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Decorating with the colour red

Maia Devereux Maia Devereux
Modern living room by homify Modern
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More often than not, when we decorate we aim to create a space with a combination of colours that speak to each other to create a harmonious environment. But we live in a time of constant reinvention;  where rules of decorating are made to be broken; we have the freedom now to be daring with our interiors, whether through colours, textures, wallpapers, furniture, lights, etc. One or two details can be enough to take a space from 'nice' to daring: for example the use of a vibrant colour as an accent will reverberate powerfully throughout any space. Fire engine red—or scarlet, if you prefer—is one such colour. It has powerful associations with danger (bright red berries are often poisonous; the deadly siren in old Hollywood movies always wore a scarlet lip), but as we all know, danger doesn't always have to mean terrifying: it can be exhilarating, too. Red is also, of course, the colour of love—another pretty exhilarating feeling! A room covered in scarlet would be too much, but a detail here and there will bring a little thrill to any space. Paired with another primary colour—yellow, for example—red's thrilling tenor will  gain a note of giddy fun. Browse below for some examples of how to add a thrilling little frisson to any room in the house.

All we need is love

The wall of this room, made of exposed brick, is in itself pretty impactful. When combined with the red table, its effect is invigorating and energetic. The high gloss finish on the table creates a lovely contrast effect with the rough matte wall. 

The devil is in the details

It doesn't take much red to have a big effect. In this image, the lighting cord and attachment are tiny features in the overall scheme of the room, but they immediately draw the eye and make a big impact. Like red berries in a dense thicket of bushes, they demand our attention. Red is a colour that demands to be noticed, and a little goes a very long way. 

A vibrant personality

In this room, designed by Mutabile,  the vibrant red of the bookshelves is in powerful contrast with the muted shades that otherwise dominate the room. Peeking out from behind the couch, it's a splash of personality and vibrance that elevates the space. The shade of the bookshelf is picked up on the right hand side of the coffee table, where once again the red peeks out mischievously, drawing the eye but not dominating the scene.  

Red and yellow

The combination of red and yellow in this design, also by Mutabile takes us back to the primary colour combinations of childhood while the Vitra Eames plastic chairs and sharp, high gloss counter top, in contrast, are terribly grown-up and modern. Combining the joyous but childish fun of a red and yellow mix with serious furniture and fittings steers this design carefully away from the playroom, creating a space that's thrilling in a very adult way. 

Grown-up thrill

Vitra Eames again, but this time it's the chairs that are red. This is a serious space—exposed concrete, industrial flourescent tubes and dark panelling—and the red chairs, along with the red tattoo-style rose on the wall, add a hint of danger and seductiveness; softening it while maintaining a grown-up thrill.  

One touch

Antique, classic furniture, white drapes and carpet; this is a soft, gentle, feminine space until… bang! That red lamp grabs the eye and transforms everything around it. The combination of a modern, tripod base with that scarlet lampshade hauls this room out of the 'classic' into the wonderfully modern. Again, as we saw with the light fittings above, all it takes is one red detail to have an enormous impact in a room, and to spice it up thrillingly. 

Soft furnishings in scarlet

Family Living Modern living room by homify Modern

Family Living


Scarlet's invigorating, thrilling tones wouldn't seem a natural partner for soft furnishings, but it can work. This soft velour throw works in this space thanks to everything else in the room being ultra-smooth. Both colour and texture contrast winningly. If we haven't quite managed to convince you to add a little siren scarlet to your interior in the form of furniture or fittings, why not give it a go with a throw, or some cushions—as easily as you add them, you can take them away again! 

Have we convinced you? Would you use scarlet in your own home? Let us know in the comments!
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