Decorating with red – 16 ways to use this versatile color

Have confidence when decorating with red with this expert advice on how best to use this bold color in interior schemes

Walls in Mylands' Post Hill
(Image credit: Mylands)

There are many options when it comes to decorating with red. One of the most passionate and life-enhancing colors to use in a decorating scheme, red offers a luxurious bank of positive energy. 

Whether you highlight an interior design scheme with touches of carefully chosen accessories or paint walls floor to ceiling in a deep shade of this versatile color, it can transform interiors and create different moods – from refined to playful – depending on its application.

In moderation, primary reds work well in children’s rooms, while more sophisticated, darker reds – such as madder and cochineal – make welcoming backdrops for dining rooms and hallways. Scarlet reds that have a touch of orange in them, offer a cosy fireside appeal for living rooms.  

Choosing how and where to use red as part of your room color ideas can create completely different effects. Color-drenching with red walls and matching upholstery as red room ideas offers a fully immersive effect. In contrast, dialing down the red percentage to a succinct trim on white bedlinen or to the leading edge of a curtain as a red bedroom idea can be equally as thrilling.  

Whether you're looking to redesign an entire room or to introduce elements of red into an existing scheme, these expert ideas explain how designers decorate with red paint and use this vibrant hue across decor, guiding you to make the best choices for your space. 

Decorating with red – 11 inspiring ideas for ways to use this bold shade in room schemes

The idea of decorating with red can be daunting, as with any powerful shade, but there are many ways to integrate it into your home.

'Red makes people sit up and take notice and is a color that says you are self-reliant, optimistic and know what you want. This effect is the same in interior design as it can bring in rich, warm color that will pack a punch,' says Emma Deterding, founder of Kelling Designs and KDLoves.

'I think one of the reasons people avoid using red in their homes is mainly because they are not sufficiently brave or practised at using it in the right environment,' adds Emma. 'It's all about how you use colors and where you use them as this can really make or break an interior design scheme. If you use room color ideas, including red, in a balanced way through your scheme, it'll work wonderfully and make a real impact.'

When decorating with red, 'you need to consider the overall design scheme and tie things in tonally so that the red actually complements everything else in the space and doesn't stick out. Red is a powerful shade, so as long as you know how to use it, you'll be fine.'

Red has the longest visual wavelength of any color, 'which makes it the most impactful and it is famous for stimulating the appetite, good conversation, and love, making it an enduring favorite for red dining room ideas and in the bedroom,’ says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux.

1. Create an energizing and warm welcome with a red painted hallway 

red console table in a hallway with dark red alls below dado and dusky pink above

(Image credit: Aldwych console painted in Burnham Red from Neptune)

Decorating with red in a hallway, by painting a darker red beneath the dado level and a light neutral above creates both a practical and warm welcome to a hallway. The reds do not show up as easily scuffs and marks that can be associated with high-traffic areas but adds a warming feel which is balanced by the paler shades.

There are many other red hallways ideas you could try to create a truly inviting entrance.

2. Add heat in the kitchen

Freestanding shaker style kitchen larder cupboard painted in deep red against mustard yellow walls

(Image credit: Real Shaker Kitchen by DeVOL)

Add a flash of heat to your kitchen design with painted red cupboards contrasting with lighter walls using a complementary shade for a two-tone scheme. It's worth learning how to use the color wheel for interior design so that you use the right complementary colors. This freestanding larder cupboard is rich and comforting against the mellow yellow walls, for a sophisticated look. 

Red kitchen ideas can suit many styles of space, from contemporary to more traditional.

‘When using red in a color scheme, it’s best to choose shades that are rich and warm rather than loud and insistent. Maroon, burgundy, and rosehip work brilliantly with shades of green, while deep pinky-reds are very adaptable and blend well with khaki or stone. Dark, sumptuous reds pair best with gold metallic touches and carry a degree of heritage, especially when mixed with dark wood,’ explains Simon, head of interior design at Neptune.

