Make red work in your home

Red is high on the interiors hit parade right now with the vibrant shade making a splash in just about every room in the house.

red interiorsYou could make a case for saying red is part of our national psyche. Think bright red pohutukawa flowers along the coast at Christmas, ox-blood on rural sheds and Split Enz’s I See Red.

The most successful interiors are those in which you use colour that tugs at your heartstrings. “As a culture, we like to have colours around us that are in our landscape,” says colour consultant and interior designer Sarah Kerr. “Look around you, red is everywhere.”

Red gets right in there on an emotional and psychological level. People who like red enjoy being the centre of attention. They are generally extroverts who can be very persuasive and have a get-up-and-go attitude.

The physical make-up of the human eye means we have the ability to see red more than any other colour. That’s why red stimulates the brain, the appetite and conversation. Translate that into home interiors and you have a place where people feel warm, energised, impassioned and totally at home.

The great thing about red is that a little goes a long way. Sarah says that while some of us may be reluctant to paint all four walls of a room red, or choose it for kitchen cabinets or bathroom tiles, red can easily be introduced into these living areas through furniture, accessories and artwork.

“It’s more about having it as an accent to bring a bit of zing into your house,” she says. Try red accessories such as vases, candles and bowls for living areas and a red splashback or appliances for the kitchen.


  • Primary reds are perfect for kids’ rooms, too. Team them with bold yellows and clear blues for a bedroom your child won’t grow out of every time his favourite cartoon character changes!
  • Red fabrics in duvets or curtains add a punch of energy to the bedroom, possibly where you need it most. Look for fabrics with raised red velvet flock on a linen background.
  • Bridging the gap between the masculine and feminine colour wheel, red is the idea colour for a master bedroom that both halves of a couple can enjoy.
  • Like the idea of an eastern-style bedroom? Paint a feature wall in an oriental red such as Resene ‘Lusty’ or Dulux ‘Red Stop’ and add some highly-lacquered black side tables or bamboo furniture for eastern authenticity.


  • Large bowls of tomatoes or red apples make a dramatic splash in an all-white kitchen
  • Try pots of bright red chillies for an instant colour lift and pair them with bright green herbs (the complimentary shade on the colour wheel).
  • You can rely on flowers to provide a display of red all year round: think roses, poppies, tulips and poinsettia.


Red works best in a good-sized room because it tends to bring the walls in and make the space appear smaller.

  • It’s an ideal colour for a room that needs warmth – either because it’s a naturally cold room or because it lacks natural light – but make sure you use a blue-based red, not an orange-based fire engine red. Dulux ‘Devils Backbone’, Resene ‘Dynamite’ and Taubmans ‘Cranberry Craze’ are all good choices to maximise the feeling of warmth.
  • Red is one of those colours that can appear different over a large area. So when experimenting with test pots, make sure you paint onto generous pieces of card (not just tiny squares) to be able to judge the shade correctly.
  • The end result is stunning, but a little bit of elbow grease is required when painting a room red. Deep reds often require three to four coats of paint so make sure you have both the paint and time that’s required.