Wednesday 16 October 2019

Terracotta barmy

Terracotta's back, but put away your rag-roller - this time it's a lot cooler to live with, writes Kirstie McDermott

The new way to try the trend: A melange of terracotta tones works well on the Palace four-seater sofa, €2,329, at dfs.ie
The new way to try the trend: A melange of terracotta tones works well on the Palace four-seater sofa, €2,329, at dfs.ie

Kirstie McDermott

As colours go, terracotta is a hard sell. Last seen in all its rag-rolled glory during the heyday of Changing Rooms, it was a feature wall go-to in the 1990s. We used it everywhere. It (badly) decorated the walls of mid-price restaurants the land over, and no room was complete without a lick of the shade.

"I think in the 1980s and '90s, any interior trend that became quite popular, we went a little overboard with," says Cathy O'Donoghue, interior architect and designer with Flamingo Interior Design. "It's easy to see how the trend lost its appeal with terracotta finishes from floor to ceiling in homes all over the country."

Chair, €179. The Sandy Brick Red Dining Chair, at ezliving-interiors.ie, adds a touch of colour
Chair, €179. The Sandy Brick Red Dining Chair, at ezliving-interiors.ie, adds a touch of colour

Then, during the panicked run-up to the original Brexit date of March 29, we got a unique insight into how we used to decorate when the cameras were allowed into DUP leader Arlene Foster's home. In addition to fairly retro wooden kitchen cabinets, we saw a deep, dark terracotta-painted wall beside an exposed brick inglenook fireplace.

Perhaps not entirely known as a trendsetter for either her politics or her interior design, what Foster might be surprised to know is that with her wall, she's actually ahead of the curve. That's because trends are cyclical, and this one is just about to complete its 360-degree turn back into full-on fashionability.

"Nearly everything comes back into fashion every 20 or 30 years or so, but I think the main reason for this is the need for a break from the more sterile and polished interiors and cooler colour schemes that have been popular for years," O'Donoghue says.

At this year's Salone del Mobile - an annual interiors and furniture design fair used as an industry barometer - terracotta was everywhere. On walls, couches, chairs, accessories and more, it was abundantly clear this is the new hot hue.

Cushion, €50. Add texture with the Velvet Lux Mahogany Cushion, at harveynorman.ie
Cushion, €50. Add texture with the Velvet Lux Mahogany Cushion, at harveynorman.ie

Thankfully, though, this time around we've got a bit more in the playbook than one monotone shade to work with. If the 1990s was all about a flat, matte red-shot shade, then 2019's version is a multi-toned pick which takes in all aspects of the hue, from more neutral apricot and peaches right up to rusts and jewel-toned burgundies. It's warmer, offers far more variety and, consequently, is a hell of a lot cooler.

"We're also a lot more conscious of using natural materials now and this has certainly influenced current interior trends - rattan, bamboo, wood finishes - and I think this has in turn helped with the rise of warmer natural tones like terracotta and rust," O'Donoghue points out.

If you used it the last time around, can you cope this time? I'll confess my heart sank to my boots to begin with. The key is to be judicious.

"Don't go too mad with it," O'Donoghue warns. "Like any trend, if it's overdone, it will tend to become outdated quicker. Pairing terracotta with contrasting cooler greys and crisp whites gives a really interesting look," she says, and for those with a 50 shades interior, this is a smart and cost-effective way to add an update. "Even small introductions of terracotta, like an occasional chair in a rusty velvet or some accessories such as terracotta planters and vases, can be enough to update your space," she adds.

Bowl, €108. Elegant and also outdoor-ideal, Skagerak’s Edge
Salad Bowl, at amara.com
Bowl, €108. Elegant and also outdoor-ideal, Skagerak’s Edge Salad Bowl, at amara.com
  • Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of House and Home magazine

Phone, €57. Get a retro nod to the trend with Wild & Wolf’s 746 Phone, at redcandy.co.uk
Phone, €57. Get a retro nod to the trend with Wild & Wolf’s 746 Phone, at redcandy.co.uk
Lights, €76. Perfect in a boho setting, try a trio of Serax Terracotta Bowl lights, nedgis.com
Lights, €76. Perfect in a boho setting, try a trio of Serax Terracotta Bowl lights, nedgis.com

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