International Orange

By John Ike

Last weekend, I bought a gallon of paint the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Sherwin Williams makes it - they’re the bridge’s official paint supplier.)

It’s known as “International Orange,” and it’s a great shade: iconic and attention-grabbing. It falls somewhere between Safety Orange and Fire Engine Red.

When pieces of the Golden Gate started arriving to the site in the 1930s, they were painted in a primer of a similar vermillion color. Architect Irving Morrow liked the shade so much, he proposed they paint the entire thing like that, rather than the usual black or grey. After writing a 29 page proposal, he got his way.

I can understand his attraction to it. It looks great against blues and greens, and emerges from the fog that often surrounds it. 

There are a couple different versions of International Orange; the bridge’s is a redder take on it.

It’s been used traditionally in the aeronautics industry, for example, on astronaut’s uniforms.

The color enlivens already dramatic forms, like a curvy 1950s truck.

A house in San Francisco embraces the bridge’s exact shade.

It apparently takes over 47,000 gallons of paint to cover the bridge. They constantly paint portions of it to prevent against the salt water’s corrosive effects.

My project in International Orange will be a little less ambitious. Maybe I’ll take my one bucket and paint something of a more manageable scale - a piece of furniture, or perhaps my front door.