It's a Thing

5 Reasons Why Tomatoes Are 2023’s Biggest Trend

This summer, tomato season is a lifestyle 🍅

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Nine months ago, I nominated tomatoes for the 2023 trend forecast in a pitch meeting. Every year, you can count on the court of public opinion to pick a piece of produce that is superior to all the rest. (Surely, we all remember 2021 as the Year of the Mushroom, although some people might argue that fungi were blowing up in 2020.) I predicted that tomatoes would be huge in 2023 after noticing an influx of tomato-scented candles, not to mention the “tomato tomato tomato” trend that rapidly spread from the corners of TikTok to Twitter. While I waited to prove my doubters wrong, I watched veggie decor soar to new heights as Gen Z obsessed over lettucewares and corn stools. As summer swiftly approached and emails from publicists about the “tomato girl” aesthetic slowly trickled into my inbox, I knew that the tide had finally shifted in my favor.

Now that “tomato girl summer” is in full effect, it’s finally time to unpack why so many people are feeding into the hype. While I don’t personally identify as a “tomato girl,” there are certain qualities that make the aesthetic appealing depending on your approach. But are tomatoes the most superior fruit of them all? Will we be seeing more of this cash crop on the market this year, or is this another microtrend on the fast track to expiring by the end of the season? I don’t have the answer to that, but here are five reasons why I think tomatoes are red hot in design right now.

A tomato red spread featuring a pot full of tomato sauce and a freshly rinsed tomato. (Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images)

Tom Kelley/Getty Images

The juicy color

Declared as the it-girl color of the season by AD’s Hannah Martin, “tomato red” dominated at last year’s Milan Design Week. The refreshing red hue has a glossy effect on interior spaces that immediately grabs your attention. Magdalena O’Neal, a Brooklyn-based chef, food stylist, and editor, describes tomato red as “aggressive,” but sees the bright side of the shade like so many other people that love it. “Not only is this color empowering and energizing, and a color that speaks to fun and positivity, it is also a color that we might associate with enticing, appetite arousing ripened fruits and delicious foods that sustain our very existence,” says Laurie Pressman, vice president of Pantone Color Institute. Pantone 18-1660 “Tomato” was introduced to the world in 1985 with the first edition of what was then called the Pantone Professional Color System.

For those that aren’t brave enough to throw a bucket of tomato red paint on their walls, consider using it as an accent color—for example, the pops of red in this unapologetically pink kitchen bring some vibrancy into the room. (We should also acknowledge that tomatoes come in many shades of red, scarlet, yellow, green, and purple.) Laurie believes that reds across the spectrum have a universal appeal that is both genderless and ageless, but this specific shade is most ideal for someone that wants something to be noticed. “Whether used as an accent, in an entry or hallway, on statement furniture pieces or in an all-red scheme, reds are dynamic and daring and, even when used in a small way, bring energy and excitement to an interior space,” she adds.

Componibili Storage Unit

Rey Chair

Tekla Percale Single Duvet Cover

The red carpeted living room inside Fern Mallis's apartment, designed by architect Douglas Kahn and interior designer Stephanie Mallis Kahn, features artwork by James Rosenquist.Photo: James Mathews

The sweet smell of natural desire

For those of us that didn’t have the luxury of fleeing to the countryside during the pandemic, scent became the gateway to greener pastures. The distinct aroma from a ripe tomato embodies earthiness. Last year, Tyler Watamanuk wrote about the rise of the tomato candle on his “Sitting Pretty” newsletter, noting how “the tomato represents a winning combination: a fleeting moment in summer, a delicacy not to be missed, and an unconventional choice for a scent.”

Magdalena has encountered tomato candles in restaurants on several occasions over the years, specifically Roma Heirloom Tomato by Flamingo Estate. “I just haven’t bit the bullet on buying it because I know I can go to this wine bar near my house that burns it every day to indulge,” she adds with a laugh. When Richard Christiansen was creating the “rich and vibrant” scent profile for Roma Heirloom Tomato, he wanted to conjure the decadence of late-night summer dinner parties in Sicily through an aroma of “freshly crushed tomato leaves, hand-harvested aromatic herbs, and a hint of spice.” As he further explains, “On the surface it’s earthy and green, and as it burns, it releases complex layers that are peppery and fresh—anchored by the aroma of tomato vine, basil, and black pepper.”

