Trend Alert! Terracotta is Back, but is it Timeless?

This post is written by my Senior Colour Designer Tricia Firmaniuk! I’m currently in Charleston finishing up my Specify Colour with Confidence here with 29 fabulous women! It was interesting because last week in Dallas, the grey trend was already OVER in a few areas. No surprise that warm colours like the one Tricia is talking about here are trending, read on to get the low down!


Not all trends are created equal. Sometimes, good taste prevails and something timeless becomes trendy. Witness: subway tile. Has it been trendy in recent years? The answer is a resounding yes. Does that mean it will be dated soon? Definitely NO. It will continue to be a classic choice. Why? Because it is simple, versatile and just plain pretty.

Terracotta is a colour that has been popping up everywhere lately in fashion and in interiors too.  After an overload of browns and earthy colours in the Tuscan trend, admittedly, many of us are not yet ready for a warm dusty orange that is almost brown.

Related post: What’s Next After Subway Tile?

Valentino Spring/Summer 2019 from British Vogue

BUT, it’s also a material. And one with a long history in the built environment. It’s arguably a classic.

And it’s hard not to love the way the spicy colour of baked terracotta brings to mind the gorgeous patina of garden pots, patios, and Mediterranean architecture. It’s a classic material just like brick or wood.

Yet for many of us, this colour takes us right back to the 1990s when it was hot right along side all warm and earthy tones from gold to burgundy and pumpkin to sage.

If the trend is calling your name, here’s how to make it look current and not dated: mix it with lots of fresh white, greige, cream, pale beige or grey.

I think this dusty orange is here as an antidote to all the white and grey we have been living with in recent years. Like oak and rattan, terracotta, both as a colour and a material, is a rising star right now because like classic cognac leather and wood, it’s a lovely counterpoint to cooler palettes. 

Terracotta accents warming up a trendy gray wood floor Source

It’s really kind of an extra punchy and warm neutral which is what makes it such a useful colour. (Its undertone is orange, but it’s saturated enough to be considered a colour and not quite a neutral, it just depends where you draw the line).  It’s softer and easier going than clear orange, but livelier than brown.

Which neutrals can you pair it with? Off White, Cream, Greige, Green Gray, Green Beige, Taupe, and even Blue Gray or Violet Gray in some cases. The undertones that you should be careful about are Pink Beige, Yellow Beige and Gold Beige. Terracotta has a pretty strong pink/orange thing going on and when it’s more yellow, Pink Beige could be a problem, while if it’s more pink Yellow and Gold Beige might not be ideal.  In general though, it’s pretty versatile.

If you mix it with large doses of olive green and brown in a room, it’s sure to feel heavy and dated, but toss a bit of this cozy hue into an otherwise fresh room and it’s beautiful.

Let’s break down the different ways you could use terracotta in your rooms.

Terracotta as an Accent

As an accent colour in furnishings, textiles and case goods, go for it, and balance it with lots of fresh white and some contrasting hits of black or dark blue. It also does very well with leafy greens.

House Beautiful

Terracotta as a Paint Colour

Sherwin Williams hopes we will all whip out our rollers with their introduction of Cavern Clay as their 2018 colour of the year, I think it could be fun to warm up a small cozy room like a powder room or study, but honestly, as a wall colour, it would require some very clever decorating and could easily be too much, so I think the application is somewhat limited. Certainly not many of us will be using it as our main wall colour in an open concept home.

But it does look really gorgeous on the wall in this vignette below paired with soft black and cream.



House & Home

And it’s really fun how they pulled the colour of the terracotta floor part way up the wall here for a custom look and accented it with soft pink. I think this is another reason terracotta is here right now, it’s a very good compliment to the trending blush pinks and apricots. Adding a deeper version of the hue is grounding and adds depth to a pink colour scheme that could otherwise look too precious.

I’m currently debating what colour I want to recover my vintage sofa in and a washed out terracotta/apricot colour is hot in the running. It’s just so pretty.

Apricot velvet sample for my sofa


Terracotta as a Material

As a classic pave style floor, terracotta or saltillo tiles are absolutely classic in the right context.

Obviously, they look great in Spanish style homes like this one below.


My Google Chrome browser is currently speaking French which makes searching a French word with a particular context in English a bit tricky, haha. But, correct me if I’m wrong, a pave tile floor has the rustic look of outdoor pavers.

And terracotta or saltillo is right up there with the prettiest options for this style like creamy limestone. These types of floors are an inspired choice when you want to create some connection with your outdoor space in a kitchen with doors to the garden for example, or a mud room or sun room like this subtle, rustic room below.


House & Home

It’s fairly neutral,  like a wood floor, but you would do best to repeat it at least a bit in your furnishings and decor with some warmer wood tones maybe, or some peach or blush accents.

And as it does come in a range of tones from pale orange beige or peach to deep mahogany so you can create an airier or richer look. I do think the paler ones look fresher and more current. And just like wood tones, a natural matte finish makes them look more current than a deep and glossy one.

