Posted by in Features.

Colour is an important element in design, it brings spaces, shapes and patterns to life. It can be matched, contrasted or highlighted with use of paints, paper and fabrics. It can create mood and style, and change our perception of size and time. Colour can affect us psychologically, making us feel happy or depressed, anxious or relaxed. Even physically raising or lowering the blood pressure. In the article for this month I will deal with the colours Orange and Yellow, I will deal with others in future articles.

Orange and Yellow are warm colours and are closely related to each other. Yellow is one of the Primary Colours (Red, Yellow, and Blue). Primary colours cannot be mixed from other colours, but all other colours are mixed from these. Orange comes from mixing equal amounts of two Primary colours—Red and Yellow.


It is the colour that is closest to Red and it shares many of its attributes and sometimes it may be best to use it in small quantities. Apricot and Peach are both examples of pale Orange. Ginger is deep Orange, while a few shades darker Orange becomes Brown. The popularity of Orange changes with fashion. Bright Orange was popular 20 years or more ago. It now seems to be coming back into vogue.

It is an aggressive colour, full of vitality and energy. It is bright , hot and exciting—the dramatic colour of the setting Sun. Like many strong colours, it can be sometimes out of place in our softer northern light, while it would sparkle in strong sunlight. Orange is also the colour of fire and like fire it can be overpowering and therefore use with discretion. It can be lightened to Peach or Apricot tones or be darkened towards Terracotta (a popular colour at the moment) and Rust. All theses are versatile decorating colours and work well in both cool and warm colour schemes. These colours are warm rather than hot, they create a much calmer, relaxing mood, easier to live with.

Orange absorbs a great deal of light and can sometimes look gloomy. If it is the main colour in the room (eg. on the walls), you will need a lot more artificial light. You could also use mirrors to add to the light, because they reflect it, they will also make the room seem larger. You need to be sure you really like Orange before you use it on the four walls. You might be better to use it for the curtains, carpets or sofas. You might end up using as much of it as on the walls but texture tones it down on carpets and upholstery and it is softened in loose, draped fabric.

Orange lies easily on soft Greens (like nature), Blues and Greys, and Yellows offsets it well. Blue and Orange make a good team, the softness of the Blue tones down the brashness of the Orange, also could be used to crate a Mexican look in a Living room.

Where to use

Orange will make a room feel small, cosy, intimate, and inviting. It will also make it warm and friendly. It is a good choice in the kitchen, dining room or living room. You could use it to inject a hint of warmth to a cold clinical bathroom. As Orange is a busy stimulating colour it is a good choice in a room where you want to create activity eg. playroom or workroom, but don’t use in a room where you want peaceful relaxation. It all depends an the mood you want to create. Hot bold shapes of Orange can give a spicy, exotic feel to a room. In a small place like a toilet you can be more adventurous eg. bright Orange with electric Blue. Soften Orange with creamy accents or stop it getting too much with touches of chocolate Brown or Black, or brighten it up with crisp Green. In Greek mythology, Orange was the colour attributed to Zeus, the ruler of the gods. Orange is the colour of love and happiness in Japan, Buddhists monks wear Orange robes to symbolise their humility.


Yellow is the colour of sunlight, sand, and daffodils. It brings warmth and light into your colour schemes and can create a feel-good factor. It will warm a cold room and brighten a dark one. Pure Yellow is a primary colour, which is very bright and can be hard to handle but there are many other shades. They range from pale Primrose and Buttermilk through zingy Citrus and radiant sunshine Yellows to deep Amber and golden Ochre shades. These can be soft and mellow or light and sunny and not as difficult to use. With so many Yellows to choose from, try various shades until you find one that works well. Yellow changes more than any other colour under electric light, so test a few shades first.

Where to use

Yellow suits any style of decoration from a bright modern to a more traditional one. With such a diversity of yellows to choose from, it can be used in most rooms. As it is bright and stimulating it is an excellent colour for family rooms, studies, or dining rooms.

Pale Shades like Primrose and Buttermilk are light and restful, ideal for creating a relaxed, traditional atmosphere. Pastel Yellows are often used instead of brilliant White when you want to warm-up cool Blues or provide a neutral background for bright colours. A particular shade of Yellow will vary depending on lighting conditions and the colours placed next to it. Pale Yellow walls in sunlight rooms may look fresh and bright but on an overcast day can look washed-out. For a classic look, pastel Yellow with pale Grey looks elegant and easy to live with. For a more aged look, use pastel Yellow as a foil for Terracotta or dark Red.

Citrus Yellows are cool, bright, and sharp and are tinged with Blue/Green. These include Lemon, Primrose, and acid Yellow. The sharpness of Lemon adds zest to White, Grey or a neutral colour scheme, while Primrose is a good foil for all shades of Purple from pale Lilacs to Raspberry.

Deep Yellows range from Mustard and Ochre to the yellow of Buttercups. With their reddish tinge they can be used to make a room feel comfortable and jolly. Deep golden Yellow works well in traditional schemes with period furnishings, linked with warm earthy colours such as rich Terracotta, Rose Pink, Lime, Crimson, and dark Green. Bright deep shades of yellow have to be handled with care, in case they swamp other colour in the scheme. Often best used as accent touches because they catch the eye. Could be used to pick out wooden moldings on a door or used as cushions and lampshades.

You can have great fun decorating with Oranges and Yellows as you can with all colours. There are a wide variety of these colours available so check out the colour cards. If you are not certain about using a colour, buy a tester pot first and try it in the room so you can see how the light reacts to it and more important, your own reaction. The colours we choose tells us something about our personalities.

Mary D. Kelly
Decorating Options
(091) 798224