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Color Through the Years: Melon Oranges

Summer's juicy goodness—think creamy cantaloupe and sweet papaya—delivers plenty of color inspiration for refreshing a room. Here's a then-and-now look at the mellow side of orange.

Name Game

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In 1964, Better Homes & Gardens design editors described color as the greatest indoor game since musical chairs. They were referring to the fun in trying new colors, including melon (see more on that under 1960s and '70s, below.) Decades later, color names seem to be playing musical chairs, as hues that were eliminated from the game reinvent themselves and enjoy another round. Remember '90s peach? Call it sherbet or cantaloupe, and it's suddenly back in style. As the editors noted in another 1960s story: "Names may differ, but the flavor of the color is basically the same." For melon oranges, that means warmth. They may go by different names and appear in pale or rich shades, but these oranges are all warm and welcoming.


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Fearless homeowners in the 1950s weren't messing around when it came to putting color in their bathrooms. These personal spaces, in fact, were considered the prime spot to make a bold splash. And it was done in a daring way: on tubs, sinks, toilets—all those more permanent fixtures that most people today keep neutral (and that some homeowners are still living with). This advertisement in the March 1956 issue of Better Homes & Gardens sways with a dreamy tropical sunset that inspired the room's coral, gray, and blue palette. The ad describes the coral as "a glowing color with the warmth and charm of the South Seas."

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1960s and '70s

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After the pastel-happy 1950s, homeowners began grooving on bolder shades. The melons featured in the August 1960 magazine reflected the trend. They tended to be deep reddish orange, such as seen in the curtains in this bedroom. Editors suggested pairing their version of melon with brown and black accents and dark woods in a den for a subdued look. In the bedroom, they brightened the look with apple green. "Have a million-dollar look on a penny-wise budget just by using color," they suggested.

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1980s and '90s

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Peach walls, florals, lace. This bedroom featured in the June 1994 magazine brought out the sweet side of melon orange—in all its '90s glory. The article noted that soft peach walls "seem to gather the objects together in a warm embrace" while also providing visual relief. Despite the now-dated look, there was a smart strategy to the design. The homeowners focused on a romantic garden theme and brought in items that had special meaning. As one of the homeowners said: "Design happens with less effort once you determine what you really love." That lesson holds true today.


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By 2015, mellow oranges had taken a sophisticated turn and were getting plenty of love from Better Homes & Gardens design editors. Coral, for example, earned a spot in the magazine's Palette of the Year, announced in the March 2015 issue. Chameleon-like shades of coral—blush to sassy—joined vibrant tropical green, rich teal, and grounding gray for a palette the magazine described as "bold adventure." Different color pairings showed how to heighten the adventure. These two rooms both started with pale coral walls. For adventuresome types, bright green kicks things up and creates a lively living room. For others, a mix of corals—including blush hues in the bedding and walls painted in Sherwin-Williams' Romance SW 6323—creates a softer, monochromatic look that's perfect for a bedroom. In both spaces, gray and white were used as neutral grounding elements, and keep the look on trend.

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Talk about nostalgia! Sweet peach and refreshing mint—throwbacks from the '50s, '80s, and '90s—were the comeback combo in the August 2016 issue. Editors described the pairing as being reminiscent of melting sherbet on a hot day and called it a "lick-your-lips combo." Designer Tobi Fairley pointed out that the clearer, natural shades set these colors apart from the muddied tones of the 1980s and 1990s. Paint color suggestions included Benjamin Moore's Malibu Peach 2169-50, a creamy middle-ground shade. And it wasn't just in home design that peach and mint were having a moment. The warm-cool pairing seemed to make the rounds (and still pops up) as the colors for spring and summer weddings.

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Modern Takes

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Today's melon orange rooms are crisp and clean. Key to the look: adding plenty of high-contrast and room-brightening white. The addition of white works whether you go all-in with a rich shade of coral, such as in the bedroom, left, or bring in just a kiss of pale salmon, like in the dining room, below left. These two spaces, featured in the magazine's 2019 issues, also provide inspiration for helping gauge your comfort level with color. Do you feel the urge to go big with bold bedding and graphic wallpaper (pictured in this bedroom: Stacked Scallops from Magnolia Home)? Or are you more at ease with a small dose of color, and reserving it for easy-to-change items such as a rug or other accent piece? Either way, melon orange in all its pale-to-juicy shades is unexpected. It's a fresh update to any room.

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