Orange is the colour between yellow and red on the spectrum of visible light. Human eyes perceive orange when observing light with a dominant wavelength between roughly 585 and 620 nanometres. In traditional colour theory, it is a secondary colour of pigments, produced by mixing yellow and red. In the RGB colour model, it is a tertiary colour. It is named after the fruit of the same name.
The orange colour of many fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and oranges, comes from carotenes, a type of photosynthetic pigment. These pigments convert the light energy that the plants absorb from the Sun into chemical energy for the plants’ growth. Similarly, the hues of autumn leaves are from the same pigment after chlorophyll is removed.
In Europe and America, surveys show that orange is the colour most associated with amusement, the unconventional, extroversion, warmth, fire, energy, activity, danger, taste and aroma, the autumn and Allhallowtide seasons, as well as having long been the national colour of the Netherlands and the House of Orange. It also serves as the political colour of the Christian democracy political ideology and most Christian democratic political parties.
In optics, orange has a wavelength between approximately 585 and 620 nm and a hue of 30° in HSV color space. In the RGB color space it is a secondary color numerically halfway between gamma-compressed red and yellow, as can be seen in the RGB color wheel. The complementary color of orange is azure. Orange pigments are largely in the ochre or cadmium families, and absorb mostly blue light.
Varieties of the color orange may differ in hue, chroma (also called saturation, intensity, or colorfulness) or lightness (or value, tone, or brightness), or in two or three of these qualities. Variations in value are also called tints and shades, a tint being an orange or other hue mixed with white, a shade being mixed with black.
In the 18th century, orange was sometimes used to depict the robes of Pomona, the goddess of fruitful abundance; her name came from the pomon, the Latin word for fruit. Oranges themselves became more common in northern Europe, thanks to the 17th-century invention of the heated greenhouse, a building type which became known as an orangerie. The French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicted an allegorical figure of “inspiration” dressed in orange.
In 1797 a French scientist Louis Vauquelin discovered the mineral crocoite, or lead chromate, which led in 1809 to the invention of the synthetic pigment chrome orange. Other synthetic pigments, cobalt red, cobalt yellow, and cobalt orange, the last made from cadmium sulfide plus cadmium selenide, soon followed. These new pigments, plus the invention of the metal paint tube in 1841, made it possible for artists to paint outdoors and to capture the colours of natural light.
In Britain orange became highly popular with the Pre-Raphaelites and with history painters. The flowing red-orange hair of Elizabeth Siddal, a prolific model and the wife of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, became a symbol of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Lord Leighton, the president of the Royal Academy, produced Flaming June, a painting of a sleeping young woman in a bright orange dress, which won wide acclaim. Albert Joseph Moore painted festive scenes of Romans wearing orange cloaks brighter than any the Romans ever likely wore. In the United States, Winslow Homer brightened his palette with vivid oranges.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, the colour orange had highly varied associations, both positive and negative.
The high visibility of orange made it a popular colour for certain kinds of clothing and equipment. During the Second World War, US Navy pilots in the Pacific began to wear orange inflatable life jackets, which could be spotted by search and rescue planes. After the war, these jackets became common on both civilian and naval vessels of all sizes, and on aircraft flown over water. Orange is also widely worn (to avoid being hit) by workers on highways and by cyclists.
A herbicide called Agent Orange was widely sprayed from aircraft by the Royal Air Force during the Malayan Emergency and the US Air Force during the Vietnam War to remove the forest and jungle cover beneath which enemy combatants were believed to be hiding, and to expose their supply routes. The chemical was not actually orange, but took its name from the colour of the steel drums in which it was stored. Agent Orange was toxic, and was later linked to birth defects and other health problems.
For a scheme that works year-round, try decorating with orange. Warm and vibrant, orange can add a contemporary edge, spice and sophistication, or a cosy mood to a country-style interior. Uplifting and warming in darker months and zesty and vibrant in summer, it adds a joyous element to any space and is a very versatile color that will work alongside many other shades.
You may opt for decorating with orange in bold, bright, and zesty tones, or burnt orange of flickering flames tinged with hints of red and yellow, for a smokier, more relaxed option. Whatever tone you choose, orange will provide decorating schemes with energy, and warmth.
There are many ways to use orange in interior design but it needs to be handled with care as too much, or the wrong shade, could result in a scheme that is an assault on the eyes. Get it right, however, and you’ll be surprised at how elegant it can be.
‘When colors hover between one shade and another they can take on interest and intrigue,’ explains Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder of Edward Bulmer Natural Paint.
With the decorating boundaries of studies and home offices now nicely blurred, inspire your working space with wallpaper in a detailed print. Orange is an energizing color that will help to inspire productivity and creativity as a home office idea – when used with caution.
Providing the perfect seasonal backdrop, orange brings warmth on the shortest of winter days while dancing like a geum when the sun is shining.
Whilst painting a drafty bathroom a warm color won’t affect the actual temperature in the room, it can create a great deal of psychological warmth, especially when you add treasured wall art, accessories and plants. As a bathroom color idea, orange is definitely one to consider.
‘Burnt orange is a wonderfully optimistic color but it is not one for the cautious. It is a serious, grown-up color,’ says Helen Sanderson, creative director of fabric company Ian Sanderson(opens in new tab).
Dropping orange into a neutral scheme by way of upholstery, soft furnishings, or as an accent wall offers a more measured approach to its use. Elevate a taupe-paneled dining room idea with a set of luxurious burnt orange velvet dining chairs.
