Color Psychology: Red

Photo: Christina Rutz

Color is a powerful tool for all kinds of reasons. One of the biggest ones is how color affects mood, and sets the general atmosphere in a space. This is why there’s so much choice when it comes to color, to shade, and to the associations we make with them.

In this series of posts centred around color psychology, I’d like to touch on some of the basics of some select colors that remain to be the most popular to add to interior designs. To kick off, here’s some notes on the color red, a choice that is both attractive, bold, and is often a reason to pause before plunging in. It’s intense. But, does it have to be?

Let’s take a look.

Moods and effects of red

Red is known to be the color of passion, and romance. It can be associated with all kinds of emotions, and attitudes, from defiance, to sexiness, to outright danger. It is designed to be noticed, and to stimulate. Red can quicken the heart rate, actually creating not only an psychological response, but also a physical one. Red is one of those colors that just screams “I’m alive!” It can be dark and mysterious. It can be bright and flirty.  Red  is dominant – the top color of the rainbow!

Popular shades of red

Red sits in the centre of a orange/pink/brown/purple spectrum, with a number of shades that fire up the senses that bring life to a space. Here are a select few to consider across that wide spectrum of choice:

From the subtlety of terra cotta, to the brazeness of candy apple, red proves itself to be highly versatile. And in a modern context, red is no longer a color to be avoided because of its dominant nature. Lately, red becoming more and more embraced for the boldness and life it brings, even if just as an accent color against white, or other neutral colors.

Red in the living room

The living area is the place to invite friends and family into. And the design of a living room is often about communicating the personality of a home, perhaps more so than any other room in the house. A red accent wall is a popular choice to provide a bit of spark and contrast to bring that personality out. Red furniture, or throw pillows add visual vitality. Red can represent the positive energy through color in your home as a whole

Red in the kitchen

It’s been established that the kitchen is the beating heart of the home, host to meals, to family gatherings, to family budgeting sessions, and beyond. Red brings life to the environment where these vital activities take place. Even if you’re not up for red walls, or appliances, red crockery and cabinetry that features red accents can be enough to get the psychology of the color red going in your kitchen.

Photo: Sarah Ackerman

For that extra vigourous push, red brings the psychological effects of energy, and passion that goes along with passionate, energetic living.

Red in the bathroom

The bathroom is often a blank canvas where color is concerned, perhaps because it is a room in your home that you think of as being primarily functional. But, in more recent times, the bathroom has been the center of transformation in a home as much as in other rooms,  sometimes even more so.

A key concept in a bathroom is comfort and calmness, and a strategy around color psychology comes in handy as you can imagine. Red doesn’t have to mean lurid. A dull russet or an earthy terra cotta shade of red delivers the atmosphere of comfort with ease.

Red in the bedroom

Red in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean the fiery energy that involves being, shall we say, very awake. Sometimes, red accents against more muted colors can help to temper a more restful space with a touch of vitality.

Certain soft red shades, like dusty rose, or melon, can still deliver that restful mood to a place meant ultimately for recharging after a busy day.

Red flooring & furnishings options

If you’re looking to add red flooring and furnishings to a space, your choices are pretty varied. In a domestic wood flooring surface,  northern red oak and American cherry adds a subtle red texture to a room, as can furniture pieces derived from these species.  Exotic species and stains like a Brazilian cherry, or a kempas adds brown to burgundy accents and highlights.

Cherry stain teak wood flooring

Even in a bamboo flooring option, a red stain adds a touch of vitality, and warm, vibrant life, even if the colors are muted.

Floor tile colors represent a whole new world of colorful options for bathrooms, front entranceways, and kitchens. Whether porcelain, natural stone, or glass tile accents for shower stalls, or kitchen and bathroom backsplashes, tile on the red spectrum can add just the right spark of life and personality you’re looking for.

Why decorate with red?

Red is bold, and commands attention. Yet, we’ve seen too that it can add subtlety and contrast as well, while losing none of its vitality. And in the end, that’s really what red represents – vitality and energy.

And these are the things you want in your home.

Stay tuned for the next installment of  the color psychology series: blue.


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