Pantone Color of the Year 2015, the good, the bad and the barf

For those of you who follow this stuff, you may have heard in recent news that the Pantone Color of the Year 2015 is #18-1438 AKA:



As in Marsala Wine which is generally used for cooking. [not to be confused with chicken tika masala which is something entirely different]


This brand is sold at Walmart and that is a fitting place to find cheap cooking wine and a color that is desperately trying to be sophisticated but falls short of the mark, in my opinion.

Lee Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color System had this to say:

The color for 2015? The charismatic and highly varietal shade of Marsala; a tasteful hue that embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness. Complex and full-bodied, this hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing; translating easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.


Fulfilling meal?


I guess it turns golden brown when you cook with it.

Hey, she can say anything she likes, it doesn’t change the fact that Pantone’s color of the year 2015 is pretty much a dud with some exceptions that I’ll get to in a sec.


Here’s a big sample of the Pantone color of the year 2015. It’s not brown nor red, nor maroon, nor rust. It’s bordering on mauve, but just a tad too sticky. For certain skin tones, it would make a nice lipstick color..

Here are some P R shots from Pantone’s campaign.


Undoubtedly, the stylist was pulling out her hair trying to make this work. Hey, maybe if we put the model in a stunning blue dress with nerdy glasses, no one will notice how barfola the pantone color of the year really is???


youth sells

[and Marsala does NOT pair well with the icey gray-blue! Not unless there are lots and lots of greens, chartreuse, gold, or yellow to balance it out!]

Pantone_Color_of_the_Year_Marsala_Story_Two_Image2 so does sex.

However, this color is not sexy. That is unless you get off on having salami colored walls.


I’ve only been looking at it for about 3 days, but this color already looks tired, cold and dated even before the ink dried on the press release.

There’s another problem. There seem to be multitudinous variations of the “color.” And they are NOT Pantone’s color. I wish they were but they’re not.

Here’s one room that is the correct color.


via Benjamin Moore

Uplifting— not.  Thank God for the celery green in the next room. That is the only thing that saves this color from bungee jumping itself off a steep cliff with a rubber band.


This is better, but made so because of the addition of the deep aubergine and red tones.

886bcfe74b7c18d02eb89c373a2703faDouglas Mackie

This rich aubergine wall color is being called Marsala, but unfortunately, it’s not. If it was… I would say that this is a pretty awesome color. It’s deep and rich. Marsala is wussy.


Same deal here. The rich claret reds are gorgeous, but this is NOT Pantone’s Marsala!


This oxblood red would’ve been a gorgeous color of the year. It reminds me a lot of Alexa Hampton’s work  for Hickory Chair at the Fall 2014 High Point Market.




Below are Pantone’s recommended palettes incorporating Marsala.



Number 7 is shockingly horrific! The only two that I think are on the way to being alright are 5 and 6. However, I think that they still need a shot of a rich red.

DSC_0250DSC_0265Flowers by Busy Bee


Pantone’s color of the year 2015 is a disappointment. It’s not as bad as last year’s so-called “radiant orchid,” but it needs to be paired with hues that have more chromatic intensity, warmth and saturation to keep the color looking fresh, like the floral arrangements above. Otherwise, it feels too much like a revisit to the late 80’s gray and mauve era. In addition, I don’t think that the “color of the year” should have to work so hard. Therefore, buyer beware! I like the idea of Marsala, but I would’ve gone redder and deeper with the hue and then I think it’s a better color and worthy of the appellation. But that’s only my opinion.

What do y’all think?



24 Responses

  1. OHMYGOSH. I’m reading this a year later, but did you see the Sept 2016 issue of House Beautiful? Of course you have. See the dining room by Celerie Kemble. I think she is the only person in history who has made that color look like anything more than something on a charcuterie plate, as you so rightly described it!

  2. A grim color, truly. The way you diss it is perfection.
    Honest without being tacky.
    You just put it out there with grit and your reasoning without directly insulting anyone, including the people who dreamed up this dreadful color. (The Exec. Director must have a new “position” writing blurbs for cheap wine by now).

