The powerful symbolism of the color red is one of the best ways to bring new energy into your interior design. We associate the color red with strong qualities like passion, strength, and courage. Used in the right places, the color red is the ideal antidote to mundane interior color because life is too short never to take risks with your interior color scheme. Even if you aren’t ready for an all-encompassing red room, there are still ways to bring the striking shades of red to enhance your decor throughout your home.
What is the Color Red?
Red is at the long wavelength end of the visible color spectrum. In traditional color theory, red is one of the three primary colors and one of the other components of colors like orange and purple. There are many varied shades of red each containing different levels of other colors including yellow or blue and white or black. For example, pink is a red hue tinted with varying degrees of white. Some of the other most popular red shades are vermillion, crimson, scarlet, and burgundy.
We are able to see the color red throughout nature. The red color is visible in autumn leaves, many types of fruits and berries, and natural pigments like red hematite and cinnabar.
The English word for red comes from the Old English word reade and is one of the oldest words added to describe color after white and black. The meaning of this word has remained unchanged since its conception. It refers to the color of blood and fire.
Symbolism and Psychological Effects of Red
Red symbolizes powerful emotions and actions in many cultures and across time.
Love and Romance
Red is a color that invites the eye because its bold hue stands out from other colors. Scientific studies have shown that wearing the color red makes others perceive you as more attractive. We also associate red with the color of the heart, so in the West, we use red to signify Valentine’s Day with red hearts and red roses. These may be just some of the reasons that we associate the color red with love and romance.
Sacrifice and Courage
Red is the color of blood. In the west, we often associate blood with the act of sacrifice. This is an idea that is common in religion with people dying for their faith or giving up their lives so that others can live. We also associate sacrificial deeds with strong emotions like love and passion for something outside ourselves. This love may require courage to give up ourselves for the greater good.
Strength and Dominance
It is common to signify strength and power by using the color red. A scientific study by Hill and Barton in 2004 showed that top athletes who wore red won more of their matches than athletes that wore other colors. Other studies have replicated their findings with similar results. Some scientists explain this phenomenon by pointing out that people feel stronger when wearing red, which can trigger increased stimulation like a faster heart rate and hormone boost.
This link between strength and the color red is one of the reasons that many military uniforms are red. It is also the reason that red is the most common color on national flags and the second most popular non-white color for sports jerseys.
Energy and Excitement
When humans see colors, scientists have posited that that evokes certain responses. We experience red, and other longwave colors, as stimulating to our senses. Many scientific studies have found that people who see red have a faster speed of movement, elevated blood pressure, respiratory movements, and metabolism. These together signify higher energy and excitement levels.
Caution and Danger
The color red is a symbol of danger in the natural and built environment. Some scientists explain this because red is a color that stands out from earth toned backgrounds. Scientists who study humans note the internal effects of red. When danger approaches, it is necessary to act quickly and decisively, and the colour red provokes the strongest response.
Using Red in Interior Design
Red is a bold and dramatic color that you can use in various ways to energize your interior spaces.
- Wall Color – You can use red as a full wall color to create a dramatic and warm room. This color can make a room appear more inviting, especially in the deep winter months. Paint just one wall as a focal point if all the walls of the room seem like they would be too overwhelming in red.
- Accent Color – Red is gorgeous as an accent color. It brings vibrancy to neutral hues with just small touches. Use red for trim, furniture, or room accents like pillows, wall art, and rugs.
- Explore Shades of Red – Red is a variable hue based on the addition of other colors. Consider hues like rich burgundy, muted brick reds, aged terracottas, and brilliant vermillion.
- Create Balance – There is no denying that red is a strong color, so the key to using it is creating balance in your interior design. Balance red by pairing it with cool complementary tones like blue and green. You can also balance the vivid nature of red by pairing it with neutrals, both light and dark.
Colors to Pair with Red
Balance energizing red hues with colors that help to tone down the visual intensity.
Reds and Neutrals
Combining red and neutrals like white, cream, beige, gray, brown and black is a way to achieve the best harmonization between intensity and calm.
Reds and Cool Earth Tones
Red paired with cool earth tones like green and blue provides a contrast that also creates harmony. Experiment with using the varied shades of red, green, and blue to achieve a winning combination. Don’t neglect to consider shades of red that are less vibrant or deep paired with rich and saturated blues and greens.
Reds and Reds/Pinks
For an immersive look, consider pairing red with other varieties of red and pink tones. This is a dramatic look but one that you can soften with the addition of neutrals and with natural textures like wood and greenery.
Red and Warm Tones
Neutralize the intensity of red with other warm vivid colors like yellow and orange. This scheme may sound too warm altogether, but picture soft muted reds with peachy orange or buttercream yellow and you can begin to see the possibilities.
Ideal Rooms for Red
- Dining Room – Red colors are ideal for large entertainment spaces like dining rooms because they can stimulate conversation and appetite.
- Living Room – Evoke a dramatic but inviting atmosphere by painting your living room a gorgeous red color.
- Bedroom – Even though red is the color we associate with passion, many people feel red is too energetic for use in bedrooms. Use red in bedrooms sparingly, but it is ideal for creating a cozy and intimate space.
- Kitchen – Red is an optimal color for energizing your kitchen. Do this with red accents like tile, fabric, or painted cabinetry or as a wall color.
- Game Room – Create an exciting and energetic game room using the color red.
The Best Shades of Red
We have gathered some of the most versatile shades of red that you can use in your interior design. Take note of the undertones of each color to make sure that it will work with the other colors throughout your home.
Shades of Light Red/Pink
- Coral Bronze (1298) from Benjamin Moore – Coral Bronze is a rich light red/pink. This color has strong orange undertones which heighten the color’s warmth.
- Begonia (6599) from Sherwin Williams – Begonia is a vivid pink/light red with a slight peach and violet undertone.
- Setting Plaster (No. 231) from Farrow & Ball – Setting Plaster is a sophisticated and mature light red/pink color. This color has warm tones because of the addition of yellow pigments.
Shades of Medium Red
- Ladybug Red (1322) from Benjamin Moore – Ladybug Red is a rich and true red with balanced undertones. The color is less saturated, keeping it a mid-dark toned color.
- Foxy (6333) from Sherwin Williams – Foxy is an elegant and muted red color. This color has warm undertones, but the addition of gray washes out the vibrancy of the color.
- Red Earth (No. 64) from Farrow & Ball – Red Earth is a warm and aged terracotta red with yellow undertones.
Shades of Dark Red
- Flamenco (CSP-1195) from Benjamin Moore – Flamenco is a full-bodied red color with deep saturation. It has balanced undertones but leans toward blue.
- Showstopper (7588) from Sherwin Williams – Showstopper is a rich and vivid red with warm undertones. This red is muted with gray undertones to keep the color sophisticated.
- Eating Room Red (No. 43) from Farrow & Ball – Eating Room Red is a rich shade of deep red/burgundy. This has black undertones, which give the color an aged feel.