Red isn’t just a color. It’s a statement.
This fiery hue conjures up so many feelings and emotions: passion, anger, love and heat. It blinds us when we are angry and fills our hearts when we’re content.
No wonder why using this emotional color — which takes center stage every February around Valentine’s Day — requires careful consideration when used in our decor, whether on the walls or in our furniture.
Linda Shears, a Troy-based interior designer who loves using bold color in her design, says red, like all colors, has “a subliminal voice.”
Colors “convey meaning and messages without words,” says Shears of Linda Shears Designs. “Red is the color of our base chakra. It really grounds us and stimulates warm conversation and the appetite.”
That’s why, Shears says, red is a great choice for dining rooms or kitchens. In her own home, her kitchen is painted red but Shears’ cabinets are white, going all the way to the ceiling so “the red is really only an accent color for me – on the walls as well as in my accessories.”
Shears also recently completed a dark red dining room in Novi for a client. The walls are painted Sherwin-Williams’ Wild Currant, which flows naturally from the colors used in adjoining rooms.
“Their sun room/family room/kitchen are in shades and tones of black, cranberry and wheat,” says Shears in an email. “The dining room was a very blah space in beige-on-beige-on-beige with a yarn wall hanging in Miami Vice colors from the 1980s. The only piece of furniture which was reused is the marble table. My clients found the chairs at Pier One.”
But red can feel overwhelming too, says local Sherwin-Williams personal color consultant Stephanie Summers.
“Use it in a space where the room should not feel overwhelming or dark and has natural light,” advises Summers. “Do not forget about the ceiling. Choosing a bold ceiling color like red can highlight a decorative molding or medallion and introduce a modern twist to the room.”
How to use it well
Designer Terence Conran, author of “Conran on Color” (Hatchette Book Group, $34.99), writes that choosing the right shade of red is very important. He says scarlet veers toward orange and crimson has a hint of blue. Deep reds such as burgundy and ruby are more brownish.
“Softer reds, such as berry colors and warm, earthy tones, are more user-friendly,” he writes.
Conran says one of the best ways to use red is as an accent color. He says red dining room chairs are convivial; quilts, pillow covers and throws bring warmth to a bedroom or seating area; and red runners “create vibrant pathways up stairs and along corridors,” writes Conran.
“Experimenting with red accents and focal points is a great way to enjoy the vitality of the color without the risk of overstimulation,” writes Conran.
Conran says one way to handle what he calls “the energy of red” is to give it breathing room. That could be using white walls around the red or natural flooring.
“Red may be no less eye-catching in areas where the rest of the decoration is restrained or neutral, but it won’t overpower you,” writes Conran.
What works with red
Shears says red works with well with many neutrals. It could be paired with Sherwin-Williams’ color of the year, Poised Taupe — “stunning,” Shears calls the pairing — or even its complementary color, green.
“There is the 70/30 rule with complementary colors that’s very important with red/green — 70 percent of one and 30 percent of the other, and maybe a nice dose of a neutral to separate the two,” says Shears.
Shears says red also pairs well with Benjamin Moore’s color of the year, Shadow, a purple hue. She says it’s such a dark hue that it needs to be paired with either whites and neutrals or “lots of color.”
“Red and purple families are analogous colors on the color wheel so they are very harmonious together,” says Shears.
Summers of Sherwin-Williams say the most popular reds these days are the bold shades. She says red doesn’t just have to be limited to the walls. Red front doors also are popular.
“Red makes your door stand out and gives an added curb appeal,” she says.
But if you use red on all four walls in a room, Shears suggests limiting any more red in the room to accessories and art. If red is just an accent wall, she says it’s OK to use more red in some accent furniture, accessories and draperies.
“Color is very subjective. Self-expression, more so than trends, now spins the color wheel,” says Shears.
Win ‘Color’ Book
Do you love red or decorating with other bold colors? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. One lucky reader will win designer Abigail Ahern’s “Color,” which is all about incorporating bold colors into your decor.
Best rooms for red: Dining rooms, kitchens, front doors, or spaces where there is entertaining. Steer clear of red in the bedroom. Red can be overwhelming.
Factors to consider: the amount of natural light a space gets and the shade of red. Some reds have orange or blue undertones.
Popular shades: Sherwin-Williams’ Emotional and Sierra Redwood.
Unique uses: Inside cabinets, ceilings, accessories or accent walls.