Red is an inherently bold color to design a room around. Because anything that powerful, striking, and vibrant demands effort, you can’t just throw together a few cute pieces and trust that everything will work out. Red is loud. It’s eye-catching. And when used inattentively, it can easily overpower a space. But give red the care and consideration it deserves, and you could end up with a space that’s not just pretty but downright stunning.
When you choose to decorate with the color red, you’re giving up the possibility of curating a mediocre space, or even a good one. Your options are more polar than that. Succeed and achieve absolute greatness. Fail and earn only disappointment. Given these odds, many people relegate red to out-of-sight, out-of-mind spaces, like the bathroom or laundry room. Only some choose to embrace the challenge and make red the focal point of the living room, the veritable centerpiece of any home.
For a few pointers on taking on the color red and winning, we turned to designer and color expert Iman Stewart. "Red is great for making a statement," she says. And she's a firm believer in the power of color. "It's an instant mood booster, to be honest. It will literally change your mood right away."
Meet the Expert
Iman Stewart, design director of I|S Iman Stewart Interiors, is a Toronto-based designer of residential and commercial spaces with projects spanning Canada, Jamaica, and the United States.
Given all this, curating a red living room may seem like a daunting prospect. But as the below collection of lovely red living rooms demonstrates, there are plenty of ways to do it right. Keep scrolling for inspiration and tips to harness the power of red.
Choosing the Right Shade For Your Decorating Style
- New Traditional: Burgundy and wine reds will look sophisticated and elegant in chic, traditional spaces with a modern edge.
- Mid-Century Modern: Look for vibrant shades like fire-engine red and orange-red, which will pop against all that wood found in Mid-Century design.
- Bohemian: Subtle, down-to-earth shades like pale coral and rusty red look beautiful in tandem with the white walls and woven materials of boho interiors.
- Art Deco: This style is known for its use of eye-catching jewel tones, so opt for rich ruby or garnet reds for best results.
- Eclectic: Anything goes in eclectic interiors, so we'd recommend incorporating a range of reds from dark maroon to true red.
Start With Striking Seating
Red rugs may abound, but red couches are decidedly rare. It takes guts to make the centerpiece of your living room a bold red sectional. But opt for a darker, earthier shade in luxurious velvet, and you may be surprised by how easily it integrates with your aesthetic. We're floored with how upscale it looks paired with neutral (but textural) pieces in this timeless living room.
Consider the End Goal
It's also important to consider your lifestyle. "For a living room where you’re trying to wind down and watch a movie, I don’t think you want your red to be that bold statement," says Stewart. "You want it to be something that flows with the space.” Incorporate red in small doses and calming hues to maintain a more relaxed vibe.
If you're on the fence, opt for a saturated pillow or two before committing to a red palette entirely. You can always add more to the mix over time.
Invest in Vibrant Art
Many of us use artwork to echo colors that are already present in a space. But there’s no reason we have to. Why not, instead, allow art to inject a new tone into your palette—say, a vibrant shade of red? We're big fans of this pair of framed prints that introduce not one but two vibrant colors into this living room. And it all just works.
Be Bold With Prints
A printed red piece may sound overwhelmingly vivid. But adding visual texture to a red pillow or painting actually tempers the shade, making it easier to decorate with and more soothing to the eye. Don’t be afraid to stock up on patterned red pieces, and don’t shy away from mixing and matching them, either. In this living room, a vibrant art print in a range of reds ties back into a single red throw pillow, effectively uniting the room.
Shop for Retro Rugs
Red has been gracing interiors for a long time, transforming with every style to fit the mold. A perfect example is the red shag carpeting popular in the '60s and '70s—you know, the kind your grandparents probably still have. And the good news is that retro never goes out of style, so pull that vintage rug out of storage or scour your local secondhand shops to find the right rug to transform your space into a nostalgic haven.
Make a Stunning Statement
Don’t be afraid to design a room around a single piece, especially if it’s a particularly stunning red one. Sometimes you just can't help who—or, in this case, what—you fall in love with. So go ahead, put a top-to-bottom tufted burgundy couch in the middle of the room. You'll have an easy conversation piece and a starting point to build the rest of the room off of.
Curate the Details
Use details to make your palette feel cohesive. Start with a bold red piece, like a sofa or rug, then offer echoes of the shade around the room. Books, works of art, lampshades, and even your cocktail supplies can all bring a room together.
"Make red a part of the space," Stewart suggests. "[Include] it in patterns, in prints, in fabrics, in throw pillows—that type of thing." In short, commit. Don't relegate it to being an afterthought.
