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Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Orange: It's not just for Halloween

Designers' tips on how to use it creatively and carefully

  • Designer Brian Patrick Flynn has layered several deep shades of orange throughout this space and then accented with shades of blue.

    Sarah Dorio / HGTV Remodels.com

    Designer Brian Patrick Flynn has layered several deep shades of orange throughout this space and then accented with shades of blue.

  • Brian Patrick Flynn uses pops of orange in an otherwise black-and-white room to bring energy to this home workspace.

    Sarah Dorio / HGTV Remodels.com

    Brian Patrick Flynn uses pops of orange in an otherwise black-and-white room to bring energy to this home workspace.

  • A vintage Chinese burnt orange garden stool adds a spot of color in this bathroom.

    Grey Crawford / Burnham Designs

    A vintage Chinese burnt orange garden stool adds a spot of color in this bathroom.

  • Flynn mixes patterned wallpaper and patterned curtains, both featuring the same shade of red-orange. The intensity of that color is balanced by shades...

    Brian Patrick Flynn / Christina Wedge

    Flynn mixes patterned wallpaper and patterned curtains, both featuring the same shade of red-orange. The intensity of that color is balanced by shades of blue, cream and gold.

As vibrant shades of orange fill the outdoors, they're also becoming increasingly popular inside.
Upholstery fabrics, paint colors, furniture and accessories, from neon orange to tangerine to terra cotta, are getting attention this season. 
But orange isn't for everyone. When interior designers suggest decorating with orange, clients can get nervous.
Designer Kyle Schuneman often eases homeowners into using orange by suggesting variations on it.
"The idea of orange can sound juvenile and unsophisticated," Schuneman said. The key, he said, is using orange creatively and carefully.
Schuneman and designers Brian Patrick Flynn and Betsy Burnham offered tips on decorating with the color orange, and avoiding the pitfalls: 
How much to use?
Orange can be overpowering as the main color in a room.
But, like red, it works brilliantly as an accent color.
"I don't suggest painting your walls orange," Burnham said. "But maybe there's an orange in the print on your pillows."
It can be casual ("you bring in a garden stool that's bright orange"), or chic and sophisticated ("think of Hermes orange, those shopping boxes"), she said.
In a bedroom with muted, gray-blue walls, Burnham opted to add lacquered end tables in a rich shade of orange.
Orange paint can also be a great way to spruce up a dated piece of furniture.
"Think about painting a great old chest of drawers a beautiful shade in a high gloss," Schuneman said, "and changing out the knobs to really special crystal knobs to make a statement piece in a room."
Which shades are best?
All three designers like earthy burnt orange tones that are almost as brown as they are orange.
"With a burnt orange, you'd be surprised what the paint chip looks like," Burnham said. "It looks more like a brown. But you paint a piece of furniture that color, and it reads orange. It does what it's supposed to do -- it brings some whimsy." 
Flynn also likes using red-orange, "ideal for more youthful or edgy rooms."
The style of your home may help determine which shades you choose, Schuneman said. "Terra cotta is a beautiful backdrop for a traditional or retro-feeling space, while pops of a more neon orange could be really fun for a modern space."
Whatever tone you choose, Schuneman suggests testing a sample. "Try three or four different shades," he said, and view them in various types of daylight and artificial light.
"You're going to need three or four coats to get an even finish."
Just one word of warning: "Don't go with a true shade of orange," Schuneman said. "It will feel like 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse.'"  
Where does it work?
These designers say it's especially beautiful for bedrooms.
"Orange is my favorite choice for kids' rooms, because it's totally gender-neutral," Flynn said. "My favorite combo for a kids' space is tangerine and white. It's clean and classic." 
Schuneman agreed: "I love a warm shade of orange for a bedroom," he said.
"Burnham is using orange and white gingham print draperies, along with navy blue and dark denim upholstery, to decorate the bedroom of a preteen boy. "It's boyish, but sophisticated," she said. "Not over-the-top country or anything. Sort of preppy."
What goes with orange? 
"I love pairing gray with orange," Schuneman said. "It works well because gray has a cool base, where orange is warm. So the balance really creates harmony."
Orange also goes well with dark and light blues, and browns, taupe, cream or white.
Burnham cautioned against pairing orange with other tropical colors or other harvest colors, like red and yellow. The room can easily begin to feel as though you've taken those themes too far.
"I think you can create a really beautiful monotone room of creams, off whites and browns," Schuneman said, "and pop it with orange to create a cozy feel. Use different textures in these similar color tones ... jutes, velvets and linens for that cozy fall feel."
What to avoid?
"I find yellow-orange the hardest to work with," Flynn said, "because it's very limited in accent color choices." Burnham agreed, saying it's best to avoid "that school-bus orange."
If you're going with a bright orange, just be sure you'll enjoy it long-term.
Edgy, bright shades are "really going to pop and give your room some personality," Burnham said. But "a little goes a long way," and what's hot today may quickly go out of style.


Story tags » Interior decorating

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