Color Guide: How to Work With Red

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring, Project Manager Randy Wilson

Sizzling or sedate, red is not for the timid. Here’s how to use its boldness to make your rooms come alive.

It’s the color of fire, love, passion and blood. In China it is associated with happiness. In Japan it is linked to heroism. In Western cultures it also hints at sex, deviance and shame. 

Whatever its associations, red is a powerful and beautiful color. True red is a primary color, but the spectrum of reds is vast, from pale pink (white with a little red in it) to scarlet, crimson and vermillion. In decorating, bright, vibrant reds are usually reserved for accents, while darker, browner reds end up on walls, floors, and doors. 

Its complementary partner is cyan, or turquoise blue, but it looks good with greens and all sorts of neutrals too, especially warm grays and whites. Red does well with a high gloss (think Chinese lacquer) and dramatic lighting. 

Red works in all sorts of decorating styles, from sleek modern to country cute, but it’s a dramatic color and to use it in a space is to make a statement. A red room is a fearless room.