How to Decorate With Orange—Without Going Full Citrus

Dining room with wall painted in a bright orange color

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Most trend experts agree: If 2022 is the year for anything, it’s the year for going bold with color. Gray, white, beige, and greige had a lovely run, and we’ll always appreciate a bright, clean, neutral space. But we’re thrilled that bright colors—even the ones that can be notoriously tricky to use in decor—are making a comeback. With that in mind, we turned to the experts to ask how to use one color that most people seem to love or hate: orange.

“Frank Sinatra said that orange is the happiest color, and I couldn’t agree more,” says Caron Woolsey, founder of CW Interiors. “A little goes a long way and breathes life and vibrancy into any space. Orange adds personality without even trying!”

Read on for tips for using orange decor in your space—without feeling like you’ve entered an orange tree grove.

Orange Is Actually Incredibly Versatile

“While most minds may default to a midcentury modern aesthetic or autumnal palette when considering orange, it is far more versatile than that,” says Woolsey. “A gorgeous Le Creuset Dutch oven in their original Flame hue exudes luxury and skill in any kitchen design. Any accent chair or pillow upholstered in Salamander Leopard Orange Koi punches up a classic, elegant design with grace and simplicity. Orange is beautiful on a front door, too! For a more subdued tone, try Charlotte’s Locks by Farrow and Ball, and if you are unafraid to be bold, try Obstinate Orange by Sherwin Williams.”

Ashley McCollum, color expert and Associate Marketing Manager of the paint brand Glidden, agrees. “Given there are numerous shades of orange, the color can be quite versatile,” she says. “If you’re ready to dive into a true beachy, sunset-inspired orange for your walls, or maybe you’re just really craving that next vacation, Glidden’s Field Poppy or Carrot Cake are the perfect colors for a bold, saturated orange look and can really pack a punch. Or if you want to keep the energy of a bright orange but with the comfort of a warm sunset, try slightly softer and aptly named Summer Sunset.”

“All of these perfectly saturated shades work well in any space, but definitely add energy and warmth to a living room, bedroom, or exercise room,” McCollum says. “You can even start out by applying a radiant shade of orange to an accent wall, and while you’re at it, create a gallery wall to break up the intensity of the color.”

Bedroom with orange accents

High Hill Media

Choose a Shade by How You Want to Feel in the Space

If you’re now thinking that all the oranges sound great, Decorist designer Elizabeth Herrera suggests starting with these key questions. “Choose the right tone of orange by considering how you want the space to feel,” she says. “Are you looking for something bolder? Go with a brighter, tangerine-orange as an accent. Do you prefer more subtle colors? Add a more muted, neutral version of it.”

“I love a good, earthy orange,” Herrera says. “Think ochre, copper, rust, clay tones. They can be a subtle accent or enhance a neutral color scheme. I also like lighter, more coral-like oranges like salmon, peach, or melon—these colors look great in light and airy spaces. 

Yes, Orange Can Act as a Neutral

“If a bright orange is a little too energetic for your humble abode, try softening up with shades that act like neutrals,” suggests McCollum. “Beiges with orange undertones like Oatmeal Cookie or Nutmeg Glow channel the warming effect of orange without overpowering a room. Soft shades like these are perfect for adding a comfortable citrus hue to your bedroom or bathroom.”

Living room with neutral orange accents

Heidi Harris Photography

Think of Some Shades as an Earth Tone

“For a darker, more moody orange, try taking it back to the very basics with earthier tones like Big Cypress,” McCollum says. “As a shaded ginger hue, this color is the equivalent of a big, comforting hug for your home. Ancient Copper is another dark orange shade we’ve seen trending as we take on 2022. Both colors add the perfect amount of warm and cozy to communal spaces like the kitchen or dining room.”

Keep It Subtle, to Start

If you’re looking to incorporate a brighter orange but aren’t sure where to start, some of the designers we spoke with said small and subtle is the way to go.

“We design with a lot of blue, so orange is the perfect complementary accent color,” says Jennifer Hunter of Jennifer Hunter Design. “Try keeping the orange accents more subtle, like a small pop in pillows, art, wallpaper, or bookshelf decor.”

Elle Cole of Elle Cole Interiors agrees. “Like art, color holds a value beyond aesthetics. We love orange because it expresses joy, warmth, and freedom,” she says. “The best way to incorporate color without a major commitment is through elements that can be effortlessly changed. For example, decorative pillows, an architecturally interesting chair, and artwork. These are all great ways to start experimenting with the color orange.”

“Orange is a great color that can add a statement to any room. You can go strong or soft depending on how you use it,” adds Andi Morse, founder of Morse Design. “I love the idea of a room with trim painted in orange rather than the whole wall. It's a little more subtle, but gives the room a real pop!” 

Look for Wallpapers That Feature Orange

While paint and soft accents are easy ways to incorporate orange, Morse tells us that wallpapers can be the perfect vehicle for more orange in your life, too. “You can add some fabulous wallpaper with orange running through it,” she says. 

Make It Textured

If you’re adding orange into your room’s fabrics, Morse notes that textures can be a fun thing to play with, too. “It certainly would be really fabulous using orange in a velvet or mohair fabric for an upholstered piece,” she says. “Add some fringe to the bottom and you've got some star power going on.” 

Embrace the Tropical Feel

Puerto Rican interior designer Cristina Villalón is a huge advocate for the shade. In fact, Villalón—in partnership with the Discover Puerto Rico tourism board—worked together with Pantone to create a whole new hue: Puerto Rico Sunshine. 

“Orange is a bold color, so a little bit goes a long way,” Villalón says. “Painting just one wall, or even accenting doorframes or cabinets with Puerto Rico Sunshine, is enough to give that tropical, warm feel without overpowering the room.”

Bathroom with orange cabinets

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It’s Perfect for Winter

While orange might seem like a summery accent color, Villalón wants people to think of it in winter, too. “Using it as a pop of color throughout a space will liven it and promote feelings of happiness and joy, especially during ... cold, dreary winter days,” she explains. 

Pair Your Oranges With Intention

If you’re panicking that all of your neutral rooms are going to phase out of style, don’t! You actually have the perfect starting point. “I love the way gray and [orange] look together,” says Villalón. “Gray has a neutralizing effect to tone down the brightness. If you want to go full island ... blues also complement orange beautifully and would be the perfect combination in a beach house or beachy-themed room.”

As Villalón notes, adding in one bold color choice will help to avoid visual overwhelm. “Using a neutral palette and natural textures and then adding pops of orange in accessories will provide a very soothing, yet cheerful space,” she says. 

Similarly, Herrera points out that adjusting your color palette will change the entire feel of the room. “By altering the saturation of the colors you pair together, you can really change the way the space feels,” she says. “[For] a few of my favorite combinations, [I like] warm, rusty oranges and muted teals for a moody, eclectic feel; earthy oranges and creamy whites for a warm, neutral color scheme. Brighter oranges and blue-greens like aqua or turquoise create a vibrant, beachy feel.”

Use It In Any Room You Please

“Orange can work in any room!” Herrera assures us. “Orange can easily be incorporated into living areas and bedrooms through the use of textiles like pillows, throws, or rugs.  You could add a pop of orange in a shower curtain or rug in a bathroom or in the kitchen, an old-world clay-colored tile could be really pretty with brass finishes.”

“There are so many shades of orange," she says. "Take a chance and invite a little orange into your home!”