This type of tile does tend to lend a rustic feel to a space if that is what you’re going for. It works to warm up an otherwise white or cream kitchen just like a classic hardwood floor.  It’s doing just that in this kitchen below and also connecting the space to the garden.


Brit & Co

This terracotta floor (above) looks like it has been there forever and it was well handled with a soft cream and blush palette.

However, outside the context of a Mediterranean style house or a garden type setting, tread lightly with this choice. It could look forced or just plain wrong in a more contemporary space, or in a high rise condo with no connection to the ground for example.  But if you do have this kind of house, and you do live in a warmer climate where hardwood is problematic, it’s worth considering. And if you have it already and are wondering whether you should rip it out, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for how you could make it work so you can reserve more of your budget for the fun part, decorating!

And for the rest of us, a great way to indulge in the trend is to toss it in as an accent or try it out in the powder room, it’s a cozy choice for the cooler months ahead 🙂

I’ll keep you posted on what I decide to go with for my sofa refresh 😉

Are any of you loving this colour right now? Or considering or living with terracotta tiles? Do you feel it’s classic or trendy? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks Tricia! Here’s my Dallas class from last week!

There’s still time to attend my last course of the Fall season in Vancouver, November 28-20 here.

Related post:

The Best Way to Work with Staltilo Flagstone (Because it’s Pink)

Help! My New Kitchen makes the Rest of my House Look Old

The Timeless Flooring Everywhere In Italy



leave aREPLY

  1. Terra Cotta has been around for ages and could be considered classic for certain architecture only. No one is going to choose to put NEW Terra cotta tile in a new build or remodel. In the southwest US Spanish style homes this might be fine but that is it. While it’s good to know how to freshen existing tile you are stuck with I believe it will always look like the client is “making do”. I don’t personally believe it is a trend anyway. If the client loves the color then by all means use it, but not in tile. It is not a timeless look for most of North America.

    • I totally agree! It’s stunning in the right home, but I don’t see it making a great comeback for fixed installations like tile flooring…

  2. How odd. My husband says I am always predicting design trends by accident, and two days ago I searched for the Ralph Lauren color I had painted an apartment from a decade ago. It happened to be a terracotta color. I asked him if maybe we could paint the office a similar color instead of the direction we were headed which was more cool tones. Our whole house has a ton of cool gray color! And this post appeared in my inbox the day after I brought up the suggestion. I could not believe it…

    But it is good to know I am in good company!!!

  3. Wow. Terracotta – that is a gorgeous color! And it’s amazing how you can pair it with other colors so it doesn’t lend a southwestern vibe to the interior. These photos are exquisite! I love how well terracotta goes with gray, too. So classy and warm.

  4. I remember painting my front entry hall a beautiful terracotta colour in the early 90’s. The house had wonderful woodwork too. I couldn’t ever live with it again, too many old memories. Just like when I see hunter green now, no thanks, I don’t care for the flashbacks!

  5. I have been waiting 15 years for terracotta ! We spent over 20 years vacationing in Arizona each winter and I fell in love with washed out terracotta.It was everywhere. In fact, I renovated my powder room (all white , thank you Maria) and added artwork and towels in terracotta. I’ve been afraid to do much more with my favorite color but thanks to your ideas and photos I will now try. I have alot of white and green in our master bedroom and now I’m determined to add washed terracotta accents.

    • Debbie, that is exactly how I would do it too. White background, terracotta accents. No terracotta walls for me!

  6. I had terracotta paint color in the late 90s and while I loved it at first, it quickly became too warm and too oppressive. I think the trick is that if you are going to use terracotta paint color and fabrics, it’s best to choose lighter versions of the color instead of the medium or dark saturations. I love that apricot fabric you are contemplating! It’s very fresh looking while looking cozy as well.

  7. I love these photos. I have always loved stone floors. I used a terra cotta paint in my small entry hall in a 1936 Tudor. It’s a small house but has some lovely classic features. The color is called ” brick dust” and is either Benjamin Moore or Pratt and Lambert. The woodwork is a glossy, very white. There is light from a transom in the front door. One wall has a mirror about 6 X 9 feet. And there is a white hall closet. Floors are marble tile with a central medallion of Diana surrounded by small lions.So there is not a cavelike box of color. it is just enough and is a nice contrast to the cream mixed with a tiny bit of tea rose pink on the living room walls. Also there is a lot of white woodwork and great light. I went ahead recently and painted the dining room an extremely strong orange- “fresh nasturtium ” also Benjamin Moore I think. Now that took a leap of faith ! I like it; no one else will venture too many judgements. In contrast to that the terra cotta is very tame and retiring. White woodwork helps with these colors. I feel certain I would not like it with dark woodwork.

  8. Hi Maria I follow you on Instagram, love your work. just found this blog today so will be following that too. I live in New Zealand where a lot of things in the interior/exterior design world can be a little different to the USA.
    Terra Cotta tiles everywhere was a trend here back in the 70’s 80’s. I’m not a fan. The trend here at the minute for new builds is Black roof, dark or white aluminium joinery (windows etc) Lots of grey/white/black exteriors.