GOING FOR GOLD: How to Decorate with Ochre

It will add depth to a neutral scheme and drama to a darker one – it’s time to invite this earthy amber in..

With the rise of Gen Z yellow as a colour of choice for statement accessories and oh-so-now soft furnishings, it was only a matter of time before we turned our attention to using a variant of this most vibrant of hues to decorate our homes.

Take a look beyond ochre’s Seventies and hipsterish connotations and you discover that, actually, it has a decorative history that stretches way, way back. ‘It is a natural pigment, dug directly from the ground and present in every culture and civilisation,’ explains Annie Sloan, colour and paint expert. ‘Ochre is the oldest of all organic pigments,’ agrees Dominic Myland, CEO of Mylands.

Cast your mind across a variety of decorative traditions ranging from the Regency vogue for chinoiserie to Luis Barragán’s modernist painted buildings in Latin America and you start to fully understand the flexibility of ochre. But Sloan thinks there is also another reason for its current appeal: ‘Traditional, earthy colours with ancient pedigree create a safe, anchored feeling inside your home, which we are starting to value more,’ she says. ‘Reconnecting with the past and with nature is a way of understanding the future and provides comfort in uncertain times.’

Not only that, vibrant ochre has sunny, warm, uplifting associations, so it’s no surprise that it works both as an eye-catching accent colour, as well as lending itself to, say, brightening up a dingy hallway or a dull formal dining room.

See beautiful dining room ideas.

INSPIRING WAYS TO DECORATE WITH OCHRE

OppOsites attract

Ochre can seem overpowering, so ground it by teaming it with accents of black for a sophisticated look that will appeal to classicists and mid-century modernists alike. In this room the bold walls are tempered with dark architraves and skirting boards.

Yellow-Pink (46) Absolute Matt emulsion, 2.5L, £45, Little Greene.

eternal sunshine

Giving off positive vibes, ochre will bring a shot of warmth and vitality to every room. Use deeper shades for darker spaces and lighter ones for south-facing rooms.

Wall painted in Haymarket marble matt emulsion, £46 for 2.5L; skirting painted in Blueprint wood and metal eggshell, £63 for 2.5L, both Mylands. For a similar umbrella stand, try 1stdibs.

HOW TO USE OCHRE

Combining ochre with other colours is not as tricky as it might first seem, according to Annie Sloan. ‘For drama, pair it with strong greens in a tropical botanical setting; to dial it back, use with whites; and for something between the two, team ochre with a soft black–it’s dramatic but still very liveable.’

BEST OCHRE PAINT COLOURS

BEST OCHRE PAINT FOR AN ACCENT WALL

 

Arles chalk paint, £19.95 for 1L, Annie Sloan.

Do try it out in the functional rooms of the home, such as the bathroom and kitchen. ‘Ochre can actually work really well by introducing an unexpected splash of colour,’ says Dominic Myland, CEO of Mylands. ‘It also pairs well with dark blue tones, which are a popular choice for kitchen cabinets, as the warmth of the yellow balances emulsion, £35 out the cooler blue.’

BEST OCHRE PAINT FOR A LIVEABLE LOOK

Humpty Dumpty claypaint, £40 for 2.5L, Earthborn.

Ochre can come into its own in darker spaces, says Lucy St George, co-founder of Rockett St George. ‘It adds a happy glow to any room and is perfect for hallways or north-facing rooms that need to bring their own sunshine,’ she says. ‘Team it with rich red sand brown tones to create a beautiful colour palette that changes throughout the day as different light reflects on it.’

BEST OCHRE PAINT FOR A DRAMATIC ENTRANCE

Gamboge pure flat emulsion, £48.50 for 2.5L, Paint & P a p e r L i b r a ry

Another good reason for using ochre in hallways is that ‘it’s a colour that is warming and inviting and therefore works especially well in entrances and halls,’ says Paula Taylor, colour and trends  specialist at Graham & Brown. These positive associations also translate to other rooms: ‘It’s brilliant as a feature wall in bedrooms and kitchens.’

BEST OCHRE PAINT FOR STATEMENT OCHRE

Ochre Mountain premium blend V700 walls & ceilings, £28 for 2.5L, Valspar.

BEST OCHRE PAINT FOR A RETRO VIBE

Goldsmith regal select flat paint, from £20.50 for 0 . 9 4 L , Benjamin Moore.

See painted kitchen ideas.

The question is less, why would you decorate with Ochre? than Why wouldn’t you?

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