, orchids, hibiscus and ginger flowers all the gamut of the hue’s spectrum. This adds to their neutral aspect. Especially says Sara mixed with earthy and cool tones. Thus it’s also very versatile.
The famous Eden Rock in Saint Barths - a tropical paradise that is a part of the French West Indies - is surrounded by turquoise blue seas. Jutting out from the so-called land mass, the resort and beach club is trimmed in a red paint that has aged gracefully in the tropical sun to appear like the perfect shade of tropical pink.
Market Edit: Tropical Pink
Tropical Color Tips from Star Decorator Alex Papachristidis
Alex Papachristidis fresh decorating approach has made him a highly sought-after talent across the US and as far away as Saudi Arabia The born-and-bred New York decorator, who landed his first job while still a student at Parsons School of Design, says he has “never met a color I didn’t like, not even one.” The designer maintains, “In the right context, any color is beautiful. It’s getting the right shade that is another story.”
Papachristidis attributes his color sensibilities to his fondness for classicism. “18th-century classicist design is my reference because it’s what I love,” he explains. “I like the way they used color; it was happy and cheery.” He notes that when viewing those colors today, they look faded — which is the effect he aims to achieve.
Elevated Tropical Colors
His color preferences read like this: gray with a bit of brown in it; ditto for green. “I love a tropical coral, but only shaded down with a bit of gray,” he describes. Accordingly, canary yellow should contain orange to subdue it; pink benefits from a red or gray touch to yield a raspberry or blush color. He also divulges a trade tip: “Blue is the trickiest color to match. Same with gray.”
According to Papachristidis, the French are pretty much the “masters of everything,” especially regarding color sense in décor. He looks to the Gallic culture for one of his favorite color combinations: dark turquoise and mossy green, maybe a touch of Prussian blue. Side note: This shade is the first purely synthetic pigment created when an oxidation project went awry. Recently he finished a townhouse for his niece and her husband in downtown New York. He riffed on the French influence of green and blue, and added lavender accented with cream and white.
Color’s Golden Rules
Papachristidis has a few golden rules of color use. He asks his clients what their favorite colors are in the home, what they wear, and what is flattering on them. He also says it’s important to love the color you are using. “Don’t talk yourself into it,” he warns.
For jewel tones or tropical colors, he suggests a touch of gray. “Primary color values date easier,” he explains. “To achieve a more timeless shade that ages well, I recommend toning color down a bit.”
Letting go of the fear of color is also Papachristidis’ sage advice. “There are few things that I am afraid to try, so I encourage clients not to be fearful,” he says. If a homeowner is afraid, he suggests starting with neutrals and adding color as an accent as they grow into a comfort zone. Strong colors can be added over time via paint or additional décor. “Don’t go out of your comfort level,” he advises, citing an example of a client whose extensive art collection brings pops of color to their gray-and-white home palette.
Of course, the designer doesn’t speak from personal experience when it comes to color gone awry. He maintains he hasn’t had this issue. “It’s about the value and the shades used. You can use any color when done properly, in this sense,” says Papachristidis. “Besides, it can be good when it is a tiny bit clash-y.”
He further suggests looking to Mother Nature when it comes to finding comfort with color. “Look at a tree — the trunk is brown and gray, but the leaves and grass below are bright green.”
When it comes to finding comfort with color, “look at a tree — the trunk is brown and gray, but the leaves and grass below are bright green.”
Ways To Use Tropical Colors
How color is used is also a key factor in styling tropical colors. “I love layers and layers. It looks loose-handed, but there is a method to the madness,” Papachristidis affirms. Color can come in various forms beyond paint, fabrics on furnishings, or drapes or rugs. “Unusual painted furniture and collections of things can also become pops of colors,” he says, noting his own penchant for ceramics, gilding, lacquer, and other decorative arts inspired by history as vehicles for color.
He also lets it slip that oftentimes his color combination starts with a multicolor print, though he never uses a print twice.
“Unusual painted furniture and collections of things can also become pops of colors.”