The most extroverted color on the spectrum doesn’t always get its due when it comes to decorating. But just because orange isn’t the design world’s main squeeze doesn’t mean it can’t be yours. Whether you use orange to punch up old-world furniture silhouettes or evoke a playful 60s mood, orange is ripe for applying anywhere. Ahead, we’re spotlighting a few bright ways to feature orange in your interiors. From orange furniture pieces that feel especially juicy to orange color variations to try—grapefruit, anyone?— this is how to turn an orange crush into a full-on affair.
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Punch up Old World Silhouettes
Let’s face it, sometimes antiques feel stuffy. Be it a navy wingback or a cream bergere, the classics can lack energy. One way to inject new life into creaky antiques? Orange. Outfit an antique chair in orange upholstery and you’ve instantly transformed it from a fly-over piece to a conversation piece. For those who have an instant gut reaction to the proposal,—won’t it look, well, tacky?—keep in mind that it’s all about pattern, texture, and shade. Start by pulling inspiration from some of the high-end fabric houses like Schumacher, Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fils, or Kravet. Survey these brands’ offerings and you’ll find they don’t skirt orange, but instead incorporate it into dense geometric prints, sumptuous tweeds, and the occasional chinoiserie or Tree of Life print. Use these elevated takes on orange to breathe new into Old World silhouettes.
One last tip? Orange and brown are susceptible to clashing, and, to be frank, reupholstering a piece of brown wood frame in orange fabric runs a high risk of being a miss. The best candidates for orange upholstery include pieces with white-painted wood, cerused wood, or limed oak frames. These wood colors create more contrast, avoiding disharmony.
Accent Black and White
It’s no secret that black and white go with everything, but it’s worth noting that the visual power between black and white and orange is especially compelling. Try this basic combo to animate areas areas too small to accommodate much decor such as powder rooms, balconies, hallways, or entries. To make the most effective use of black, white, and orange, go heavy on the black and white and use orange more sparingly. Consider accenting a powder room with black and white penny tile floors, white walls, and black-painted moldings with an oversized “Orange, Red, Yellow” Mark Rothko print or one of Andy Warhol’s “Single Marilyns” in orange. Try punctuating a bedroom filled with classic black and white textiles like a Moroccan Beni Ourain rug on the floor and a Moroccan wedding blanket fashioned as a duvet with a single orange throw pillow. Be it an orange Moroccan Silk Cactus pillow or an orange Turkish kilim pillow, its presence will add instant depth.
Orange and 1960s go together like Naugahyde and loungers, so there’s always a case for taking orange furniture in a retro direction. To pull off an orange throwback look with designer clout, consider aligning yourself with a series of geometric patterns in orange. For inspiration, look to the precise geometric patterns favored by English designer David Hicks. Trellises, hexagonal repeats, and grids are all inspired picks here. Apply one pattern to the floor and another to the walls and you have the framework for a sophisticated take on retro orange. To make your vision clear, work in iconic 1960s and 70s pieces outfitted in orange. (Think: orange Papa Bear loungers, orange Egg chairs, or orange Orange Slice chairs.) Don’t feel hemmed in by nostalgia, either, though. Feel free to sneak in some pieces from alternate eras. Simple boxy pieces in styles like Campaign and Postmodern will mix in seamlessly while also working to prevent your room from looking like a total time capsule.
Try an Orange Velvet Moment
Ask most people what their biggest hang-up with orange furniture is and they’ll tell you it doesn’t feel chic. While it’s true some orange furniture is doomed to feel dorm room-esque no matter what you do, opting for an orange velvet furniture piece is an easy way to flip the script. An orange velvet sofa or chair feels luxe and elevated, banishing any connotations that it should be paired with past-their-prime relics like an over-loved shag rug or a congealing lava lamp. With all of this said, you’re best off sticking to unadorned boxy or sculptural seating shapes when opting for orange velvet upholstery. Details like tufting or channeling can feel overwhelming when you’re already working with such an outspoken shade. Bright orange velvet—think carrot orange or tangerine—can also be a miss. For the most sophisticated results, try working with a more subtle shade of orange. Oranges with a yellow base such as honey or marigold are good options, as are oranges with red or brown undertones like cider, clay, rust, or—a 1970s standby—burnt orange.
Give it a Hermès Twist
A shortage of cream-colored boxes following the Second World War gave rise to one of the most brightly-colored status symbols of all time: the orange Hermès box. If you love orange but typically adhere to the belief that it’s the antithesis of chic, try dropping in a few orange Hermès accessories. Be it an orange Hermès-inspired tray, a pillow fashioned from an orange Hermès scarf, or simply a proliferation of orange Hermès boxes stacked under a console, talismans from the French fashion house are perfect for working in orange decor in a way that feels elevated. Work in a few pieces to a maximalist room rife with jewel tones like malachite and navy, or give the haute shade center stage by peppering it into a monochromatic ivory and silver room. A Hermès-inspired room can also be a prime spot to work in a niche fabric like orange ostrich leather. Some of the brand’s most covetable Birkin bags are crafted from orange ostrich leather, making the addition of an orange ostrich leather ottoman or throw pillow feel like a playful insider wink.
More Juicy Shades to Consider
Like its close cousin coral, grapefruit is perfect for breathing subtle tropical air into a room. It’s also perfection partnered with maximalist silhouettes like fringe-trimmed, roll-arm sofas and island-sized tufted ottomans. Grapefruit is also a good candidate for monochrome decorating. Apply gradients of grapefruit to your walls, furniture, and textiles. Gold and tan are natural complements to grapefruit, meaning brass lamps or furniture, or natural fiber rugs will mix in without any visual friction.
If orange appeals to you, but you just can’t get behind a color famously associated with a cartoon Cheetah peddling cheese-dusted snacks, try cognac. It’s similar to orange, but a touch—okay, a lot—more sophisticated. To make cognac feel a bit more outgoing than usual, try pairing it with a shade that’s normally a playful complement to orange like pale blue, teal, or navy. Another trick is to upholster more delicate furniture pieces in cognac leather. French dining chairs in cognac, for instance, evoke orange’s effervescence in a way that, say, a cognac Chesterfield sofa doesn’t.
Try Big Orange
Big orange, for those who might not know it by name, is the big-energy shade of orange used by beloved DIY emporium, The Home Depot. Adopted by the home improvement warehouse for the feelings of freedom, expression, and creativity it embodies, Big Orange isn’t for wallflowers. It also might not be your first thought for cloaking a wall in your house. However, the shocking shade partners surprisingly well with earth tones, including terracotta, sage, and harvest gold. Consider it for small alcoves in your space, such as an entry, to set an invigorating tone for the rest of your home.
Lead image design by Courtnay Tartt Elias of Creative Tonic / Photo by Julie Soefer