Burnt Sienna, terracotta, saffron or amber. Often known by far more exotic names, orange is the quintessential colour of autumn. It’s synonymous with Halloween pumpkins, flickering flames on Bonfire Night and the spectacular landscape at this time of year as nature puts on its annual show.
So, as the new season’s clothes rails become stocked with spice-toned garments, we explore the history of orange and suggest how to use it successfully in your home.
In case you’re wondering, the fruit came first. It’s thought to have originated in Ancient China with references in Chinese literature going as far back as the 4th Century BC. Over time, it spread west becoming the most cultivated fruit tree in the world. Orange as a name for a colour has a much more recent history, dating back to the sixteenth century. Prior to that, the colour went by the more cumbersome name of ‘giolureade’ (yellow-red).
If ever there was a country that whole-heartedly embraced a single colour, it has to be the Netherlands with a history and culture entwined with orange. The hugely influential House of Orange insisted that its members wore the colour when sitting for portraits, the Dutch Boer-controlled region of South Africa was known as the Orange Free State and the country’s football team is as well known for its orange strip as for its soccer prowess. And in a move that can only be recognised as an obsession with the colour, Dutch farmers are known to have taken an unattractive and bitter, purple vegetable from South Africa and through a process of selective breeding over 100 years, created the humble orange carrot.
As a combination of the primary colours yellow and red, colour psychologists will tell you that orange can draw on the positive qualities of both. Yellow is associated with happiness and optimism while red can promote energy, strength and excitement. The resulting orange can therefore be warm, friendly and fun. It’s the colour that stimulates social interaction, conversation and hunger, so the perfect colour for a dining space. Choose orange for your blinds and curtains, and any party or intimate dinner will go with a swing!
Orange is at its most intense when paired with blue, its opposite on the colour wheel. Parisian fruit sellers know this well and display their oranges cushioned in blue tissue paper to entice the passing crowds. The power of an orange-blue pairing was also recognised by the Impressionists who frequently juxtaposed the colours to increase their impact.
But orange has a softer side too. Coral - the Pantone Colour of 2019 - is a pinky orange, while colours such as salmon, apricot and peach offer a more delicate, sensual and romantic side to the hue.
The softest versions of orange, toned-down and almost pastel, are clean, youthful and spring-like. Fabrics such as our Primrose and Mandarin silks work beautifully with lots of white, and natural materials in any setting.
Orange in its most saturated form packs a real punch but needs to be used judiciously and is best avoided in rooms where an aura of calm and relaxation is required. Choose fabrics such as our Reef wool where you want maximum impact. Use with coral, mint and other toned-down greens to create a vibrant scheme or team with harmonious caramel and cinnamon tones for a sophisticated yet dramatic result. Brown-tinged oranges such as our Terracotta cotton twill, Sunset flax and Paprika linton are both spicy and earthy, perfect for a rich, opulent scheme. Team with burgundy, dark wood and warm metals to create an inviting space that’s perfect for this, or indeed any, time of year.