Painting Tips: Toning Down Bright Orange Walls

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Vintage Art

Image by Dee Adams via Flickr

Have you ever gone out on a limb and painted some BOLD color on your walls?  Has it worked out for you?  Or did you just groan when you were done?  I painted my bedroom walls a dark cranberry…almost black cherry – just 3 walls – and was scared the whole time!  But my ceilings are high and it really helped to make the space more intimate.

But…I have to say…painting walls in Glossy Bright Orange is pretty brave!   Brings back memories of the Avocado, Harvest Gold and Orange psychedelic days. You know… Goldie Hawn and the “Laugh In” show.

Which brings us to this readers question concerning her bright orange painted walls:

We painted our living room / dining room in Glossy “Bright Orange”.  We have 1 big french window, leading to the patio, on 1 end and the kitchen on the other end of this room.  Our furniture is in beige or black for the most part.  We love the color, but we think that it makes the room look dark, as there’s not much white in it.  What can we do to bring in more light into the room and to reduce the orangeness?

Well, okayyyyy….  First… don’t try any faux painting white (or beige) over these orange walls.  It would look muddy if you use beige and would look peachy and mushy with white.  Like the technical terms?  “Muddy” and “mushy”.  ;)

If you want to try and faux over it use a yellow.  A soft yellow.  But not too soft as it’ll be too white.  Not “butter yellow” but something closer to “lemon”.  Not goldenrod.

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If you want something more FUN – how about painting stripes on the walls?   Wide vertical stripes in white might be really neat.  THEN add some great prints like this one ——–> (by Peter Kitchell) and frame them in black to tie them in to your furniture.

Make sure the prints are BIG, though, and not small or it’ll get way too busy in there.

OR…. Large horizontal stripes in white and black in various widths might be neat, too?

The problem with a huge expanse of bright orange is that it may need to be broken up visually.  Either with art, furniture or another color of paint.  Like I did with my “black cherry” walls. Of the three walls that are painted black cherry one is almost covered with large pieces of furniture (2 chest of drawers & an armoire), another has 3 windows and a large painting on it and the third has two windows and a french door on it…so drapes. ;)

For your bright walls another option is to paint over three of the walls with a shade or two less intense orange.  Say….going from pumpkin orange to more of an orange juice orange.

Hope this helps. And remember…it’s only paint!

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  1. Lesley Koenig says

    You can also tone it down by using a small amount of the complement of orange, which is blue. Make a glaze and change the ratio of glaze to paint, depending on how much you want to tone down the orange.

    Test your favorite ‘concoctions’ on a surface that can withstand paint; like watercolor paper. Use a big enough piece so you can really see the new choices against the wall from a distance. Use painter’s tape on the back to double stick your swatches to the wall. Keep looking at it at DIFFERENT TIMES of the day/eve. to judge which modification is most flattering to the space.

    Remember to use a sheen of glaze that matches what you want; matte, satin or gloss. You can buy a small amount at an art store and buy a tester sample of the paint color from your paint supplier. Have fun! Orange is a stimulating color, but too much stimulation will make one think “RUN!” instead of “YUM!”

  2. THAT Painter Lady says

    You are absolutely correct, Lesley! And thanks for the reminder. We like to do “test runs” on foam core poster board because its more “stable”…and cheap! ;) We’re all about the less expensive way to do things. Lol!

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