Decorating with red

Red is a seductive colour that can transform a bedroom into a boudoir.. But, it can also create a more formal environment in other areas of the house. Mixed with brown to create a mahogany hue, red can be more austere, creating the perfect impression in a reading room or home office. Pillarbox red is playful and, along with the other primary colours, works well in children's rooms. Follow these pointers for creating a stunning red colour scheme.

Decorating with red

Tips on using red

  • Red is a warm colour and can help to make a chilly room feel more cosy.
  • Colour therapists believe that bright colours like red help you to feel more positive and energetic, so it can be great for a gym or office.
  • Depending on the look you want to create, red can either be earthy and natural or modern and synthetic.
  • Use red as an accent if you are not sure about making it the main colour in your scheme.

Using red in a harmonious colour scheme
A harmonious colour scheme works by combining colours adjacent to one another on the colour wheel. Move either clockwise or anti-clockwise and select up to three colours either side of the red you want as your base for a failsafe scheme. Try, for example, cherry red with magenta, plum and violet. Alternatively, moving in the other direction around the wheel, combine red with a rusty orange, mustardy ochre and sunflower yellow for a naturally balanced scheme. Harmonious schemes are restful and so work well in rooms where you like to relax and unwind, such as the living room or bedroom. Read our article on: How paint colour affects mood.

You do not have to stick to the colours on the outer circumference of the colour wheel. Using the inner circles will vary the intensity of the colours. Select a paler tint of red and then use it alongside the colours adjacent to it on the same ring, which will be of the equal intensity. To unify the scheme, try to find a picture, patterned fabric or wallpaper that includes several of the component colours. Different textures will give a harmonious scheme added depth.

Contrasting schemes with red
For a daring and eye-catching colour scheme, use red in a contrasting colour scheme. Contrasting or complementary colour schemes work by combining colours on the opposite sides of the colour wheel. Red and green create a striking effect when used together – picture a field of poppies or a red and green apple. But, it is best to choose one as your main colour and use the other as an accent or they will almost cancel each other out. Create a retro chintzy look with floral patterns featuring red flowers like roses teamed with a muted green, as paler shades can also work well in a contrasting scheme.

You can also use red in a split contrasting scheme based around three colours. Use two harmonious colours like turquoise and apple green, and combine them with the colour opposite them on the wheel, in this case red. Alternatively, use red and orange as the harmonious colours and combine them with turquoise. Complementary schemes often work well in bold graphic patterns, such as 1960s wallpapers. Read our advice on How to choose complementary colours.

Red in tonal colour schemes
A tonal scheme is a great way to use red to create a more calming effect. This type of scheme uses several shades of the same colour and is also called a monochromatic scheme. Using the colour wheel, select shades that sit on the same segment. These become progressively lighter as the colour is mixed with a greater proportion of white.

Textured wallpapers will add interest to a tonal scheme and you can still bring in other colours as an accent. For a fresh look, keep the ceiling white and the flooring neutral, which maximises the sense of space. Tonal schemes can work anywhere in the house and, because they are simple, can avoid a room feeling over the top if you have lots of decorations that you want to be the main focus.