Scott Haven, co-owner and creative director at Homecoming, recalls how the brand’s signature Tomato Vine candle, made in collaboration with Joya Studio, was the sleeper hit that became a staple in many homes, shops, and restaurants in New York (and beyond). “It’s a scent that sits with you and offers a calming, less up-front presence,” he writes in an email. “I think it helps bring us to a fresh outdoor feeling without being as up-front as directly floral or woody scents.” Frederick Bouchardy, owner of Joya Studio, describes the candle as “hyper green” with a snappy and alarming effect on the senses. “I think most tomato (plant, leaf) scents are, but this one is ultraverdant, raw, leafy. The traditional sandalwood/powdery iris base is a familiar foundation to come home to,” he adds.

The power of scent memory is real, so even if you’re not specifically craving the raw smell of tomatoes, who’s to say that you won’t be reminded of a meal shared with loved ones when you get a whiff of one of these candles? And in case you weren’t aware, tomatoes were once thought of as an aphrodisiac, so you might want to store that information for later use! The tomato is not a forbidden fruit, but an edible pleasure plucked from the vines of the divine. In the words of Magdalena, “Love it, here for it, will invest!”

Jonathan Adler Pop Candle, Tomato

Homecoming Candle No. 2 - Tomato Vine

Roma Heirloom Tomato Candle

Tomato Candle

Carrière Frères Tomato Scented Candle

LOEWE Tomato Leaves Small Scented Candle, 170g

This tomato red walls pop in this guest room which features a French Empire bed from Stair Galleries that is paired with an antique Venetian-stripe carpet.

Photo: Pieter Estersohn

A selection of different tomato varieties.

Photo: Boyle and Gardner Graeme and Laura

The curvy shape

Like clockwork, you can always expect to see an uptick of interest in tomatoes toward the middle of summer. A few words that come to mind when describing a tomato are plump, luscious, and supple. Not to mention the smooth curvature of the tomato—it’s the original eye candy. While we’re at it, don’t forget about the vine! Richard refers to tomatoes as “the forbidden love apple” and is captivated by their “sensuous and romantic but grounded and earthy” nature. “I like to think we are Adam and Eve, not expelled from the Garden of Eden, but rather returning to it,” he adds. “[Tomato] reminds us to chase after pleasure and sensuality.”

Heirloom Tomato Candle- Red

Murano-Style Vintage Glass Tomato, German 1970s

Bordallo Pinheiro Tomato Dinner Plates, Set of 4

Bordallo Pinheiro Tomato Tureen, 152 oz

1980s Vintage Ceramic Tomato Pitcher

Tomato-Shaped Royal Bayreuth Tableware, Set of 25

The pops of tomato red in this Michael Adams-designed kitchen really draw attention to Jawbone of an Ass (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Photo: Eric Boman

The tangy taste

When you indulge in a bite of tomatoes, it tastes like summer. With more than 10,000 varieties to choose from, Magdalena insists that the tomato “represents some of the most delicious and heartwarming dishes,” from panzanella and gazpacho to TikTok’s viral baked feta pasta. “It offers a savory and acidic profile while also being a totally misunderstood power player within the fruit and vegetable families,” she adds. “They are one of a kind and there’s no way to disguise the flavor once it’s added to a dish.” Can I get a “yes, chef” from the crowd?

Alessi Totem Domestici ES19 Salt, Pepper and Spice Mill in Beechwood

Sophie Lou Jacobsen Red Small Petal Plate

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature French Oven, 2 1/2-Qt.

Tomato Tool Set

Farm to Table Tomato Press

Alessi MDL08R/USA Plissé Toaster

KitchenAid Artisan Mini 3.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

Eartha Kitt getting busy in the kitchen of her Beverly Hills home, ready to chop up some tomatoes in 1982.

Photo: Paul Harris/Getty Images

The zest for life vibe

Based on what I’ve gathered, the essence of the tomato girl is someone who likes to indulge in luxurious thrills. (Forget “girl dinner,” she’s above that.) Though the tomato girl summer moodboards on TikTok lean toward scenes from the Mediterranean coast—or as GQ staff writer Eileen Cartter calls it, “La Dolce Vita lifestyle”—I think it’s really about recognizing the simple pleasures that life has to offer. Magdalena points to the oyster tomatoes served at Gem Wine, noting that “if the LES girl became a tomato dish she would be this.” Her definition of tomato girl summer is “having an eye on what’s in season, a good taste for local produce, and a flexible palette—because you can make a tomato into a hundred different things.”

“Someone told me about a year ago that food is the new fashion and I couldn’t agree more,” Magdalena continues. “Instead of going to parties, people are bragging about where they got a reservation for Friday night, and activations have turned from happy hours to dinner parties. It’s pretty amazing because going to parties and there not being food is such a bummer! People are gravitating towards food energy in general so hyper-focusing on ingredients that are currently at their peak ripeness is kind of a sweet way to pay homage to the seasons.”