Decorating with…Red!

By Kate Riley July 8, 2013

I’m on my way home today, having spent a few days in Las Vegas with my folks and hopping over for a day to Salt Lake City to see my sister. We did some thrifting and house hunting together and we think we found a house to buy with a lot of potential, I’ll keep y’all posted if it ends up being the one!

We spent hours talking about design ideas and color palettes which put me in the mood to take a deeper look at color over the next few weeks, and it makes sense to start with red and work around the color wheel. Red is one of my favorite colors in fashion, but frankly my least favorite color to decorate with in the home, except in small doses or on a piece of furniture as a focal point.

True red is a dramatic and dominant hue that stimulates in large doses and adds a fantastic spark when used as an accent. With dark wood or antique pieces, red leans traditional, but when given a glossy sheen and paired with lacquered pieces, red is modern and fabulous. Barn and brick reds lend a cottage feel whereas berry or coral reds inject vibrancy and femininity. 

Red paint packs a punch when used on a wall – choose deep garnet and mix with global textiles for an exotic feel, or a brighter shade balanced with white for pleasant contrast.  

brick red painted walls

pottery barn red wall


If you want a piece of furniture to take the spotlight, you can’t go wrong with red – a glossy candy apple finish adds a contemporary vibe and a distressed finish has cottage appeal.

red painted dressers

natty by design / mustard seed interiors

Red on the front door is thought to bring good luck – this bold hue will make any entry happier to those who visit.

red front door

bh&g / house beautiful


Wallpaper is another ways to introduce pattern.  Temper the tendency for red to overwhelm with neutrals or plenty of white.

red wallpaper in bathroom


red and white wallpaper

christopher patrick interiors / house and home


Fabric is a favorite way to welcome red – make a statement with accent chairs and window treatments in geometrics, chinoiserie patterns, or large scale botanical motifs. 

sheffield furniture


pink and orange fabric

sheffeld furniture / house of fifty

red and white window panels

red walls and fabrics

hgtv canada, design by sarah richardson  /  better homes & gardens


Introduce red in smaller doses with decorative pillows and throws, or with accent furniture like dining chairs or ottomans.

red pillows and ottoman bhg

better homes & gardens

red chairs in dining room



What colors partner well with red?  Here are a few favorites!

teal and brick palette

Rachel Reider Interiors


lipstick red and cotton candy pink palette

Real Simple


aqua and candy apple red palette

Better Homes & Gardens


cardinal and dandelion yellow

House to Home


red berry and sherbet palette

House to Home


How do you feel about decorating with the color red?

Have you accessorized any rooms in your home with this hue ? 





  1. We have a red leather couch, a rug with red in it and a red ottoman that doubles as a coffee table in the family room. I have had enough of the red leather couch but it’s not worth replacing until the kids get old enough not to spill stuff on it!!

    I cannot find a single pic on the internet that shows how to decorate with a red leather couch. It has been a real struggle. I quite like red with baby blue so am going to try and rejig the family room in those colours.

  2. We have a red leather couch, a rug with red in it and a red ottoman that doubles as a coffee table in the family room. I have had enough of the red leather couch but it’s not worth replacing until the kids get old enough not to spill stuff on it!!

    I cannot find a single pic on the internet that shows how to decorate with a red leather couch. It has been a real struggle. I quite like red with baby blue so am going to try and rejig the family room in those colours.

  3. We have a red leather couch , a rug with red in it and a red ottoman that doubles as a coffee table. I have had enough of the red but don’t want to replace it till the kids get big enough not to spill stuff on it!

    I cannot find a single pic on the net of a nice room design that features a red couch.

    I am thinking of accenting with baby blue as I quite like that combination. Can’t think what else to do.

    Can’t wait for the day when we can get a new couch and get every scrap of red out of the house – I am over it!

  4. Don’t know what happened but this posted my first comment twice even though I thought it hadn’t worked at all!

    Please delete first 2 comments!!

  5. I love red! For a while I was a little too into it, I had a large red sectional and way too many red accessories. I’ve gotten rid of most of them and only have a few red items, but I still love a little red in my life.

  6. I love red but after seeing post after post of rooms that are white I was beginning to wonder if I should paint my red rooms. My first use of red was in my powder room and I love it. I loved the color so much I painted my kitchen the same red. Since our kitchen is open to our family room and sun room I have carried the red in those rooms with pillows and valances. It all goes so well and I love my choice of using red.

  7. Red is too strong for me personally, but I am lucky because my BFF is a red lover and her home has always been Red, white and blue on the nautical side, since she lives on the water. I remember when everyone and their brother was painting red dining rooms. Very few got the right red and most repainted after 2 years so it is definitely a color you have to LOVE!!
    Happy Monday,

  8. I used to have a red dining room and I really kind of miss it. It always made me happy. Hmm…now you’ve got me thinking about painting! :)
    Great post!