3. Use subtle red trimmings in a bedroom

bed made with white bed linen with red edging

(Image credit: Red Scallop bedlinen from Sophie Conran)

Just a hint of red in a scheme is sometimes all that is needed in a bedroom, which needs to be a restful space. 

Accessorise a neutral scheme with red-trimmed white bedlinen, and team with smaller decorative accessories, such as artworks, glassware, and candles for harmony for a relaxing bedroom idea.

‘As the most stimulating and powerful color, red can add excitement and drama to
a space, but it can also be overwhelming in rooms where you want to relax and unwind. Use it in decorating like you would use seasoning in food: if you like your food hot and spicy, use lots of bold red,’ says Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux.

4. Create a fully immersive effect

living room with walls painted in deep red and dark brown leather sofa

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

There is no better way to increase the feeling of cosy, fireside warmth than with walls painted floor to ceiling that reflect the colors of dancing flames. Team with a complementary throw to enhance the cocooning experience. 

This red living room idea makes a dramatic impact and a warm and enveloping environment. With bold colors, it is time well spent to consider how you react to the color and how it makes you feel. For instance, is red a color that you like to wear? There is often a clue in our wardrobes as to which colors we lean towards. But while we can change our outfits if we aren’t in the mood for red one day, we can’t so easily make that change with our interiors. 

Avoid expensive mistakes when choosing paint colors by getting two or three sample pots of different shades to compare. Paint swatches onto large pieces of paper and hang them around the room to see how they work in different lights and alongside your furniture and other colors that you are considering using. 

5. Introduce red in fabric and textile prints 

curtains with a red print and blue bobble trim against vibrant green walls with a traditional chair upholstered in a small print

(Image credit: Charlotte Gaisford)

Red floor-length interlined curtains are not only elegant and cozy when drawn against a cold winter’s night, but when trimmed with bright bobble braids and juxtaposed with contrasting wall paint, they become a style statement as modern curtain ideas.

Textile and fabric designer Charlotte Gaisford, explains that ‘red is such a vibrant, energizing color and works so well with greens, blues, and pinks. In my own home, I have used it in the drawing room against a green background, in my hallway for an uplifting entrance, and in the master bedroom, paired with a more restful pale blue.’

6. Balance red with other colors

Living room with walls in Deep Space Blue & Bronze Red Absolute matt emulsion by Little Greene

(Image credit: Walls in Deep Space Blue & Bronze Red Absolute matt emulsion by Little Greene)

When used wall-to-wall red can dominate a room, to temper the hue consider teaming it with other colors, as done here in this playful living room paint idea. The band of Deep Space Blue and yellow skirting in this space help to break the large expanse of Bronze Red, plus the effect highlights the height and the architecture of the room.

If you're looking to create a mid-century modern red living room, then this primary palette of red, blue and yellow is a great foundation – to complete the look furnish with sculptural mid-century furniture in warm tan leather and tan to bring warmth. 

7. Use red to create an inviting atmosphere

Dining room color schemes Crown

(Image credit: Crown)

Paint is a quick and easy way to instantly change the mood of a room. 'The darker the color the more light it absorbs – so reds, plumbs and terracottas will visually bring walls inwards making a room look warm and inviting,' explains Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.

It's for this reason that red makes a popular dining room color idea among homeowners and interior designers alike. 

'For me, red really suits dining rooms. It makes the perfect backdrop for beautiful feasts with loved ones, and looks fabulous at night time with candle light. It's a great color for creating energy and dynamism and therefore is perfect for social environments such as dining spaces,' says Emma Deterding of Kelling Designs.

'It will really set the atmosphere for meal times and will help bring you together with friends and family, making amazing memories.' 

8. Create wow-factor with an all-red scheme

Living room in Benjamin Moore's Ladybug Red

(Image credit: Project Phillip Thomas / Photograph Michael Mundy)

Using red wall-to-wall in a living room, as well as over joinery, is guaranteed to bring drama to a room while still feeling cozy and inviting. 