Cue the Curtain Call
Opting for red carpet or furniture may sound intimidating to you. If that's the case, try out some high-impact red curtains instead—much smaller investment pieces that are easier to switch out on a whim. Accent them with darker décor to add weight to the space or lighter tones to open things up. Either way, you’re in for a seriously statement-making room.
Utilize Unexpected Accents
In any décor scheme, there are obvious accent pieces—things like pillows, paintings, and trinkets. These smaller items are straightforward candidates for color. But putting color in more counterintuitive spaces, like on your floor or along a fireplace, can be just as striking. Case in point, this totally bold and unique living room with a minty green and pinkish red-tiled fireplace has us reconsidering everything we thought we knew about fireplace design.
Pick a Two-Tone Palette
You can have a red living room without making red the only color in the space. Opting for a two-tone color palette can leave the room feeling balanced but veritably bold. "If you incorporate more colors, it will become more of an eclectic design," Stewart agrees. In other words, it's a more approachable way to take on red in your interiors.
This avant-garde living room reinforces that palette through possibly the coolest artwork we've come across.
Choose a Grounding Color
A pop of red doesn’t have to be bright or vibrant. Darker shades of red, like burgundies and wines, can ground a space, leaving a room feeling homier or cozier than it would otherwise.
Take notes from this sunny indoor-outdoor living room—rich wood furniture and bamboo blinds tie into a deep red Persian rug, which in turn defines and grounds the airy space and adds a much-needed element of coziness.
Pull in Earthy Tones
Red lends itself almost surprisingly well to earthier, more natural palettes, too, like those featuring rich browns and dark charcoals. If you’re craving a little color while cultivating a grounded aesthetic, consider adding a couple of rust-colored printed pillows or blankets to the mix.
This works especially well for a Southwestern aesthetic, much like in this cozy living room, thanks to an array of nature-inspired colors used throughout.
Weave in Pops of Color
Red doesn’t have to account for a majority of your decor to be prominent in your space. By opting for a monochromatic interior, plus an array of accent pieces, you can curate color without cultivating an overwhelming feel. And if you do want red to be the statement-maker, simply feature it a bit more heavily than your other accent shades. You can use this sleek, beachy living room as a model—we're obsessed with those sculptural red lamps, too.
Adopt a Color Family
Remember that your accent pieces don’t have to match your statement-makers exactly. Pulling from the same color family can make a room feel thoughtfully assembled without feeling too matchy-matchy.
See here: The designer of this living room expertly layered in several shades of red, from burgundy pillows to saddle leather to a touch of pink coral. The addition of wood and brass pieces that pull from the same warm undertones further unites the space.
Experiment With Unexpected Combinations
As you've seen, a striking color combination can be the difference between an exciting interior and an obvious one. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with your red palette pairings—especially since your starting point is so vivid.
This living room is an all-out color explosion, fearlessly marrying reds, pinks, greens, and golds for a look that is part retro, part modern, and entirely chic.
Find the Perfect Temp
No matter what you've heard, a palette doesn’t have to be warm or cool to be successful. Instead, try achieving some blend of the two, balancing bolder pieces with softer ones.
In the case of this room, balancing a very bold warm rug with an equally bold cool-toned ceiling is a surprisingly eye-pleasing contrast. The neutral fireplace in between helps to quite literally bridge the two.
Opt for Washed-Out Tones
Consider this your friendly reminder that fire-engine red isn’t the only color on the menu. Washed-out shades can create a space that’s just as bold and striking, especially when paired with a few vibrant pieces like artwork and pillows.
In fact, this lounge is a masterclass in how to achieve the monochromatic look in shades of red without over- or under-doing it. We're just tickled pink with the results.
Let in Lots of Light
When many of us hear the phrase “red living room,” we imagine a too-vibrant or too-dark space. But, as we're on a mission to prove, red can be a relatively bright and lightweight addition to a room—especially when it’s rendered in prints with lighter shades, like white and beige. One look at this eclectic cottage living space proves that it's all about striking the right balance.
Achieve Elegant Comfort
These days, many people are inclined to keep their interiors as bright, open, and airy as possible. But those of us seeking coziness and character may find solace in darker, richer shades and luxurious textiles.
Red is right at home in this elegantly rustic aesthetic, whether it comes in the form of a grounding rug, accent artwork, or rich red-hued woodwork. All this room is missing is a lit fire and a furry pet to snuggle up with.
Break the Rules
The most daring way to do a red living room? Dedicate an entire wall to the shade. "If you’re going to do red in the living room, incorporate it in a wallpaper with texture so you can tie it in on other levels," advises Stewart.
This room breaks all the rules, and we are absolutely here for it. By opting for graphic prints, sleek lines, and modern artwork, you can keep the space feeling crisp, rather than overwhelming. And if you're feeling extra bold, feel free to throw in a red couch, just for fun.