In the ritual of seasonal holidays, color plays an outsized role. Orange and black are designated to the thrills of Halloween, palettes that mimic autumn leaves are signs of Thanksgiving, and red and green denote the unmistakable arrival of Christmas. To surround ourselves in these colors is to act out a familiar scene of celebration.
Given that these holidays are commonly filled with cheer—and that these colors are often tied to good memories—decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas festivities can be distinctly comforting. So why don’t we decorate with orange, black, red, and green throughout the year?
That’s because, while it’s a shame to confine their strengths to the holidays, it’s also a challenge to see these colors beyond their ties to autumn and winter. So, we asked four designers for tips on how to design with seasonal colors year-round, because their heartwarming connotations shouldn’t have a time limit.
“Since red brings so much heat, my favorite ways to use it are balanced with blue or pink,” Warner says. “When you combine it with other warm colors like yellow or orange, it takes you to a place that is 100 percent leaf-peeping season, so stay away from those.”
It’s best to consider red as part of a chorus of shades, since its loudness will need to be tempered with calmer layers. “If you want something dramatic then pair it with pink—pinks and reds cannot clash for some reason,” she continues. “If you want something more livable, pair it with a few different blues.”
Furthermore, don’t think of red as purely a paint color. Warner recommends it for furniture, if you’re game. “I included red on a large sofa and piped the sofa with a cranberry cord,” she says. “I paired it with an abstract dip-dyed red, pink, and blue curtain. The result was timeless, and it never for one minute made me think it was seasonal.”
“Green is the color of nature, and if you think of it this way, then how would nature design with its most popular color?” Murphy asks. “Use complementary colors, like lighter greens and blue shades, and then bring in punches of orange for a harmonious contrast.”
Murphy recommends using plenty of natural textures to balance out a room that’s predominantly green, such as with a rattan side chair, a leather sofa, or a wood table, since a reliance on “earthy” materials will keep the room from feeling seasonal. Again, if opting for green walls feels like too much of a commitment, she suggests tying a room together with a variety of green accents.
“Throw in a patterned rug, pillows, or textiles for the perfect mix,” she says. “And if you love the color green, try and weave it in small doses through the rest of your home so that it feels like you’re telling a story from space to space.”
“Depending on the shade of orange, complementary colors like blue or blue-green will pair perfectly with it, or a neighboring hue like pink or yellow,” Cheng says. “If you’d like to stick with natural tones, warm woods like walnut or oak accompany orange beautifully, and leather automatically elevates the color and makes it feel more dramatic. Creamy whites are also great contrasting colors.”
Since orange is often bold, Cheng notes that natural materials do best to soften that effect in larger spaces like a living room. She also recommends using orange in furnishings like a large sofa, and then balancing that pop of color with wood, white, or neutral accents for a year-round design. “You can consider painting some or all of the background wall navy blue, or darker. I love Benjamin Moore’s Soot, for instance. “If that’s too intense but you like the idea, hang an oversized piece of artwork in the realm of dark blue behind it.”
Nevertheless, the best place for year-round orange might be in a powder room, Cheng says. “If you love orange and aren’t afraid of your powder room being cheerfully bright, patterned wallpaper paired with brass or matte black fixtures would be amazing,” she says. “When entertaining, put an arrangement of sunflowers or magnolia leaves in the room to add a layer of coziness.”
“Black is actually so much easier to design with than you’d think,” Hernandez says. “I'm firm on the idea that every single room needs a hit of black to feel balanced. It's such a neutral, and a little goes a very long way.”
In keeping with Hernandez’s philosophy that black is a neutral, she says it’s possible to design with this shade on big or small terms—including as a wall color. “If you want a big moody black moment, like painting your walls charcoal, make sure to bring in enough bright spots of color, plenty of texture, and dashes of warmth so it doesn't come off as too severe,” she says. “The right combination can come off as upbeat. It's not all depressing, I promise!”
She says that black pairs well with saturated colors like yellow, green, and white for a preppier look, and can also complement jewel tones for a moodier feel. Essentially, it’s the most versatile “seasonal” color there is.
“You'll want to play with the finishes you use in the room so the design feels robust instead of flat,” Hernandez adds. “Mixing matte blacks via decor and accents with something glossier—please, someone do a high-gloss black wall!—would create a nice depth. Also, brushed or unlacquered brass really amps up the style of a mostly black room.”
What is your favorite seasonal color to use year-round? Tell us in the comments below!
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