Behind the Color Red

Daring and bold, this color commands attention. Learn how to use shades of red in your design.


Red isn't for the faint of heart. Considered the color of romance and passion, stimulating red is a design tool that heightens the senses.

Red can feel contemporary, traditional, rustic or timeless, depending on the shade and context. A touch of red can warm up a cool blue-and-white room, or add drama when used as the main color in a small space like a powder room.

From crimson and fire engine red to merlot and rust, there are endless ways to use this warm shade to create a mood.

Browse Pictures of Kitchens That Showcase Red

How to Use Red

Use red on the walls to make a room feel more intimate, or feature the color on just one wall to visually rework the proportions of a long, narrow room. Different patterns and shades of red can work together to perk up a neutral dining room, or make a small dining alcove feel like a destination.

"Red is never boring," says interior designer Denna McLaughlin of City Studios. "A couple of big red chairs are inviting ... in a living room, but I also love red for drapery. When the light comes through the window, it gives the room a soft red glow that makes people want to be together."

When combined with other colors, red offers even more versatility. An earthy red used with wood tones can warm a room. Red with soft gray and touches of magenta can make a room feel cozy, feminine and soft.

Depending on the texture, deep reds may absorb light while brighter reds allow light to bounce off walls. Red with a touch of brown or purple will feel warmer than pure red with hints of pink. Orange-tinged reds will make you feel energized, while purple-red shades can make a space feel more intimate and quiet.

For Your Exteriors

Red can be a vibrant design element for your home's exterior. Red front doors are a popular choice, but consider using red paint or tile on the porch floor to create a striking effect.

"I also love red containers for outdoor plants," says color expert Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of the book Colors for Your Every Mood. "It's a natural complement for the greenery."

Ideas for Creating Moods With Red

  • A textured red linoleum floor with veining can give a kitchen a playful, retro vibe.
  • Use red on the inside back of a cupboard or china cabinet to add energy to a room.
  • Scarlet-lacquered walls with espresso trim make a dining room feel dramatic and elegant.

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