Color: Coral + Indigo

In a moment of color serendipity, these two photos showed up next to each other on Pinterest:

Coral and Indigo

Is Pinterest getting so super smart that it’s analyzing color in photos? And serving up the same colors in a photo we just repinned?

Seeing these, I was struck by something about color:  they made me think about coral differently.

I’d always thought of coral as very Miami Vice-ish. Best left in the 80s. Like, bury that right along with Gordon Gekko, just as unsavory. But right now coral is trendy, and it’s even being teamed with teal again.

So plastic margarita glass … so Miami Vice …

That’s all I can see, I’m so sorry. I was an 80s teen so I lived through the 80s and really don’t want to live through it again, style-wise: the Flock of Seagulls hair, the Memphis style, the big-shouldered suits.

1980s Coral

Throw in green mint or lime with the coral and teal, and all I can see is Beach Vacation Condo Decor … it’s fine to live with for a week while you’re going all island calypso with colorful drinks and sand between your toes. But not to live with every day for years, in your house. Maybe it’s because I live near Chicago and these are not Midwestern colors? It’s way too much Don Johnson.


I think the problem is all the bright clear colors. I feel compelled to sprinkle sea shells all over those clear colors.

The solution? Indigo

Dusty dusky indigo blue balances the brightness of coral and gives it some sophistication. The handmade nature of indigo and its origins from the hands of people in Southeast Asia, India, Africa … I think that’s the quality and “heart” that indigo brings. Slubby textures help too like these indigo pillows from One Kings Lane:

Indigo Pillows from One Kings Lane

Whereas the bright coral/teal/lime combo feels like it’s manufactured in a plant off the side of a New Jersey highway:

Manufactured Mint Coral Blue

That’s not a knock on New Jersey, I know great people from New Jersey, it’s a knock on mass manufacturing.

Even Don Johnson nowadays says “stick it” with the coral, go with the neutral:

Don Johnson what is he doing?

I had to work that photo in some how!

So, let’s go from silly mood to sophisticated look …

How do you “work it” with coral and indigo?

It’s a fine line to tread. The key is look for blues without green in them. Blue + Green = Teal. And coral and teal is how you get transported to 1980s Miami. Instead, look for dusty faded blues without green, or darker navy blues. Vintage indigo pieces mixed with coral help tone down that manufactured color feel. A textured beige in the mix is more updated too. Here are some good blues to look for …

A vintage print of a marine botanical shows a good “non-green blue” from Etsy shop High Street Vintage:

Vintage Coral Print from HighStreetVintage

Ralph Lauren via ABC Carpet & Home:

Ralph Lauren via ABC Carpet and Home

There are many more examples of indigo here on my Pinterest Indigo board:

Follow Nomadic Decorator’s board Color – Indigo on Pinterest.

Add a dash of coral

Add just a bit of coral — reddish coral rather than girly-pinky coral — to the indigo blue. Mix in some textured neutrals. Include a few well-traveled global accessories or textiles.

This Treasury moodboard from Etsy by Stone House Artifacts shows how to do it well:

Etsy Treasury

This inspiration board for an indigo and coral wedding theme from Belle & Chic shows how to do it:

Indigo and Coral Wedding Theme from Belle and Chic

Another good example using navy and coral, this master bedroom makeover by DecorChick:

DecorChick Navy and Coral Bedroom

A pattern-full example from John Robshaw:

John Robshaw Indigo and Coral

You can often find the coral and indigo combo in Hmong hilltribe textiles. Like in this pillow from HomeGirlCollection on Etsy:

Hmong Pillow Indigo and Coral via HomeGirlCollection

And this Hmong indigo batik duvet cover from SiameseDreamDesign on Etsy:

Hmong Indigo Batik via SiameseDreamDesign

To wrap up, let’s get a closer look at the original color inspiration. It is Max Schödl’s “Oriental Still Life” actually painted back in 1907 with Oriental antiques:

Max Schoedl Oriental Still Life

Interesting that antique art inspired how to use coral in a more current way.

Max Schoedl Painting Detail


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4 Replies to “Color: Coral + Indigo”

  1. Nice blog post. Love the way these two colors go together. Need to keep this combination is mind for summers to come.


  2. Love this colour scheme, even though blue really not my thing, as well as your curated examples, especially the globals.

    However, the botanical drawing of Yarech de la Mer is not an example of a coral (which are animal communities), but rather appears to be a kelp, although I was unable to identify the Genus and species. You might want to change that. It’s still a great marine botanical and good piece of art. They live in the same neighbourhood, right?

    1. Thank you, I’m usually not a big fan of blue either. Maybe I like it here because it is mixed with a warmer color here.

      You know, I obviously hadn’t thought of the difference between kelp and coral! Although this does appear to have roots. I can edit that – thanks for the notice about that!

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