‘I love a bit of a color pop, and I think the key is to be a bit daring. Burnt orange is a great shade to use at this time of year, but it doesn’t have to be reserved for cushions and accessories,’ says OKA’s(opens in new tab) co-founder, Sue Jones.
‘I love how these dining chairs look paired with lots of natural tones and textures; they make a dining room feel cozy, which is what the season calls for,’ Sue adds.
If you are decorating with teal, for instance, adding pops of burnt orange into the scheme offers decoration that you will never tire of.
It is worth learning how to use a color wheel for interior design so that you can see how orange works with colors on the opposite side of the color wheel.
‘Burnt orange makes fabulous partnerships with teal and with surprise elements of subdued blush pinks,’ says Helen Sanderson.
When used wall-to-wall, zesty oranges are guaranteed to make a statement and bring joy and energy to any space. If you’re looking for hallway paint ideas then orange is a brilliant choice as it will create a warm and joyful welcome for guests.
Hallways and entryways can easily be overlooked when it comes to decorating but they are a great place to be bold with color. ‘A hallway is the first part of your home that anyone will see when they enter, so it’s important to make sure it’s a true reflection of your personality and style,’ explains Emma Deterding.
When it comes to decorating with orange paint colors, it’s important to think about the warmth of the color as this can impact the look and feel of the space.
While vibrant yellowy oranges have the power to lift and energize – oranges which contain plenty of red, such as rich, rusty oranges, have the ability to evoke a cocooning and intimate feel, making them a brilliant choice for a cozy living room paint idea.
To enhance the warmth of these rich red-oranges such as paprika, consider pairing them with plenty of natural materials such as wood and textural linen.
When decorating in a single hue it’s important to factor in plenty of variations in tone and texture to ensure the scheme has life and depth, otherwise orange rooms can run the risk of feeling flat.
To create an all-orange living room with plenty of interest consider using paint ideas that combine two tones of oranges and choose a rug with a gentle pattern as done in this scheme by Kelling Designs.
When it comes to furniture, choose pieces with sculptural shapes covered in sumptuous fabrics such as soft velvet or chenille and opt for deeper shades to the walls to ensure they sing out.
Orange can be a powerful and dominating color when used in isolation, so if you’re thinking of using it for your living room paint ideas then consider combining the shade with softer colors such as pastel pink suggests Annie Sloan(opens in new tab).
‘I absolutely adore vivid, juicy, vitamin C-packed orange with a soft pastel pink. I’m hoping it’ll be the new green and pink, because it’s such a rewarding contrast,’ says the color and paint expert.
‘Both colors are playful and beautiful, so they work fabulously in a social space such as a kitchen, living room or diner. The juxtaposition of hot orange and a cool-toned pale pink is simultaneously knowingly retro yet elegantly contemporary.’
As transient, connecting spaces, hallways are a great place to be more adventurous with color – why not consider a vibrant stair runner idea to create an eye-catching focal point?
‘A bold, bright flatweave wool runner adds instant impact creating a warm and inviting first impression, taking color up through the heart of the home,’ says Andy Guard, creative director at Roger Oates Design(opens in new tab).
‘Orange works perfectly against a bright white background or a dark, sophisticated grey to create a bright pop of color in otherwise forgotten or uninteresting spaces,’ he adds.
Wallpaper ideas in orange shades are a fabulous way to add bring personality color and pattern to a room and work particularly well in cloakrooms. As spaces we only spend small amount of time, cloakrooms and small bathrooms are brilliant spaces to be bold with decor. An ornate Chinoiserie design in a vibrant orange is a playful cloakroom idea which will create an element of surprise among visitors.
Orange is a good color to decorate with. A warm and vibrant shade, orange is a good way to bring a joyful feel to interiors plus partners well with many colors.
‘If you’re thinking of decorating with orange it’s important to consider tone, but also the amount you use, as it can be a dominant shade. Used in large amounts wall-to-wall it can create real wow-factor, alternatively limiting it to accessories is an easy way to lift a neutral scheme,’ explains Emma Deterding, founder and creative director, Kelling Designs.
Orange pairs well with a huge array of colors from neutrals and pastels to bold tones such as black and teal.
‘Acid yellow or orange work well with the deepest navy, or mustard and deep sea green with taupe and black,’ explains Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown Paints(opens in new tab). ‘Pale and watery greys are perfect with super brights like orange,’ she adds.
Orange is also a beautiful shade to complement earthy tones. Being ‘an autumnal color by nature, it often works well when paired with natural hues such as greens, browns and neutrals,’ explains Louise Wicksteed, design director at Sims Hilditch(opens in new tab).
Finally, black also pairs well with orange, but must be used carefully, as paint and color expert Annie Sloan explains. ‘Black is a fabulous accent color for a hot orange because it allows the orange to project more vividly. Our eyes interpret the orange as being even crisper, more vivid and brighter when transposed against a dramatic black,’ she explains.
‘However, use sparingly for accents rather than as your two main colors or risk everything going a little Halloween.’
Interior designers use orange in decorating in many ways, whether this is adding bold splashes of color, drenching a room in its warming hues, or adding accents through the use of furnishings and accessories.
‘We very rarely do a design scheme that doesn’t have some orange in it so it all depends on how brave you want to be,’ explains Deterding. ‘You can liven up a neutral design scheme by choosing textiles and accessories in shades of orange, for instance, introducing a sofa in a bold orange velvet will add a focal point in a living space with muted, neutral walls and floors,’ she adds.
‘If you are more daring though, then why not paint the walls orange and play with neutrals for upholstery and use accessories in teals and pinks to layer color, pattern and brightness. After all, isn’t Hermes Orange the pinnacle of luxury and joy?!’
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