Colour theories in interior design and lighting: Orange

coronetHow and where to use the colour orange in your home interior design. Plus a guide to orange lampshades, orange table lamps and all things orange lighting… 

How do you feel about the colour orange? Not a trick question, by any means…orange is another of those colours that people tend to either love or loathe. But while we often think of orange as a bold, vibrant, unmissable colour, it also has softer, subtler aspects. It sits between yellow and red on the visible light spectrum, and it can take you from warm honeyed tones, via tangy citrus notes, to blood and burnt orange.

Orange décor has a fascinating history, stretching back to ancient civilisations and it has popped up regularly from the Renaissance period to the present day. As well as compiling a potted history, we have put together some suggestions for different and effective ways to welcome orange into your home, including some appropriate Pooky lighting.

anouska lancasterAccenting orange; sitting room by Anouska Lancaster, with Pooky ikat lampshade. Photo: Chris Fletcher


Orange in interior design: a brief history 

egyptian tomb paintingAncient Egyptian painting from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Image: creative commons.

For first appearances, we have to visit the ancient civilisations of Egypt and India. A mineral pigment called realgar was used for Egyptian tomb paintings, and the Indus Civilisation (3300-1300BC) used orange carnelians for decoration. The yellow-red mineral, orpiment, was traded across the Roman Empire, despite containing arsenic, which made it highly toxic.

For most of history this distinctive colour was known simply as 'yellow-red'. It was the arrival of orange trees in Europe in the late 15th century that changed the nomenclature for good. Yes, the colour orange is named after the fruit (whose name ultimately derives from the Arabic naranj), not the other way about: by the 17th century the fruit and its colour was sufficiently familiar that the term ‘orange-coloured’ morphed into the English adjective ‘orange’.

The use of orange in art took off during the Italian Renaissance, when artists such as Titian and Tintoretto used the colour in their paintings. Orange began to be associated with richness and warmth, associations that continued well into the 18th and 19th centuries, with orange frequently adding a sense of opulence to textiles, furniture and wallpaper.

midsummer'Midsummer' by Albert Joseph Moore, 1887; Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth. Public domain.

During the first half of the 20th century, it was the boldness, confidence and vibrancy of orange that resonated; it found favour in the Jazz Age and was popular with Art Deco designers.

These were also the qualities that made orange feature so prominently in Mid-Century Modern design, from chairs to fridges. Orange, despite its long history became the colour of youthfulness and rebellion, offering a sense of looking towards the future rather than back at the past.

orange shell chairMid-century orange shell chair designed by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Sons, Denmark, 1963. Designmuseum, Copenhagen. Image: creative commons

Today’s interior designers tend to use orange to create a sense of warmth and brightness in a focused way, with orange accent pieces, accessories, or statement walls, set against neutral colours for balance, or against complementary colours for a sense of drama.

francescoNo shying away from orange in this bedroom, which features Pooky’s Francesco chandelier.

Using orange in your interior design

If you want to introduce orange into your interior design plans, it’s important to pay attention to the colour’s various levels of intensity. There are, in fact, approximately 240 different shades of orange, so it’s worth taking some time to pore over those shade cards and tester pots. If you want to energise a space, go for strong, bright, citrus hues; the softer, more muted tones, such as terracotta, are ideal for creating a sense of calm.

Here are six tried-and-tested ways to bring orange into your décor…

anouska lancaster orange wallKitchen with orange accent wall by Anouska Lancaster. Photo: Chris Fletcher

1) Accent walls – add warmth and create a focal point by painting a single wall orange, without the danger of overwhelming a room.

2) Accessories – create a sense of energy by adding artwork, curtains, cushions, rugs or throws that feature orange. Carefully placed accessories can add points of interest, without diminishing your predominant colour scheme.

3) Complementary and contrasting colours – if you want people to sit up and take notice, try pairing orange with either a complementary colour, such a blue, or contrasting colours such as purple or teal. Perfect combinations if you want to create a hint (or even a strong sense) of drama.

