6 Ways To Use Pantone’s Controversial Color Of The Year

pantone color of the year
Image via Pantone

Scientifically, we know that color matters to people — it impacts the way we feel, what we buy, and even how much we eat — but rarely is it more clear, socially-speaking, than when Pantone announces their Color of the Year. This year, it’s a wine-inspired burgundy-brownish shade called Marsala, which Panton calls a “tasteful hue.”

“[Marsala] embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness,” explains Pantone. “This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.”

The decision already stirring rousing conversations; FastCo’s John Brownlee offered some not-positive comparisons, while color expert Annie Elliott told the National Post that it was “depressing” and “seemed tired.” Meanwhile, other designers have already jumped on the Marsala train, making and selling items that utilize it proudly.

It’s also a little bit problematic because, unlike last year’s pick (Radiant Orchid), it’s not exactly the perfect end-of-winter, beginning-of-spring color. In fact, it seems a little post-season, more appropriate for autumn — which might make you feel like, in your own work, you can’t put it to use right now. But that’s not true! If the mood strikes you, Marsala could be a great shade to use right this very minute. Here are a few ideas:

holiday patterns color of the yearIn surface pattern designs for holiday things. Embrace the reddishness of Marsala and pair it with greens and golds for holiday wrapping, cards, or other gifts. If you’ve never tried your hand at surface pattern design, Molly Hatch’s class on the subject can help you get started. Her website also has some inspiration that might be helpful. You can also find Pantone’s suggested color pairings on their website.

In furniture. Blonde wood was all the rage during the last decade, but the tides seem to be turning as interior designers reach for a more rustic look. This cool DIY from Houzz shows you how to mimic the look of stain with — what’s that? — oh, just some Marsala-colored paint!

In small, subtle accents. Mix up your home or workspace with touches of this hue by adding small objects, like pillows,  pencil-holders, or throw rugs. Etsy is full of great ideas, including lots of interesting color pairings, including creamy whites and complementary teals.

pantone color of the year art
Image & artwork via Lane Studios; $5

In your hair and/or nails. Marsala may not be your ideal for home decor or design, but it does make a very pretty hair color. InStyle has tips to get the a vibrant version of rusty brown. Marsala is also cropping up on fingertips already; polish company Julep (who may have a vested interest in the subject) have already declared this the “best way to wear the Color of the Year.”

In your food photography. Complementary colors are the bread and butter of food photography, and plenty of professionals have already (whether they know it or not) begun working this burgundy shade into their work. Just check out this example from Diane Cu of the White On Rice blog and cookbooks, which includes brighter reds and more dusty browns, but just a few peeks of the combination of the two, and Mundane Matters‘ visceral take on the color.


On your whole house! Marsala has been a favorite color of those who live in the southwestern parts of the United States, because it’s a slightly richer shade than stucco buildings often already are. If you’re really ready to make a bold statement, you could give your home exterior a makeover.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.