When it comes to living room paint ideas, 'don't be timid with color!' says New York based interior designer Phillip Thomas. 'Stop playing it safe, and choose colors you love and bring you joy. In one of my favorite living rooms ever, we used Benjamin Moore's Ladybug Red to create a super vibrant space with a strong personality.'

9. Bring warmth to neutral schemes

Farrow & Ball Hardwick White

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball Hardwick White)

Decorating with gray is a brilliant way to bring a versatile, neutral backdrop for layering striking living room furniture, lighting and artwork, however, used in isolation it can feel cold. To bring warmth and life to a dining room without over-powering the space, consider adding a rich red rug as done in this stylish space – be sure to choose a design with subtle texture to bring depth as a bold, flat color may look to jarring. 

Featuring warm, berry tones this rug pairs beautifully with walls in Hardwicke White from Farrow & Ball as well as with pink accessories. 

10. Bring personality to a home office

Red bookshelf in a home office

(Image credit: Neptune)

When it comes to home office paint colors practicality is key, but it's also important they are inspiring and uplifting places to be. If you're planning on decorating with neutrals  on walls, why not paint a piece of furniture such as a bookshelf or home office desk in a bold red to add an element of fun that will lift the spirits without disturbing the calm. 

11. Use red as an accent color

Bespoke kitchen cabinets in Huguenot by Mylands and New Black by Paint & Paper Library, Blakes London

(Image credit: Blakes)

Carrying an accent color across the floor can help a large red kitchen feel cohesively connected from every angle. 

‘As this large spacious room has very high ceilings, it was important to create meaningful points of interest within,’ explains Annie Ebenston, lead designer at Blakes London

‘Using warm red on the pantries that frame the fireplace lifts the whole elevation to be more than just a period fireplace.’ In isolation, the pantries could have overpowered but the custom-colored floor tiles play an anchoring role that unites them with the rest of the kitchen. ‘The matching tile color ties the room together beautifully,’ says Annie.

12. Highlight architectural features

Red shutters in a living room

(Image credit: Dado Atelier)

If you love red but aren't confident enough to use it in large quantities, try introducing it over smaller areas such as on interior woodwork and furniture. 

Painting beautiful living room window treatments in a bold hue will draw attention to the architecture of the room, but is also a lovely way to frame a beautiful view – to create a cohesive look continue the accent color across a coffee table, a living room rug and living room wall lighting as done in this scheme.

If you're wondering what accent color to choose, a living room wallpaper can make a great starting point. This Daydress for Dado Jaipur Flower wallpaper in Ruby from Dado Atelier features a delicate block-print design with hints of red which co-ordinates beautifully with the red in the room. 

13. Use deep reds for a cocooning atmosphere

Red bedroom

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Vibrant reds can be overpowering in a bedroom, so if you're looking to create a relaxed and cozy atmosphere perfect for hibernating try darker tones, such as burgundy, which contains hints of black to visually bring the walls in to give create an enveloping feel in this red bedroom.

Used across walls and as a ceiling idea, this Baked Cherry shade from Little Greene looks sophisticated and helps bring a cocooning feel to this large bedroom.

14. Make a statement with red, white and blue

bathroom with blue walls and red bath and chequered floor

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

Bold hues such as red can look show-stopping when introduced through candy stripes or as part of a bold chequered feature flooring idea. If you're thinking of introducing high-contrast patterns, then it's important to balance them with a color that is equally as powerful. 

Sitting opposite red on the color wheel blue is a natural contrast to red and a perfect hue to balance the shade. In this fun, red bathroom, the sky blue on the walls has enough punch to temper the feature floor while still allowing it to sing out. 

15. Add an element of surprise

Red mirror in a blue bathroom

(Image credit: Dado Atelier)

Cloakrooms are a great space to be fun with decor as they are only used for small period of time. An all-red space is guaranteed to create a talking point with visitors, however, you don't need to decorate with lots of red to create an impact, just a well chosen accessory is enough to bring an impact in a small space. 

