Behind the Color Red
Red isn't for the faint of heart. Considered the color of romance and passion, stimulating red is a design tool that heightens the senses.
Red can feel contemporary, traditional, rustic or timeless, depending on the shade and context. A touch of red can warm up a cool blue-and-white room, or add drama when used as the main color in a small space like a powder room.
From crimson and fire engine red to merlot and rust, there are endless ways to use this warm shade to create a mood.
This cozy kitchen uses rust red walls to anchor the design, which features warm textures and salvaged accents. An eclectic mix of golds, browns, greens and whites is showcased against the welcoming hue, while layered lighting makes the space glow in the evenings. Design by Susan Fredman
Eclectic Breakfast Nook
A custom red leather bench seat adds a burst of energy to this dining area. In this design, less red is more. The bold punch of color entertains the eye through intricate window treatments and subtle lighting detail. Design by Kate Ridder
Lacquered white cabinets and quartz countertops pop against a bold crimson backdrop, giving this room a contemporary Asian vibe. The glass backsplash shields the bright wall from wear. Design by Andreas Charalambous
Vibrant reds combined with earthy greens and golden yellows give this hacienda a rustic-chic charm. The Mediterranean style is characterized by aged textures and an oversized area for prepping large family meals. Design by Ashley Astleford
Outfitted with gourmet amenities, this kitchen utilizes a bold color combination to rev up your appetite. Red tiled countertops against a yellow wall accentuate the Spanish-themed aesthetic. Photo by Greg Weiner. Design by Christopher J. Grubb
Red walls and white beadboard detail make this kitchen feel intimate and inviting without overwhelming. For the color-shy, putting a pop of red in the kitchen is a great place to begin incorporating color in your home. Design by Judith Balis
Industrial Modern Kitchen
Red is associated with fire and heat. When preparing food, red countertops give the perception of warmth, therefore tricking your senses and heightening your appetite. For balance, mix cool gray with this bold hue. Design by Roger Zierman
How to Use Red
Use red on the walls to make a room feel more intimate, or feature the color on just one wall to visually rework the proportions of a long, narrow room. Different patterns and shades of red can work together to perk up a neutral dining room, or make a small dining alcove feel like a destination.
Red and black is a classic, dramatic combination. Photo courtesy of Brian Patrick Flynn
"Red is never boring," says interior designer Denna McLaughlin of City Studios. "A couple of big red chairs are inviting ... in a living room, but I also love red for drapery. When the light comes through the window, it gives the room a soft red glow that makes people want to be together."
When combined with other colors, red offers even more versatility. An earthy red used with wood tones can warm a room. Red with soft gray and touches of magenta can make a room feel cozy, feminine and soft.
Depending on the texture, deep reds may absorb light while brighter reds allow light to bounce off walls. Red with a touch of brown or purple will feel warmer than pure red with hints of pink. Orange-tinged reds will make you feel energized, while purple-red shades can make a space feel more intimate and quiet.
For Your Exteriors
Red can be a vibrant design element for your home's exterior. Red front doors are a popular choice, but consider using red paint or tile on the porch floor to create a striking effect.
"I also love red containers for outdoor plants," says color expert Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of the book Colors for Your Every Mood. "It's a natural complement for the greenery."
Ideas for Creating Moods With Red
- A textured red linoleum floor with veining can give a kitchen a playful, retro vibe.
- Use red on the inside back of a cupboard or china cabinet to add energy to a room.
- Scarlet-lacquered walls with espresso trim make a dining room feel dramatic and elegant.