Living Space: Enliven your home with orange

Oct. 20, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.

Adding  an orange towel and flower to the bathroom perks up the room. A little bit of color goes a long way.

Adding an orange towel and flower to the bathroom perks up the room. A little bit of color goes a long way.

By Kathryn WeberLike a burst of vitamin C for your walls, it's hard not to notice orange. It's a color as earthy as it is vibrant. Ranging from the palest peach to deep terracotta tones, orange can be a wonderful shade on the walls, but it's not always an easy color to choose.

Like its equally intense cousin, red, orange can easily overwhelm a room, but the fall beckons for this color. Using some restraint and ingenuity, adding orange - whether the shade is warm and welcoming or bright and festive - to your living space will enliven your surroundings.


Fortunately, it doesn't take a big dose of orange to make an impact. Simply changing out placemats, napkins or tablecloths with pumpkin-colored replacements can give your dining room a punch of fall color. Paired with a rich green, orange is simply magical. Or try re-covering dining room chairs in a deep burnt orange for a fresh look that gives the whole room a lift. Accent pillows, throws or silk flowers in sunset hues can help you easily incorporate orange into your decor.


Using another color with orange helps it stand out. A perfect example is the bright indigo blue that's often used with a medium bright orange in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. A dark or muted shade of orange, paired with brown and beige, almost reads as a neutral, yet buoys the neutrals from fading into blandness. Eggplant, deep teal, cornflower blue, red, yellow and pink are all complementary to orange and look fresh.

In neutral rooms, particularly those heavy on beige rooms with brown or umber undertones, a medium tone of orange looks trendy, yet calm and relaxing. Remember, if you use a strong orange shade on the wall or in accents, be sure to use it across the room to balance and unify the space. You don't want all that color just standing there by itself looking more like a sore thumb than an integral part of your design.

But what if you really love orange and want more than dappled effects?


Using orange on the wall is daring, but done right, looks fabulous. The difficulty with orange is that it changes with the light. Before committing to a shade, paint a large swatch on the wall so you can see what it looks like at different times of the day. And remember that orange is a color that can appear very bright, so pick a version that's a shade or two deeper than what appeals to you. Once on the wall, it will be much brighter than it appears on the paint chip.

If you want to use orange, but are fearful, give it a test run by painting a single accent wall, and if you like the result, add other walls.

Orange doesn't belong everywhere. In the bedroom, it can be too stimulating. In bright, sunlit rooms, orange can be overpowering. But in dining rooms, dark rooms with little direct sunlight, a breakfast room or interior hallways, this rich hue can really shine.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website,



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