Zendaya's decor masters the 'unexpected red theory' – a key 2024 color trend with a 'transformative effect'

The impact of a simple pop of color is amazing – 'and red is one of the most stimulating of all'

(Image credit: Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)

2024's most surprising decorating technique has revealed itself as the (aptly) named 'unexpected red theory' – and its power isn't lost on designers and celebrities alike. Among the most recent (yet maybe unintentional) examples of unexpected red in action is seen in none other than Zendaya's living room – an otherwise neutral space overlooking the East River, naturally. 

The unexpected red theory stems from creator Taylor Simon, who defines the trend as 'adding anything that's red, big or small, to a room where it doesn't match at all – and it automatically looks better.' This can be anything from a cushion to a vase, but in Zendaya's case, it's in the form of a footstool duo. 

In her open-plan living space, the Dune actress interrupts her neutral color palette with two dark red footstools (seen on the third and seventh slides of the photo carousel below). Whether this is an intentional nod to the trend or not, it captures the theory perfectly – and reminds us how easy it is to follow suit. 

As with every design trend, the red theory means something different in every home. In Zendaya's case, her footstools bring instant color to her neutral room and ensure the subtle palette is anything but boring. However, we aren't limited to footstools – or even soft furnishings. 

'I have a red table in my living room – it adds such a vibrancy to the space. While living rooms are often used for relaxing, the red gives me the energy I need when hosting friends and family, and a nice focal point to talk about.' comments color expert and the creative lead at Dulux Stephanie King.

'We are typically lovers of neutral interiors, but the unexpected red trend is just one way we've seen DIYers get braver with their color choices. The transformative effect of a simple pop of color is amazing- and red is one of the most stimulating of all. I'm really excited to see people getting experimental with it.'

Living room in Smokey Green by Benjamin Moore with coving detail in Outrageous Orange

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

As mentioned, in Zendaya's case, her red stools complement the cream and beige-hued living room, but red furnishings are just as impactful in rooms that experiment with earthy tones – most specifically, oranges and pinks. 

'I'm a big advocate for red in a living space, especially when it is complemented by other warm tones. The earthy palette of reds, oranges, and pinks is just like one big cozy hug and is a softer way to introduce braver hues into your home,' King explains. 

'Decorating with red is accessible through paint... or through furnishings like sofas and cushions. Whether the red used in your living spaces adds a striking contrast to the rest of your décor or blends in beautifully with it, the introduction of red instantly gives that comforting, by-the-fire feel.'

Shop H&G's unexpected red edit

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.