If you want to be bold, decorate in red. But just make sure you do it in small doses

Mi amore, the month of love is finally here! And you know what that means — red roses, boxes of chocolate tied with red ribbon, and ladies, let’s not forget the red lingerie!


This week’s column is all about red — what it means, plus tips for using this hot color to spice up your rooms. Let’s start with the psychology. Red is the color of passion. It makes us think of love, but remember, it’s also a very aggressive color that can at times feel violent. The term “seeing red” means someone is angry. Red definitely stimulates the heart rate. Many restaurants use red in their signage and interiors because it stimulates the appetite as well.

Because of the strong emotions it evokes, you need to be careful when using red in decorating. Probably the boldest use you’ve seen is accent walls. Many homes have red accent walls in dining rooms, game rooms and other places, where there’s entertainment and action going on and you want to heighten the senses.

If you’re one of those who’d love red on an entire wall, how do you go about it? Here’s the first rule: Choose your paint color last.


Your wall should absolutely not be the only red in the room. I like to choose my shade of red from another red element in the space. For example, if there’s red in a focal point like an area rug or piece of art, your red accent wall should match that shade. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to find a paint color to match a rug than vice versa!

Here’s the second rule: Get a color fan deck or take that red piece or a Swatch to the paint store, if you can. You’ll need the exact shade to select a red paint that is complementary. They do not have to match exactly. But there are hundreds of reds ranging from cherry to terra cotta, and unless you’re a professional designer, you need to choose carefully to avoid a situation where the red on your wall has blue undertones while the red in your rug has yellow undertones. That might not look so hot.

Now, a red wall is probably not a good idea for your bedroom, where you probably want more calming colors. Subtle accents in flowers, candles, a throw or some art, however, can add a feeling of romance and sensuality.

I love using red in accents. Just as with black or white, touches of red can elevate the other colors in a room. Here are some great examples from Cathy’s Marketplace: an Asian wall carving that adds warmth and personality, throw pillows that are always a great way to incorporate a color, and finally, affordable vessels that can go on countertops and coffee tables. As with all accent colors, red needs to be repeated in at least three places to tie a space together, and these are easy ways to achieve this without going overboard.


So is red a good choice? Absolutely! It spices up your room and your life. But do it in small doses. After all, red is a hot color, and if you’re not careful you can get burned!

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repur-posing services at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops that teach homeowners the basics of style. To find out more, go to www.cathyleestyle.com.