Vibrant, snappy, lucky, cheerful, romantic -- how can one color do so much? But red means more than love, fire or "stop." "Red is powerful," said Mary Ann Downey, a designer in Sacramento, Calif. "It makes people feel warm and loved. Also, it incites good appetites, and people look good around red, particularly at night."
Vibrant, snappy, lucky, cheerful, romantic -- how can one color do so much?
But red means more than love, fire or "stop."
"Red is powerful," said Mary Ann Downey, a designer in Sacramento, Calif. "It makes people feel warm and loved. Also, it incites good appetites, and people look good around red, particularly at night."
Red can make itself at home year-round. It's become a favorite of decorators and product designers. Your whole home can be red, from appliances to wallpaper. But like chocolate, red may be best in moderation.
"Red is a classic color," said Rachel Skafidas, Dutch Boy Paints color-and-design specialist. "You are always going to see it around. What makes it look new is the colors that you pair it with, and how warm or cool it is."
Ask any hair colorist: Making the right red is an art. Same goes with paint. Add a bit of blue; red cools. More yellow brings more heat.
Today's red -- after years of the country seeing red ink in tough economic times -- also reflects new optimism and an upbeat attitude.
"The reds that you will see out there are warming up with more of a yellow undertone; very passionate and energizing," Skafidas said.
Dutch Boy offers about 160 reds, including nine new shades this year. Among the introductions is a throwback: Rocket Red. Said Skafidas, "This is a classic red with a warmer undertone that is great for a pop of color or bringing back that nostalgic feeling of the past."
Dutch Boy's best-selling reds also reflect an iconic feel: Crimson Sky, Red Wagon and Victory Red.
Shoppers have many more red products from which to choose. For example, a laundry room brings new meaning to "power wash" with a red Whirlpool washer and dryer. An all-red kitchen fires up mealtime with a retro-red Smeg refrigerator, a red Bertazzoni range and a red KitchenAid mixer. A romantic bedroom overflows with red linens.
No wonder interior designers hear more requests for red.
"It transcends styles and time periods and goes well with a variety of other colors," said Deborah Wecselman, a Florida designer with a national following. "It's a unique and different color you don't see every day and can brighten up and work with any room. There is nothing like walking into a room and seeing a bright red rug or piece of artwork with red tones paired with something patterned, such as a zebra couch."
"I love red!" said Downey, who has done all-red rooms. "Often, designers attract people who share common interests, and I always think red means an adventurous spirit even if it's a 'closeted' one."
Although she's drawn to many shades, Downey uses the right red for the right room.
"It really depends upon the room, level of formality and type of room," she said. "It's a wonderful entertainment color -- good in dining, living rooms and kitchens."
Kerrie Kelly of Sacramento, author of "Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide" (Sunset Books, 2009), also works a lot with red.
"I adore red!" Kelly said. "When red has an undertone of blue, it can create an intriguing dining or office space. With more of an orange undertone, it creates a sense of playfulness in a space, which is perfect for children's or outdoor areas."
Kelly offered some examples of red's many moods. A bachelor pad wrapped in red becomes the perfect backdrop for contemporary art and menswear fabrics, such as a charcoal pinstripe on wingback chairs. For a jewelry designer's office, two-tone red wall covering created a feminine feel when contrasted against black bookcases and paired with an animal-print rug.
Gold River, Calif., designer Cheryl Deagon also uses different reds to create different moods.
"I do love working with the blue-reds like wine and burgundy that bring romance and elegance to a space," she said. "I also love working with the warm reds like tomato and burnt orange that are friendly and vibrant. It all depends on the look and feel that the client is looking for that will determine how much and which shade of red will be incorporated into a room."
It's possible to have too much red, Deagon noted. "It depends a lot on the lighting. A room with a lot of light -- or a lot of white -- can handle more red. In a darker room, red stands out more."
Deagon, whose company Arranging Places specializes in room makeovers, tries to work with what clients already own.
Deagon offered this example of red success: The homeowner wanted a family room that was friendly and inviting with a modern look. They chose a red couch and brown chairs that have the same clean lines. All red furniture would have been too much in the room; the brown gave it a modern flair and kept the red from becoming too dominant.
"We painted the walls a lovely shade of yellow to brighten the room and add softness," she added. "The pictures and pillows pulled the reds, yellows and browns together with a touch of silver for elegance. The result is a bright, friendly and welcoming space that the homeowner loves being in."
The Asian art of feng shui -- which harmonizes living spaces with positive energy flow -- uses the power of red, Deagon noted. "People want a red front door in feng shui. Red brings prosperity and good luck into your home."
But red can also overwhelm its surroundings.