  9. I used to love decorating in red, especially in my “global” decorating phase when I pulled a lot of international textiles into my home…but I eventually found that red was too dark for my taste. Now I’m enjoying lighter, cooler, and breezier tones, with just a few red accents.

  10. I’m not a huge fan of the color red, but when we bought out house, the front door was painted red and it really worked so we’re keeping it for now.

  11. Glad to see you’ve highlighted the color red, when I feel like it often gets a bad rap. I have long loved red and use it a lot, but have phased it out of most of my house in recent years. Now I stick to keeping it in small doses – a couple of ottomans, a throw pillow in my boy’s room, and most recently bright and shiny red adirondack chairs on my deck!

  12. Red is one of the colors that really works in my house. We have an older, large mountain cabin-type home with knotty pine walls and ceilings. Naturally, it gives off an orangey hue (especially noticeable in photos). We have a huge fieldstone fireplace that dominates the living room. I decorate with red, dark green, dusky blues, yellow and brown. I also use iron work pieces Think Scottish plaids. My favorite decorating colors are blue and white, but it just doesn’t work with this house. It’s too jarring. Visitors tell us they like the sense of warmth our house gives off with this color palette. So, yeah, I’m a fan of red.

  13. I’m in the “Red Stage” of my life. I painted the eat in area of my kitchen red – the rest is a mustard color. I have really liked the combination. I also have red in my den. Drapes and accent pillows are in red. Have red in a run as well. I love all the pictures you posted above, especially the bathroom with the red drapes and garden seat! Vikki in VA

  14. Red is my favorite color! My kitchen is white with red accents – red & white polka dot curtains, red mixer, red toaster, dish towels. I like the picture where they used aqua accessories with the red.

    My son’s room is red, white and blue with some red plaids and gingham mixed in with navy and white.

    I also have a big red couch in my living room – that is the one thing I am kind of regretting. I wish I would have gotten a neutral couch instead and used red pillows, throws, etc. I’m having a hard time decorating around it!

    • Hey Liz, your kitchen sounds divine! I love the use of it with dark navy blue too, very Americana!

  15. I truly love that aqua kitchen with red accents. My SIL has a 99% white kitchen with red Dualit toaster, red coffee pot, big red Kitchen Aide mixer, you get the idea. So clean looking and appealing at the same time.

    • Love that Nancy, a white kitchen with pops of red on the counter !

  16. I lovED red. My dining room was red for quite a while. I have since moved away from French Country (although I’m really struggling with letting go of my Rooster ~ he’s ginormous and gorgeous)…anyway….I LOVE the red doors, and the buffet in the high gloss. Really diggin’ the cherry red accents too! But my house is back to my first love ~ greens and blues. ;)

  17. We are using red for the first time on the wall in the study and highlights throughout the house. We will be pairing it with a dark grey and possibly pops of blue or dirty green. The feel for the house is Australian outback hence the colour palette.

  18. Red is our color! Our great room (kitchen/dining room/living room combo) has lots of red- red small appliances in the kitchen, red pillows/textiles in the living room, Persian rug with red accents. I refuse to use red in the rest of the house (bedrooms/offices have more soothing colors), but red is fun in the big room. Neat seeing it used in other rooms that you showed.

  19. We have a red plaid couch in our living room that I really like, and I have just redecorated our bedroom in white, red and pea green.

  20. I love your new photo Kate and you really do look lovely in red. My favourite colour combo is in my grey-ed teal kitchen, white cabinetry, cherry hardwood floors and just a few red accents. It’s the red that really wakes up the room.

  21. I like red, in fact I have a red ektorp sectional, but I have a really strong reaction to red walls. They actually make me kind of anxious. I don’t mind it in someone else’s house but I would never choose it for myself.

  22. I really love pops of red and have a really cute red side table in my living room right now. I would really love to add some more red in my pillows and fabrics but it is SO HARD to find fabric with red in it that does not look either super stuffy or country (or way too geometric/modern). I hope your new line of fabric will have some nice reds!

  23. At last! I thought red had become extinct. Red has really received the cold shoulder as a decor colour. I have hunted the internet and looked for accent colours to use with red, as my hubby and I have recently redone our lounge in grey and red accents, but was sorely disappointed with the results. Thank you for adding that as part of your post. I love the turquoise with the red. Our original inspiration was a red and grey basement decorated by Sarah Richardson which turned out to be WOW!

  24. I’ve just ordered some nice red nightstands from Ikea for our yellow and white bedroom and from your post I realize it was such a great idea. Next week I’ll receive them and I’m anxious to see the final result.

