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Decorating Ideas by Color: Red

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If you've just moved into a new home, or are simply looking to liven up your space with some fresh décor, you may need a little inspiration before you jump right in - especially if you're thinking about using red as the dominant color in your overall scheme.

Though the color generally connotes a sense of boldness and even seductiveness, it can also be harsh and overwhelming to the eye. Take a look at the following tips to help your red décor be both bold and balanced!

50 shades of red

If you're going to decorate with this passionate pigment, you don't have to limit yourself to just one shade-- you will inevitably go through the painstaking process of clutching your paint swatch while you peruse the drapes and rugs, looking for that perfect match.

Relax. Matchy-matchy is a thing of the past. Reds can have orange undertones or even blue/purple undertones - so you can carefully blend different shades.

If you're going to go with brick red walls, you don't need to adhere to that same exact hue when picking your furniture (though, I wouldn't advise going with many solid red furniture pieces if your walls are already red, no matter the hue).

Some reds to choose from:

  • Crimson
  • Ruby
  • Auburn
  • Burgundy
  • Cherry
  • Candy apple
  • Garnet
  • Maroon
  • Cabernet
  • Fire engine
  • Rose

Choosing your theme and accents

First you'll need to choose the room (or rooms) you plan on decorating. The room chosen will then partially dictate how you choose your theme (if any), and your full color palette.

For example, a bedroom may be more suited for deeper reds like burgundy, auburn and maroon - it can also be a great room to add some dramatic heavy drapes in one of these luxurious hues.

Why is a “theme” important? A theme can help you when it comes to choosing your décor. For example, if you're going for full on Louis XIII or a room out of the Louvre, you'll need to accent your rich velvets and blood reds with some glittery golds and filigree. Here are some quick theme ideas by room to get your creative juices flowing:


  • Black & white with red all over: Go with a rich red hue to paint the walls, but leave the molding (if any) a neutral color. Depending on how modern you want the look, you can purchase a black wrought iron bed frame with a black and white comforter. If the bed is a canopy, choose a white lace or other airy fabric to contrast the deep reds. Don't forget about accent pillows! Go with multiple black and white throw pillows of the same size, but add in a few different sizes and shapes of an accent red to bring the room together.
  • French provincial with an edge: Though this décor type is generally light, airy and rustic, you can keep these elements and add a crimson twist. You can choose ornate furniture (characteristic of this style) in black, deep mahogany or cherry - or even begin a DIY project by painting these items in whatever color red you choose. Keep the “countryside” feel with white walls (maybe just one accent wall of red), light colored curtains and soft lighting.

Living room:

  • Prohibition: Love the 1920s? Paint your walls in a deep cabernet color and decorate with large black and white photos from this iconic era. If you have a mini bar, this would be a great place to add some red glassware, ashtrays, etc. Keep your furniture in neutrals if your walls are red, but add a red vase on your coffee table and fill with white feathers (flapper girls, anyone?).

  • Abstract art: Into Picasso or geometric expressionist art (e.g. Mark Rothko)? Use this to your decorating advantage in your living room! Paint a thick border of a bright primary red around your room, keeping the rest of the space stark white, or a light gray if you prefer. Hang art canvases of your choice around the living room - the red border should make the colors in the art pop. Complete the look with red microfiber couches and a geometric rug.

Kitchen / dining room:

  • 50s malt shop: Remember those 1950s bright red popcorn machines and red vinyl barstools and booths? Use those items as inspiration for your throwback kitchen! Chrome and Coca-cola red is the name of the game for this theme. Keep your walls neutral in this situation - you don't want that shiny candy apple red to overwhelm your kitchen space (especially since it's known to be hunger-inducing). Check out your local hobby store for some cute aluminum 1950s wall décor (think Norman Rockwell).

  • California vineyard: Get extra rustic and refinish the kitchen backsplash with brick (red, of course). Start saving all those left over wine corks, too. They'll come in handy for displaying in a clear vase or for endless DIY projects to add a winery flair to your kitchen. You can use old wine bottles as flower vases on your dark wood kitchen table (with cranberry-colored table runner!). You can also use chalkboard paint and tape off a section of your wall you want to use as a chalkboard - great for décor and your grocery list! Your local craft of hobby stores should be full of wine bottle paintings and even vinyl stick-ons to help bring your “vineyard” to life.

What to remember when decorating red:

Less is usually more. If you have red walls, be careful about how much red you incorporate into your furniture - keep a good balance between various shades of red, and neutrals like white, black, gray, brown, taupe and tan. Alternatively, you can choose just one large red statement piece for your room (a rug, a painting, a couch, etc.) and use complementary colors to draw the eye to that piece.

With a few good ideas and some spare time, you can turn any room in your home into a beautiful red oasis that fits your style and personality!

Jenna Farmer  Posted by Jenna Farmer on June 13, 2014

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