The Color Red Makes Rooms More Intimate

Red is wonderful in a dining room where you want to encourage conversation, but in a bedroom it could be unsettling.

Red, Black and White Bedding - MattandShari.comRed is a good place to start when we are studying colors and their effects on us and in our homes.  Red, after all, is the top color in the rainbow. It is also the top color on the color wheel.  It is thought to be the first color perceived by infants.  And, it is thought to be one of the first color names to be created.  Pretty impressive if you ask me!

Because red’s wavelength is nearest to infrared, which actually produces heat, red is considered the hottest of all colors.  Studies have shown that exposure to quantities of red will actually quicken the heart rate, releasing adrenalin into the bloodstream and causing us to get warm.  As you imagine from this information, painting a room red and using a lot of red furniture and accessories could easily cause one to get aggravated and revved up.  So the science of the color red can help us as we use this bold color in our decorating!  This lovely bedroom with the bright red comforter would be a great place to relax.  But, the touch of excitement that the red adds is energizing as well.  The black and white used with it keeps the room livable with a punch of drama.

Red Makes you Stop -

Red’s wavelength is the reason for its boldness as well.  Simply put, the lens of our eye has to adjust to focus on red because its wavelength’s natural focal point lies behind our retina.  This is why red advances in a room.  Red items seem closer than they really are, and they stand out in a room.  (Keep this in mind for your next party dress purchase!)  You can also see why stop signs are red along with many emergency vehicles.

You may remember from some of your history lessons that red was considered a color of royalty or the aristocracy.  Mainly this occurred because bright, bold red was very difficult to create as the heart of the madder plant was difficult to come by.  Theaters used red plush fabrics to give a feeling of grandeur.  You’ve certainly heard, “roll out the red carpet” as an expression to show great respect.  It even brings luck in a “red-letter” day!

Sultry Red Walls -

Red also has its passionate side, and not always seen in a positive light.  We’ve heard of being “caught red handed”.  (In other words implying being found with the blood of the victim on your hands)  And we all know what the red light district is about, and you might remember the scarlet letter!

Take some time to think about the color red and where you see it in everyday life.  Can you imagine its origins and meanings?

Well, that’s really just the beginning when talking about the attributes, history, even science of Red, but what we really want to discuss is how red can be used in the home.

Chairs all Dressed in Red -

As we’ve discussed, red is so impactful and strong, it truly must be used with care in the home.  Done well it can be warm and inviting, overdone and it will be jarring and uncomfortable.  Remember that red is an advancing color.  Therefore, a room painted red will seem a bit smaller or more positively put, more intimate!  Pieces of furniture done in red will appear larger and heavier!

So, if you love red and want to paint all the walls in your room in red, it might be best to keep it to an entry or dining room.  Both of these rooms are used for short amounts of time.  We breeze through an entry, but red would be very dramatic and wonderful there.  For lively dining, red will stimulate conversation, looks marvelous by candlelight, and will be warm and cozy on even the coldest evenings!

Toned Down Reds are Sophisticated -

If you must have red in other rooms, consider toning the color with a little extra hue, like darkening to a maroon or brick tone.  You could cool the color with blue to achieve a lovely garnet, ruby or crimson.

Red Combines with Warm Colors -

Or, if you are stubborn about red, (as I am) tone those bold walls with furnishings in hues that break up all that red!  For instance, I can convince myself that in a bedroom, red is lovely and can be mostly covered up by armoires, dressers with mirrors, drapery and artwork….don’t you think?  Or, combine the warm red with other warm colors like hot pink, gold or tangerine to create almost electric combinations.

Combine Reds with Neutrals -

For a more sophisticated look, blend bright red with muted darks like browns and stone grays.

Compliment Reds with Greens -

Brighten that up without going electric by blending reds with their compliment, green.  Add blue-green and a warm moss green for an even softer effect.

Add Red Through Accessories -

Then, there are solutions for those of you who are admirers of red but aren’t ready for entire rooms in the hue. How about considering a pair of red wingback chairs in a room to add a strong contrast?  Red in artwork or area rugs is a nice way to bring in the color without the shout!  Use a touch of red in pillows or a vase of roses in cool green or blue rooms as a welcome warm accent.  You could punch up a corner of your room with a collection of plates with red designs; mix it with white to give it a homier feel.  Red and white in checks, stripes and even a dressier toile are not intimidating, but welcoming and warm.

So whether you are interested in a lot of red, or just a little, now that you know its effects, you can better plan how to use it in your home.  Remember these quick tips about red:

Red is Wonderful in a Dining Room -

*A full room of red can antagonize.
*Red walls will make a room more  intimate.
*Tone red by deepening or adding blue  or yellow to create a more
livable atmosphere.
*Red with gold is regal.
*Red with green is bold and dramatic.
*Red with white is homey and  welcoming.
*Spread red accents around a room to  give the eye something to focus
on and follow.

This lovely dining room photo was taken by John Coolidge and I also found it on  It’s a great place to see a variety of room scenes in the color family you are interested in!

My last comment about red is that it is my favorite color.  I have many pieces of furniture and accessories in my home in red.  It is a color that looks great at many of my favorite holidays, it blends with so many other colors, and it makes me happy to be in and around it.  You can’t ask for too much more from a color!!


*If you found this article interesting, visit Shari’s story on the color yellow!

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