"I (worked on) one home with a room where there was too much red," Deagon said. "That room was a little too vibrant. I toned it down with darker wood tones and brought in some blues for balance.
"On the other hand, a room full of neutrals needs a lift. That's when you bring in red accents, such as pillows, a vase or an accent wall."
It doesn't take a lot of red to make a big difference, Kelly noted, citing another example. "Adding red cushions to a more neutral-toned banquette cheerfully greets homeowners each morning while creating a leisurely space for breakfast, reviewing emails and reading the paper."
Red in many hues can be layered. Instead of five pillows in one red, choose five complementary shades.
Said Downey: "The best way to use red is with several shades in one area. Pick your favorite red and then add tones on either side. You get to provide rich impact this way without an assault to the senses."
One red accent can form the backbone of a whole room.
"I'm working on a San Francisco home, designing a living room around a beautiful red- and cream-colored Aubusson silk rug," said Sacramento designer Shiree Segerstrom. "I particularly like using red as an accent color with olive or sage green or even a pale greenish blue."
Wecselman found eye-catching red leather chairs, then designed a dining room to match. "I made the chairs the central theme of the room and then worked around that," she said. "They definitely add pops of color and draw attention."
Even a little red can do a lot.
"If you don't know where to start when it comes to incorporating red into your home, start by introducing small pieces such as a vase or throw pillow," Kelly said. "Once you see the extra life it brings to your space, you'll be more confident to use it going forward."
Added Wecselman: "Don't be afraid to use it. (Red) can add romance, excitement and surprise to any room."
Contact Debbie Arrington at email@example.com.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.
This will make you see red
We talked to several red-loving designers and color experts about working with that powerful color year-round. Here's their advice:
Start with a favorite red. Lipstick, tomato, brick, scarlet, rose, burgundy, vermilion -- there are so many different shades of red, it's hard to choose just one.
"Raspberry is great with most everything," said Sacramento, Calif., designer Mary Ann Downey. "I personally love the warm reds, just past fire-engine red. Tomato can work really well with other colors, too."
Sacramento designer Kerrie Kelly, author of "Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide" (Sunset Books, 2009), gets specific. "Ralph Lauren's Barn Red has been a tried-and-true color for me," she said. "I have used it in dining rooms and library spaces. Its warm base envelops a room, stimulating conversation and energy."
Sacramento designer Shiree Segerstrom's current favorite: oxblood. It's dark, romantic and passionate.
What goes with red: More than you'd think. It depends on the shade. Most reds are not just red but a mix with either blue or yellow-orange tones. It's those undertones that determine what fits.
"Green is the natural complement to red on the color wheel," noted Rachel Skafidas, Dutch Boy Paints color-and-design specialist. "However, you can virtually pair any color family with red. The tricky part is making sure the values and intensities of the colors pair well."
The classic combination: Red, white and black.
"Red with white looks crisp, clean, vibrant," Gold River, Calif., designer Cheryl Deagon said. "Bright red goes wonderful with white or black. If you're looking for a contemporary look, silver or black is an excellent choice with red."
But don't stop there. "Yellows, greens, browns, beiges, white and black all go great with red," Deagon added.
Consider pairing red with creams, taupes, acid greens, purple, yellow and orange, suggested Downey.
Pairing red with wood or metal: Red works with a wide range of woods and metal finishes. Again, watch those undertones.
Consider red-toned wood such as cinnamon wood, mahogany or rosewood, said Deborah Wecselman, a Florida-based interior designer with a national reputation. "Even dark wood looks stunning with red."
"Mahoganys have historical roots with red walls, but the selection of red needs to be thoughtful, as some reds can clash with a reddish wood," Downey said. "I love striated charcoal wood finishes with red. Try red with bear browns, ebony and neutral wood tones. Walnut is good, too."
What about metal fixtures? "Gun-metal metallics and silverleaf are fabulous metals with red," Downey said. "Warm polished nickels and soft golds work, too."
Said Deagon, "I especially love the darker finishes with red; the walnut and espresso finishes."
What doesn't work with red: Watch those orange and yellow undertones; they can clash.
"It doesn't work well with rusty-colored woods that have an orange cast," Segerstrom said.
"I'd stay away from polished golds," Downey added.
Ways to use more red: Start small and simple, then let the red flow. It can begin with a bouquet of red roses or a classic red vase. Pillows are easy; toss some red on the couch, chair, bed or floor.
Downey offers more suggestions. "You can paint an accent wall; paint a small accent piece of furniture as a curiosity; recover dining-room-chair seats; add red knobs to cabinets.
"Red glass accessories are beautiful and red leather-bound books are rich," she added. "You might start a collection of red plates to mount on a wall, or look for old red Asian lacquer trays, perhaps a chest. Or invest in red cloth napkins with napkin rings."