A solid orange wall and orange table provide a dramatic backdrop for Pooky’s Bob turquoise lamp.

4) Furniture – some of the 20th century’s best known-furniture designers recognised the value of single pieces of orange furniture, which could make a strong statement in a room. They were right, of course, and it’s a look that remains popular, not least in a neutral colour setting.

5) Lighting – warm orange-toned lighting and warm-hued light bulbs create a sense of ease and welcome. (See lots more orange lighting ideas below!)

6) Natural elements – this is where the earthier orange tones come into play; think terracotta tiles or orange-toned woods to bring warmth into a room. Ideal in a northern climate, with long, wet and chilly winters!

terracottaTerracotta floor tiles, timeless and universal.  Photo: Bino Le, creative commons


Orange lighting

Orange is RuPaul’s favourite colour, apparently; he never travels without an orange scarf, not just to wear but also to throw over hotel room lamps for “a lovely warm ambience.” While we don’t wish to rain on anyone’s parade, we know that scarves on lamps are, to say the least, a tad risky, so probably best avoided. After all, who needs scarves when you can have well designed orange lighting to do the job safely? Here are our Pooky picks.

Orange table lamps kilda

Let’s start with the biggest and boldest of statement table lamps: Pooky’s Kilda (above). It’s a big ball of ceramic bumptiousness and has real presence, so it’s definitely a lamp that is worth placing centre stage. Don’t hide Kilda away in a corner.

Also for the bold and brave is the Wobster in orange lacquered wood (below): statuesque and curvy and with plenty of chutzpah. An ideal colour ‘pop’ in a neutral room, or to complement a really vibrant scheme.

wobsterSee more orange table lamps here.


Orange pendant and ceiling lights

 ted ceramic orange

Ted (above) is a beautiful orange ceramic pendant shade, with a stone interior, and with knobs on... Delicate little bobbles, in fact, that run round the edge of the shade, under a lightly crackled glaze to add texture and a subtle reflective quality. Fabulous over a kitchen island or within a Scandinavian influenced interior.

See more Pooky ceiling lights in orange, terracotta and tangerine here.


Orange floor lamps

bamboo floor lampPooky has two rather striking amber polished resin floor lamps, both of which would fit the orange accent bill. Bamboo (above) looks, as you might expect, like a shaft of the plant after which it was named.

Coronet (pictured right at the top of this post) is slightly more ornate; its fluted features add something of a ceremonial elegance. Very grown up and boldly decorative.


Orange lampshades

Needless to say, we have dozens of gorgeous orange lampshades in different styles, materials and finishes, and from solid blocks of colour, to subtle hints of orange. saffron dupion shade

How about the unashamed luxury of this straight empire shade in saffron dupion silk (above)? We’ve called it saffron but from one angle it’s a rich, orangey ochre, from another a milder yellow.

Here’s an empire shade again but in orange dotty:

orange dotty

It’s a soft cotton shade, hand block-printed, and made by skilled Jaipur craftspeople. We love the details: it’s pleated and lined and features little spots of orange.

To give you an idea of not only how versatile orange can be but how a straight empire shade can ring the changes, this is the yamuna version of our hand-made marbled paper shade:


Each one is a proudly individual work of art and craft. It’s a great example of how effective orange can be against a neutral background; grey and orange bring out the best in each other.

Browse all Pooky’s orange lampshades here.

And, finally, don’t forget the warm-hued light bulbs we mentioned earlier. You’ll find Pooky’s very own amber-coated bulbs here.


Pooky make beautiful lights for beautiful interiors - find inspiration on our blog and shop our huge range of lights and shades.

See also:

Colour theories in interior design and lighting: black
Colour theories in interior design and lighting: white
Colour theories in interior design and lighting: red
Colour theories in interior design and lighting: blue
Colour theories in interior design and lighting: green
Colour theories in interior design and lighting: yellow