Colour Psychology: Using Orange in Interiors

Tangerine Tango Pantone Colour of the Year 2012

Now firstly I must apologize that it has been far too long since my last colour psychology post. When I originally launched this series of posts I intended to run them quarterly hence the series being called Karen’s Quarterly Colour Psychology Questions. However, as many of you know, I got married in April so my attention was somewhat otherwise occupied. For a few months my blog was a little neglected as I was very busy collecting, curating and crafting all the home-made goodies that gave my wedding the really unique, individual feel that I so wanted to achieve. But, now that I am a happily married woman and all the stress and pressure of the wedding is behind me, we are back on track with the latest Colour Psychology post from colour expert and consultant Karen Haller. And for this instalment I will be quizzing Karen on Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2012, which is Tangerine Tango!

Karen Haller

Earlier this year Tangerine Tango was declared as Colour of the Year by the Pantone Colour Institute. What was your reaction to this?

KH. Given the vivid vibrancy and saturation of colour, I felt this was in direct response to the energy needed to get people motivated, to reinvigorate their energy, their stamina, and to give them a much-needed boost. This is reflected in the amount of red visible. Being orange, there is also yellow present, which is about creating fun, happiness and optimism. However the psychological properties of red are more dominant.

Tangerine Tango Kitchen Products
Orange Fridge by Smeg | Orange Oven by Baumatic | Volcano Coffee Table by Poliform

What are the main psychological properties of orange?

A true orange is about fun, joy, and playfulness. It encourages social interaction in a fun, conversational way. Orange is also the colour that stimulates the appetite. Whilst it is often stated that red stimulates the appetite, this is more to do with colour in culture. In Chinese restaurants for example they often use red tablecloths because red symbolizes good fortune. They are hoping their diners eat more to bring in more wealth.

Orange also represents physical comfort, and expresses the feelings of abundance. Tangerine Tango has a higher percentage of red so this creates a livelier, more energised feeling as I mentioned previously.

How can we best harness the positive attributes of orange in our interior design schemes?

Probably the first thing to mention is that Tangerine Tango isn’t for everyone. It is therefore important to find a tone that resonates with your personality. After all, you have to live with it so why not pick a tone that you love and one that makes you happy.

The saturation of colour will influence the intensity of the psychological qualities you will feel. You will experience a very different feeling when you look at Pantone’s Tangerine Tango compared to a softer orange such as peach or apricot or even an autumnal pumpkin orange.

Be aware that with every colour there are negative characteristics and by using too much orange or using the wrong tone in combination with other colours it can appear a bit frivolous, like you’re not taking things too seriously. It can also bring up feelings of deprivation.

Whether you feel the positive or the negative characteristics will be personal. Don’t be surprised if you like a colour one day and not the next.

What other colours work particularly well in conjunction with orange and why is this?

If you are after a retro look try shades of brown or if you are after a more contemporary look think about touches of turquoise.  As blue is the complementary colour to orange, the blue will make the orange look more orange and vice versa. For a fresh, fun look, team orange with yellow.

Think about the mood you want to create, pick the tone of orange you love and then you’ll know what other colours to use to complete your colour scheme.

Likewise, which colours should not be used in conjunction with orange?

It’s more about picking the right tone of colours. Pick colours that tonally harmonise with each other otherwise you will find the colours will jar and fight against each other and over time you will find them difficult to live with.

What are your top tips for using Tangerine Tango successfully in residential interiors?

Firstly you need to like it. If you don’t then look for another tone of orange. Secondly, Tangerine Tango isn’t a relaxing colour it’s probably best to avoid using it in interiors where you want to relax, unwind, carry out focused work or sleep.

However, orange is a great colour if you need stimulation or motivation, or if you will be using the room for entertaining, fun, or socialising. Again be aware of the proportion you use, the placement and the combination with other colours.

Orange is often associated with a new dawn in attitude. Do you think that in choosing Tangerine Tango as colour of the year Pantone was attempting to bring more positivity and energy into our lives following the difficulties of the past few years?

Without being able to ask the originating author what they meant by this phrasing ‘new dawn in attitude’, all I can do is make the assumption they were referring to an orange containing a high percentage of yellow. This would give the feelings of optimism and hope.

When it comes to the red saturated Tangerine Tango I do feel the Pantone trend team were tapping into the social, economic situation by choosing a colour that would bring more positivity and energy into our lives. To encourage, motivate and reinvigorate us.

For some people, the thought of using such a bright and vibrant colour in their home will prove a little too intimidating. What advice would you give those who feel this trepidation?

You are absolutely right. Tangerine Tango has so much energy and vibrancy, it doesn’t give any respite. If you really want to use it, then try using it in small bursts, such as accessories which you can easily swap out or move around especially if you start to find it is too overpowering or over stimulating.

Go for an orange that resonates with you. Oranges range from soft salmon, peach and apricot tones through to burnt orange and the cold Persian orange.

Bedroom featuring Backgammon Wallpaper in Harvest Orange by Mini Moderns
Bedroom featuring Backgammon Wallpaper in Harvest Orange by Mini Moderns | Image courtesy of Mini Moderns

Are there any rooms in the house that particularly lend themselves to orange? Why is this?

Any space that is used for fun, happy, social interaction such as the kitchen, or entertainment areas is ideal.  This is due to the psychological properties of orange.

The softer, paler oranges (salmon, peach and apricot tones) can be used in the bedroom. The percentage of pink makes this a more romantic colour, but having said that this may not be everyone’s idea of a sensual, romantic colour. This will be down to your own personal association with the colour.

How important is it to get the lighting right in rooms that contain large expanses of orange?

Without light we wouldn’t see colour so it is key to get this right. Things to consider are room aspect and natural lighting conditions as colour can change dramatically throughout the day.

It’s also important to be aware of the type of artificial lighting you are using. Not just the type of light (e.g. task, spot etc) but what the colour bias is.



Once again I would like to thank Karen for sharing her expert insights with us. If you have any thoughts on the use of this colour in interiors please do share them with us in the comments. Likewise if you have any questions, please feel free to post them below as Karen is extremely helpful and I’m sure she would be more than happy to give you her expert opinion.

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