10 Ideas for How to Decorate With Red

published Apr 17, 2018
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(Image credit: Neptune)

Benjamin Moore‘s Color of the Year is a saucy red called Caliente AF-290 (emphasis on the “AF”), which is quite a departure from the neutral hues currently saturating the interior design world. If you’ve spent the last few years confining this provocative pigment to your nails and lips, here are 10 ideas to dip your toe in that crimson paint. Next stop: the town.

1. Make it Monochrome

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While combining different shades of the same hue is often interpreted as clashing, the soft, velvety textures in this room seen on Neptune, make its autumnal palette blend together like a dreamy impressionist painting. The key to pulling off a successful monochromatic look is choosing accessories in neutral or contrasting tones. Because reds are warm, cool grays and contrasting greens are peppered in this room (in very small doses) to add interest without changing the overall palette.

(Image credit: Tim Street-Porter, from “Tony Duquette,” Abrams, New York)

2. Give a Complement

If you’re familiar with the color wheel, you know that green is exactly opposite of red, making it a complementary color. Complementary colors tend to, well, complement each other, so green is a great choice to pair with red. To avoid making your home look like a Christmas card, we recommend getting creative with your palette, like the king of maximalism Tony Duquette did in his Malibu ranch home (pictured above). Here, Duquette’s red-centric teahouse features hues of a turquoise-ish green and a couple minor accent colors to break it up.

(Image credit: Nina Struve)

3. Think in Threes

If this is the look you’re going for, search for pure, vibrant colors that are along the outer edge of the color wheel. Punchy palettes like this tend to feature triadic color schemes where two complimentary colors (red and green) are combined with one accent color, evenly spaced from the other two colors.

4. Dollop a Small Dose

Red is pretty much synonymous with “a pop of color.” A pop of red in an otherwise muted or neutral room is the equivalent of a coat of crimson lipstick on a fresh face. It’s basically a subtle nod to a naturally beautiful room’s totally fun personality. If you’re not ready to fully dive in, start with a pop or two.

5. Tone it Down

While interior walls seem to be the obvious place to add color, they take up a lot of visual real estate, so choosing the wrong hue can be disastrous. If you’re having trouble committing to a bold scarlet hue, lime wash is a great option for a subtly-aged look that will tone down the impact of your red wall.

6. Go Outside

Because green is naturally a complimentary color to red, it feels like it’s in its natural habitat amongst the lush surroundings of the great outdoors. If you have an outdoor space, like this one spotted in Architectural Digest, consider paint your back wall a shade of red that pops against that greenery.

(Image credit: Neptune)

7. Act Natural

Naturally red foliage is a noncommittal way to add a helping of red to your room. Whether you opt for an indoor plant like a Christmas cactus, or a few snips of red eucalyptus, red-colored foliage is available in a variety of shades, feels more natural than a coat of scarlet paint, and can be replanted outside or composted when it loses its luster.

(Image credit: Mai Linh)

8. Go Big or Go Home

If you’re in it to win it, go all in with a statement piece like this striking tomato red sofa in this Parisian residence by DIMORESTUDIO. While choosing neutral colors for large items and incorporating color with accent pieces is often touted as the “safer” route, we’re not quite sold. Why not make it easy and commit to a style with one, big, red, lip-shaped piece of furniture that will mimic the smiling faces of all who feast their eyes upon it??

9. Don’t Commit

If you’re looking for that pop, start with a book, or a throw blanket—something that can be stashed away if it’s not working. Once you’ve wet your appetite and can’t get enough, graduate to pillows, furniture and rugs with hints of red. Always have a color palette in mind to avoid a rainbow effect (which can be totally gorg, but not really the point of this post).

10. Bonus Tip: Go With Your Gut

While there are many guidelines out there to help homeowners and renters get started with color, the possibilities are literally endless. We recommend throwing caution to the wind, like Miles Redd in this now-famous living room, and taking risks whenever inspiration strikes (which, you have to admit is a very “red” thing to do).

(Image credit: Nina Struve)