Red can lift your mood and look fabulous in your home.

funky red chairsMaybe it’s because I’m a natural redhead that I love red! I find it vibrant, glamorous and sexy. No wonder I have used touches of it everywhere. It’s in my office, my home, my artwork and even my wardrobe. And I’m not alone in my red-hot passion. New Zealanders’ penchant for red has been around for a long time (think ox-blood on rural sheds) and continues to grow.

Our soul is stirred by the red blooms of the pohutukawa and bringing this splash of summer indoors is often all it takes to lift a mood. The most successful interiors are those in which you use colour that tugs at your heartstrings. In my case, red, combined with a neutral palette, brings an injection of energy into my environment that enhances my busy lifestyle.
I’m excited that red is clearly back in vogue – from the deep baroque crimsons, to gypsy reds, along with poppy, tomato and raspberry shades, they’re at the heart of today’s fashionable interiors. Seeing red in your rooms yet? I hope you will be soon.

Yours in colour,

Sarah Kerr
Colour consultant and interior designer

The psychology of reds

  • 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.
  • If you love red, you tend to be ambitious and can be impatient. You are filled with nervous energy that drives you to get results and be successful. As such, you can be a little insensitive to other people’s feelings.
  • Red lights are used in saunas to help increase the heartbeat and circulation.
  • Historically red has some negative associations: scarlet woman, red-light district, being caught red-handed!

Kitchens and Bathrooms
Red (a warm colour) and green (a cool colour) are complementary shades on the colour wheel. While few of us will opt advice3-2for red cabinetry in this soulful heart of the home, we’d still like the opportunity to spice up the space. Try pots of bright red chillis and fresh green herbs for an instant colour lift. An energetic red, such as (Dulux ‘Ettrick’, Taubmans ‘Crimson Crazed’ or Resene ‘Red Red Red’) on a glass splashback looks great. Or create contrast by using oversized red vases, large bowls of tomatoes or red apples against a white composite-stone benchtop.

Another way to make a stunning statement is to have chunky open shelving in white with the insides painted a glossy cherry red (such as Dulux ‘Red Box’ – previously ‘Red Cross’). Glass-fronted cabinetry could be given the same treatment. Make sure you install lights in the cupboards for a dramatic effect in the evening. Rustic timber benchtops and cabinetry teamed with walls in red striped wallpaper are a perennial favourite in the farmhouse kitchen.

When it comes to bathrooms, red is best used as an accent, such as a statement wall of red mosaic tiles. Try red accessories like vases, candles or bowls to hold makeup. Red towels offset a neutral or white-tiled bathroom and are easy to change out.

If a bathroom is on the south side of the house, it may feel cold and clinical. Red walls can add a touch of cosiness juxtaposed with a classic white suite. But beware: red, above all other colours, appears different over a large area. Paint it onto generous panels first to be able to judge the shade correctly.

Living Rooms

If you’re unsure about using red, take baby steps first. Start sparingly with roses or poppies in a vase. Try red scatter cushions, then move on to daubs of scarlet red in artwork and perhaps a red shag-pile or Persian rug.

Red is best applied in places that require warmth. Red can be effectively used in a naturally cold room or a room that lacks natural light to increase the feeling of warmth. Make sure you use a blue-based red (Dulux ‘Devils Backbone’, Resene ‘Dynamite’, Taubmans ‘Cranberry Craze’) not an orange-based fire engine red ( Taubmans ‘Red Siren’, Dulux ‘K Road’) to maximise the feeling of warmth in the space.
Be careful with red: only use it in a good-sized room as it tends to bring the walls in and make the space appear smaller. Red instantly spices up a neutral interior whether in earthy browns or greys. One red chair teamed with leather furniture is a sassy look.

The beauty of red is that it’s adaptable to any style. With black and latté, it can lend contemporary elegance. For a touch of whimsy, use an oriental red chest in the room.

Poppy reds such as (Dulux ‘Hot Lips’) teamed with cream and apple-green bring a fun, casual feel that’s a little bit country. The addition of a bean bag would add to the laid-back attitude. Want some French Provençal flair? Red toile is a classic fabric that brings ooh là là to occasional chairs.

Or team a deep Italian red (such as Dulux ‘Devils Backbone’, Resene ‘Rialto’) with golden ochre and dark timber. The Bedouins used red lavishly – with raunchy results. Gypsy-like combinations of red, pink, gold and orange bring an exotic flavour.
For a more traditional room, team a deep Italian red (such as Dulux Devil’s Backbone’, Resene ‘Rialto’) with a golden ochres and dark timber. The Bedouins used red lavishly – with raunchy results. Gypsy-like combinations of red, pink, gold and orange bring an exotic flavour to a living room.

Consider adding a red splashback to your kitchen. Choose a bold red and cover with a thick layer of glass. Downlights will add even more drama

Dining Rooms
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 – and the appetite. But did you know that red also produces a sensation of heat? It makes a space feel cosy, so it deserves special mention in the dining room. Imagine the scene – beef casserole steaming on the table, candles aglow in ornate, gold candelabra, the fire roaring and elegant stemmed glasses of red wine.

Red is also a good alternative to neutrals as a backdrop for paintings. In fact, some galleries are adopting it. It makes the colours of the artwork ‘pop’. That’s because red is an advancing colour – red objects look bigger. But red can be light and contemporary too.

Pair red with pale-wood furniture and dining chairs upholstered in an oatmeal fabric and it takes on a whole new style. Psychologically, red uplifts feelings and gives confidence, an ideal recipe for a dinner party.


Go on, admit it – you’re a passionate beast! Red fabrics in duvets or curtains add a punch of energy to the bedroom, advice3-4possibly where you need it most. Look for fabrics with raised red velvet flock on a linen background.

Paint a feature wall in an oriental red (such as Resene ‘Lusty’ or Dulux ‘Red Stop’) for an eastern-style bedroom. Deep reds often require three to four coats of paint for proper coverage so plan accordingly.

Add some highly-lacquered black side tables or bamboo furniture for eastern authenticity. The more feminine side of red, including shades of pink and berry tones, are now sought after and go well with florals.

Try a floral duvet cover or scatter cushions. One fabric that encapsulates the dramatic, yet sensual qualities of red is velvet. Use for bedspreads, luxurious stacks of scatter cushions or on a statement chair. Combine with cream and white linens and dark oak timber for a contemporary look or with gold for opulence and regal appeal.

Primary reds (Dulux ‘Hot Lips’) white, bold yellows and clear blues (such as Dulux ‘Rollercoaster’) are a decorator’s dream for transforming kids’ bedrooms. Avoid a theme such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer that will date quickly. Accessorise with bean bags, rugs, painted notice boards and storage boxes in these three colours.