Life Giving? or danger-warning? Red is the most visually arresting of all the colours in ‘saturated’ wheel. Personally I seldom wear it and have never decorated with it, but a splash of red is life-affirming – especially now. In the cold Northern hemisphere where it’s very grey and muddy the only visual lift in the winter palette is those lingering RED berries now trapped in the January frost.
My new year – new colour fixation began watching Far from the Madding Crowd.
“We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by;”
― Thomas Hardy,
Did you know the only colour your eyes don’t have to adjust to see is green? That the colour red has the strongest wavelength in our visible spectrum. Hence the magnetism of Sergeant Troy’s red jacket amidst nature’s earthy palette drawing us in as relentlessly as Bathsheba is helpless to resist, undone by passion.
“Troy’s deformities lay deep down from a woman’s vision, whilst his embellishments were upon the very surface…She heard footsteps brushing the grass, and had a consciousnesss that love was encircling her like a perfume..”
― Thomas Hardy,
So while I don’t want to be undone and re-made into a scarlet woman, red is the perfect complement to my favourite natural shades:
pea, grass, lime, apple, olive, peacock, jade … I am ever-green. So maybe I need a more frequent brush with green’s giddy best-friend red, they always face each other on the colour wheel, the character of each enhanced by the presence of the other (what are best friends for) ?
If Diane Vreeland doyenne of fashion and style at Bazaaar and supreme editor at Vogue declared:
All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. I can never get painters to mix it for me…
About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance
You can almost hear her? Vreeland the ugly duckling of a beautiful mother, made herself alluring, stylish and cultured and red was part of this process of self definition.
Red is the great clarifier …bright, cleansing and revealing. It makes all other colors beautiful. I can’t imagine becoming bored with red…it would be like becoming bored with the person you love.
Or bored with Diane – impossible.
Red… I think I am starting to feel the attraction.
Red is the colour we seek to define in language above all others. All languages express ‘white’ and ‘black’ and if only a third hue is defined this is ALWAYS red. It’s primordial and powerful, attention grabbing (not seeking).
IF Audrey said: There is a shade of red for every woman. I believe there must be a shade of red for my house/room/boudoir/mantlepiece and modern tastemakers agree…
Miles Redd is the NYC decorator and colour-hero whose made his name his signature colour, at home he relaxes against hot pink and cherry red:
It’s pouting for Aunt Mamie and cocktail shakers.
While lovely Aerin of Lauder fame and uptown chic, delivers a ‘blue and white out’ but with that splash of coral (and red’s little sister pink) to both ease and draw the eye.
Her office? Check out the fabulous montage which amidst her creamy neutral décor gives blooming red centre stage
Hamish Bowles editor at large for US Vogue… where does he lay his head ?
Naturally with Porthault linens, against an amber glow with touches of emerald green and of course … red.
Here at home… proper Brit Ben Pentreath , he who has redefined and refined the english aesthetic for a new generation, skilfully incorporates flashes of red:
His book English Decoration features this sitting room as…
Reds faded and softened by time feel charmingly Mitford to me.
Remember Debo’s sitting room? I loved the red wood burner and shell pink walls, gilt trimmed, and I loved her mantra all the best rooms are a little shabby… which echoes down the enfilade when your chatelaine of Chatsworth.
Back in modern family life decorator Bunny Pocock made ripples and the front cover with this FAB master bedroom. Cleverly that jolt of strong red is behind you when in bed.
Red is on more national flags than any other flag and clearly it permeates through each nation’s identity. The other side of the channel Inés (former Marianne and French style icon) lives in colourful boho-style splash-tastic with RED.
While 20th century French décor legend Madeleine Castaing claws up her opulent red banquettes with leopard print carpet. Bring it on.
Once you open your eyes red is everywhere. A primary colour in all senses of the word, steeped in history and cultural resonance, it pulses with life and sensory pleasure demanding to be seen.
Red-virgins should start small… a few books maybe?
Assouline always look good. Look how red-reading pops in this calm blue room.
The ubiquitous cushion or two. Kate Spade real time red-afficiando takes a seat between a plump red pair. She makes it look so easy, so why not go a baby-step further and …raise the red lantern? Red lights offer more than a light source, they visually anchor a space, who wasn’t smitten by the David Collin’s Blue bar in London:
While at home…
I’d turn any of these on.
So you can either start with ‘small pop’ of red in a contrasting scheme or begin by layering red into a harmonious flow of warm colour. Hot pinks, coral, rich browns are deeply nurturing: In the Conran shop last week, I could have taken this entire stack home:
I think I need to build up towards the big boys: upholstery, rugs, whole walls …
Colour queen Kit Kemp has fuchsia red upholstery combined with a more traditional warm red in her sitting room. While Lulu Lytte founder of Soane has lashings of boho pink and red in tribal groupings:I admit at this point I am committed I’d like to go the whole way and get lacquered up like pro-in-the-know Kate Spade:
… LOVE IT.
So I am going to get started research has begun:
Clockwise from top left: schumacher ikat cushion, lacquer mirror Marjorie Scours, 60’s Italian chairs, Nicholas Haslam glazed chinoisere fabric, Willy Rizzo coffee table, red pom pom trim, Soane’s Botanic Garden fabric, Rita Konig’s lacquer tray.
clockwise from top left: Melodi Horne red base and chic two-tone shade, Charles Edwards pagoda lantern, Melodi Horne ikat shade, Jélde articulated lamp, Soane wall light with red shade, Marina Kennedy resin base lamp with shade.
Take your pick, embrace that splash of red, light your way into a new colour spectrum. I am off to dream of new interiors…in RED.
Please see my pinterest board, ‘A Splash of Red‘ for photo credits.