themes are a constant of coastal design. But one marine
motif especially transcends styles, as a rich boost to
almost any kind of decor, and that is coral.
love its connection to the sea as well as its organic
feel — all branchy, tangled tentacles, tubes and
plumes extending. Brain coral with intricate mazelike
patterns. Soft coral sea fans, some with a lovely
transparency and leaflike veining. And, of course, its
namesake hue, which is a brilliant accent in neutral
in nature, in addition to 1,400 species of coral on the
Great Barrier Reef alone, there are a rainbow of colors,
from vivid blues to purples, yellows and greens, as well
as the considerable gamut of red to orange. And some
designers have been branching out to show less
traditional types and colors, blue being especially
robust this year.
is sculptural, a quality that lends itself especially
well to small decorative objects like tabletop
accessories and furniture. For a number of years,
tabletop designer Michael Aram, whose inspiration is
always organic, has turned out pieces with coral branch
accents in silver plate or lobster-red resin, including
serving forks and spoons and pedestals for bowls.
graphic form of coral can be expressed in intricate,
all-over patterns, as well as large, splashy strokes
that unfold on dinnerware, fabric and wallcovering. An
almost calligraphic, blown-up red-on-white coral motif
at the Global Views home décor website translates
equally effectively to ceramic chargers as it does to
dramatic area rugs in hand-tufted wool.
the subject for paintings and prints, corals long have
captivated artists. Many of the signature decoupaged,
handblown glass plates with coral images from New York
artist John Derian are based on 18th-century prints,
with a naturalistic style that echoes those of botanical
illustrations of the same vintage.
colors and original paintings may lend themselves to
more modern looks, especially when scale is beefed up. A
set of prints based on original artwork from
Williams-Sonoma Home are striking not only because of
the bold indigo hues but also the larger format, which
focuses on the stylized silhouette of natural coral
of course, are a go-to accessory because they can
instantly add color and shift mood. Many this year are
embellished with embroidery, appliques and beads that
tabletop designer Kim Seybert, embellishment is a
signature, and she often has turned to sea life,
especially coral, as themes.
always have been fascinated with the multitude of
varieties of coral," Seybert says. "I love the
different textures, especially how the colors ombre
(gradate in shades of one color) into one another,
creating the most stunning palettes.
always have had an affinity for the water and ocean,
even as a girl growing up in Granite City, Ill. I love
to work with objects from nature. There is something so
sensual and feminine about how these sea creatures
change colors and shapes under the water, and this
translates well into the textural and beaded quality of
the designer, who loves to spend weekends in her
Hamptons (N.Y.) home near the beach, was further
inspired by a visit to the Oceanographic Museum in
Monaco, where Jacques Cousteau was a director for more
than 30 years. "It was so special to see the
endangered and beautiful coral in their aquariums."
is, of course, an exquisite living organism and an
endangered species. Harvesting as well as global warming
and pollution are threatening the balance of its
delicate ecosystem, which supports substantial marine
life. Tiffany & Co. stopped selling real coral
jewelry in 2002, and its "too precious to
wear" campaign has extended to fashion and home
decor, challenging designers to go faux.
porcelain, glass, resin, wood and metal provide a
formidable arsenal for designers looking to copy natural
coral. From silky smooth finishes to rough and
pockmarked, texture like the real deal can be spot on.
Resin as a medium is especially convincing, and some
decorative porcelain "corals" on glass bases
sold at Williams-Sonoma Home are amazingly realistic.
Marjorie Skouras, who likes to shake up her breezy,
beachy looks with Hollywood glam, has turned to durable
powder-coated aluminum to sub for coral in a chandelier
design that drips with garlands of "coral" in
lieu of crystals strung across a red frame. A collection
for Currey & Co. also includes a console and chair,
dazzling coral red, in forms that celebrate coral’s
branching habits. The versatile material means the
pieces can be used outdoors as well as inside.
Especially nice when the ocean is thousands of miles