  25. Wow! Now you’re talkin! I love red and you’ve really pulled some beautiful examples of how to use it :)

  26. I have post traumatic red syndrome from 1992-2005… When we were all screaming reds, golds, greens and roosters everywhere!

    Sure, I will tire of the grays and blues eventually and dare I say bring back the Ralph Lauren red flowers but not today, I’m not ready! It has taken me 8 years to phase it out!

    The minute I walk into a home and see nothing but red in a home. I’m terribly disappointed and just want to ask why the fear of change?

  27. For years I lived in century homes and always had walls painted in the deep reds with antiques everywhere but I’m kind of over it now and only want to have more modern pieces and use bold colours only in accent pieces such as flowers, pillow etc.

  28. Wow, it is so great to know there are “red” buddies out there. I have always loved red and green shades. Especially the brick reds and greens with a slight teal. My house doesn’t scream with the color but it is always there in spots of blending with my rooms to enjoy.

  29. Meant to add that this will be a fun adventure with colors. Thanks for coming up with the idea.

  30. Love your article on decorating with red! Although we don’t have anything red in our livingroom or kitchen area, I did recently buy a new bedding set in red, deeper shade to add some color to our bedroom and a change from the other bedding set.

  31. I do love decorating with red but I’m more of a “in smaller doses” girl when it comes to that. We painted our dining room a brick red color several years ago and now I’m ready for it to go so maybe that’s why!

  32. Great article. Look forward to your upcoming series on color!
    I read recently that red is making a comeback…just when I packed away red accessories :)

  33. I bought a bamboo round coffee table in a thrift shop for $40 painted it a lacquered chinese red…it is so great looking. Wish I could upload a photo!

  34. I love red and have used hits of red in my kitchen to jazz it up.
    I repainted my one staircase wall in a deep red, using brushstrokes to imitate linen. A branch from our home up north (prior to selling) lovingly sanded by hand, stands out as a beautiful hand-railing. Everyone loves the look with my native prints, matted in red and framed in blonde wood against the red wall.
    Red provides a richness that I really appreciate.
    Cheers, from Oshawa, Ontario.

  35. I don’t love to decorate with red inside either. But, I love bright red for the patio. I found two distressed red wooden planter buckets at a flea market. I planted red and purple flowers in them and they look beautiful. I recently found a red, metal bistro set for the patio at a flea market for $30. I’m slowly making my patio a great spot to spend time. From Central Arkansas.

  36. I think every room needs a splase of red and a shot of black. Maybe a pillow, drapes or a soft throw. These two colors seem to bring out the other colors in the room.

  37. I love red – and even more after seeing it used in so many different ways!

    I dig that red and white wallpaper in the bathroom, but really, I can’t believe that the little 3-legged table is sitting in front of the toilet! It’s just about the only thing I see when I look at that room now! No way this looks like this in real life. Just sayin’.

  38. I’ve always been more for pastels or “dusty” colors. But I love that antique Empire dresser – shows that you can take a red, distress the finish, and work it in with almost anything.

  39. Our downstairs game/family room has deep red (almost claret) walls. The deck entry floor and fireplace surround are a creamy travertine tile, the rest of the room and the guest rooms are all a dark hand-scraped wood planking. So we chose to use creams and neutrals for the upholstered pieces and drapes. The accent pillow fabrics and rug colors were chosen from the four or five biggest pieces of art work; cobalt, turquoise, camel … whatever feels right seems to fit. I have often considered repainting, but I still love it and it works for us.
    I can’t wait to read more as you travel around the color wheel. It is so fun to read about the variety of your reader’s styles.
    Another great idea from you!

  40. We just refinished our coffee table in Behr Poinsettia, an extra-bright red. We love the pop it gives to our otherwise neutral (black and tan) living room!

  41. I absolutely love the chair from House of Fifty. Great use of patterns. I love the dual pattern look on furniture anyway, but the floral and polka pot pair looks amazing! PS- Perhaps a “dual-pattern-on-furniture” post could be featured somewhere in the future? :)

  42. Red is my favorite color and I have used it in every house that we have lived in. Sometimes large doses in a room, like the dining room walls, and other times as an accent color, but always somewhere!!! Love It with any other color but my houses have always had red, green and yellow mixed together with white or black accents…..45 years of decorating with red!!

  43. I’ve always loved to use red in home decor, but in the past couple of years have rid my house of most of it. I’m still drawn to it, though; maybe I need to paint a piece of furniture red! I used to love red paired with shades of gold as well as green and blue, but these days I’m liking the airier look of it paired with white. So crisp and pretty! And aqua (or specifically what I think of as Tiffany blue)–what a beautiful combo!

  44. I decorated my living room with reds. Red to me isn’t just vintage, it also has a very warm, vibrant, and inviting feeling to it that’s great for cozying together with friends.

    Love the bold inspiration photos you shared!

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