    I should have discovered your blog sooner. You are as good a writer, IMO, as you are designer. Which is about the only good thing I see in this post–your beautiful writing.

    PS. Some of the rooms you show here unpleasant, the marsala color aside. As in headless figures in the ugly art. Lamps in front of artwork. Funky little tables. Too d*** many pillows. Not an inch of real comfort in any of those displays, is there?

  3. I’m a big fan of spice and “earth” tones (There. I’ve dated myself!), layered over a neutral base of grey/green and/or khaki. While I love cranberry, burgundy and rusty red, I DON’T love Marsala. It’s leans too far in the “mauve” direction for my taste.

    1. Hi Lisa, Righto. Marsala is a woosy can’t-make-up-it’s-mind-color. It’s fine with its compliment (chartreuse-ish) and in small doses say in a fabric with a lot of other red tones. But dark blue? no. Not unless we have the chartreuse. Otherwise, it’s lifeless. Not sure why no one in their marketing department could see that. Or maybe they did, but it was too late.

    1. Hi Leah,

      Thanks for stopping by, whenever. I do that too. I’ll find a post written three years ago and comment. I wrote another marsala post. Something about the Emperor being drunk on Pantone’s Marsala. lol Strange choice for the color of the year, IMO.

  4. Hi El,

    Thank you for your comment. Forgive me, however, because I’m not sure where the disagreement is because I AGREE 100% with everything you’ve said here. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I wrote about in the subsequent posts. My beef here is that Pantone isn’t clear as to what the color is and when they show the muddy version have paired it with colors that do not enhance it but make it look depressing.

    The muddy version needs to be enhanced with warmer richer tones as part of an over-all beautiful color scheme. Their ads do make it look cold and uninviting, IMO. But again, as I emphasized in the subsequent post regarding THE color, it is not clear what the color IS. I have proof of that as I was in the Kravet showroom in NYC and they showed decidedly rust colored fabrics and the color on the Pantone chip has too much blue in it to be rust. My best, Laurel

  5. Sorry to disagree, Laurel. But each individual has his/her own taste, and that’s as varied as the whole array of Pantone’s colors. Some folks like intense saturated colors and others prefer muted, pastel, or neutral ones. A person’s color choice for their own home, wardrobe, or car should not depend on whatever is trendy. As designers, we have to be sensitive to our clients’ individuality.

  6. Thanks Christina! The salami came forth because as I was looking for a larger file size of one of Pantone’s images, I came across google’s other images that are “related.” And that is when I found the antipasto plate with the salami. haha! I just want to know who decides these things, because I’m not finding too many fans of this color in our field. That’s for sure!

  7. LMAO! You said everything that I was thinking when I saw the color. Except maybe for the salami. The first thing I thought was that it was a lipstick color and I would never use it to decorate. Yuck is right! lol

    1. Hi Leesa, There are colors that ARE close to this one that are very nice. I had a client who painted her office a warmer version of this color and it was lovely. That is the problem. The color needs to be pushed in one direction or another. Right now, as someone said, it’s resembling dried blood.

  8. What is the whole point of a “color of the year”? Surely most people already have color preferences ! I think Marsala is awful, as was the Orchid before it and every other choice of the year. I sound grumpy, don’t I! But now there will be innumerable magazine pages of Marsala clothing and furnishings to ignore!

  9. This is a pretty awful color I agree. It’s not really any color, it’s not red, rust, or burgundy…it’s just…….muddy. I’d call it Muddy Mauve, and that sounds as bad as it looks to me. It’s just not an attractive color in my eyes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

New Edition, November 2023! Get The Indispensable Guide For 100s of Home Furnishings And Interior Design Sources That Everyone Is Raving About

laurels-rolodex-final-book-cover-master 10th edition 23-24

laurel home archives


Please click the image below for more info about my rockin’ Interior Design Guides for 2024!

Laurel Home Interior Design Guides 2024
Amazon ad

please click below to check out my favorite decorating & design books

Laurel Bern's Favorite Interior Design and Decorating Books
Subscribe To The Laurel Home Blog And You Will Receive A FREE Guide Where I Share How To Get Your Paint Colors Right, The First Time.