A perfect finishing touch to this scheme, this statement bathroom mirror helps bring an element of surprise to the monochrome blue room idea while the circular shape is a playful contrast to the zig-zag wallpaper. 

16. Introduce red furniture

red sidebord

(Image credit: Kelling Designs)

A red sideboard or console table is a wonderful way to add personality and interest to a hallway, while keeping it feeling bright and welcoming. 'A firm favorite piece of furniture of ours is the Julian Chichester Wave cabinet. We absolutely love it as it's bold, big and a great storage idea for all your drinks and accessories,' says Emma Deterding. 

'Available in bold colors, it can really pop against red hues and make a statement. In terms of accessories, choose complementary shades and metallic accents to bring a little glamour to the overall look.'

Is red a good color to decorate with?

Red is a good color to decorate with as long as you choose the shade carefully depending on the light in the room, and consider how a space will be used so the mood you want to create. For instance, you would not want to create an overly energising feel in a bedroom, which should be a restful environment, nor use a distracting and vibrant red in a room where you need to concentrate, such as a home office.

There are many subtle ways to introduce red into a decorating scheme, too, and decorating with red can result in wonderful interior schemes.

How do you decorate with red?

There are many ways to decorate with red, whether you want to create wow-factor with an all-red scheme, or to use it as a vibrant accent in a more neutral interior, plus it can be used to evoke all sorts of looks throughout the house. The key to getting it right is to tailor the shade and proportion to the mood you want to create.

'Brighter, vibrant reds can be uplifting and bring in the essence of the summer whilst deeper, darker reds will create a cozy and moody atmosphere,' says Emma Deterding.

'Red walls are a bold choice, and depending on the shade and room, red pigments can transform a space in a multitude of different ways. A deep, dramatic red like Arts Club™ No. 28 is sophisticated and intense, but also warm and welcoming, which makes it a great choice for a living room, dining room, or a sensual choice for bedroom walls,' says Dominic Myland, director of Mylands Paints

'A brighter pigment like Red Post Hill™ No. 68 is similarly friendly and inviting, which makes it ideal for bedroom details such as inside shelves or for contrasting door and window frames, as well as entire walls.'

'If you want the warmth without the drama, mid-tones are easy to live with. For example, berry tones are warm without being as intense as crimson, or terracotta is much softer than a bright orange. These mid-tones work equally well in a modern or traditional setting, with light or dark furniture,' adds Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.

For a more subtle approach to decorating with red, 'consider painting a piece of furniture or adding a color highlight to woodwork in an otherwise monochromatic scheme,' says Emma Deterding. 'Alternatively, opt for color blocking, using a deeper shade of red alongside a paler neutral to balance the room and add an interesting contrast.'

What goes with red when decorating?

Being a dominant shade, when decorating with red, it's a good idea to use it in combination with other colors to help balance the look say the experts – luckily, there are many shades that work well with red.

‘The key is to balance out bright colors with more conventional tones. If you want to add a touch of red to your home, for example, I’d pair it with a deep navy, white or some lovely neutral shades to soften the look,' says Sue Jones, co-founder of Oka. 'Red-and-white accessories, such as cushion covers and lampshades, are also a great way of adding a pop of color without overwhelming the room.’

Sitting opposite red on the color wheel, blue makes a great partner to red right through the tonal spectrum. Whether it's the lighter shades of dusky red and pastel blue to the deeper navy and rich paprika shades, the pairing sits happily providing the tones are in tune. However, colors that are close to red on the color wheel such as orange and pink should not be ruled out as they can work beautifully together, too. 

'Any color that is made up primarily of red or orange will make a room seem much warmer. Using two or three of these colors together will create that warm palette with tonal interest. Many think that red and orange clash, but they do in fact work brilliantly together,' says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.

'If you have to opt for a statement wall, then I'd always pair red with a dark beige as it partners perfectly, whereas white will be jarring,' adds Emma Deterding.

Pippa Blenkinsop

Pippa is a contributor to Homes & Gardens. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.

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