Coloring Your World: RED-Do You Dare?

Color surrounds us. It drives, soothes and inspires us.  It also intrigues us-yet intimidates the heck out of us when presented in the form of a paint fan. Coloring Your World is a new series that takes a look at the history and psychology of color, and appropriately enough, RED is up first.

The color of sinners and saints, after black and white, red was the first color used, and the first color named.  Red Ochre (clay + iron ore) was found coloring drawings in Beijing caves, thought to be inhabited as long as 700,0oo years ago.  In later years, pigment also came from various organic sources: minerals like cinnabar, the roots of Madder plants, and crushed Kermes bugs-Kermes vermilio, to be exact, as in Vermilion Red…

Louis_XIV_of_FranceBy definition, it’s one of three primary colors-meaning it’s a building block for other colors. As a practical matter, it’s color few are ambivalent about.  Romans and Greeks both used it to celebrate war, life, and victory.  During  the Middle Ages the Church used it to denote authority. Louis XIV wore red heels as a wink and a nod to his status in the early 1700’s, then red first became the symbol of political rebellion during the French Revolution at the end of that century. In Russian, the word for ‘red’ comes from the same root as the Slavic words beautiful and excellent, and ‘Red Square’ meant Beautiful Square before the Russian Revolution.

Redheads were both feared for their fiery temperament, and admired for their unique coloration. Folklore assigned red gemstones similar powers: Wearing garnets were both an antidote to poison, and protection against lightening strikes. Carnelian was said to repel rage and anger, and in certain Asian countries, rubies were set underneath a building’s foundation, to insure good fortune inside.

Today red still signifies everything intense. It raises the heartbeat, increases respiration, and stimulates the appetite. Pure color, in quantity could be a lot for many to live with, but here are some ways this Westchester County Decorator suggests you can …ahhh…temper it for everyday living.

  • If you’re a little nervous, start with a  small quantity (always eaiser to amp something up, rather than calm it down)-draperies against neutral walls, a single chair, or some accessories.
  • If you opt for red walls, remember dark furniture, and or high-contrast white trim will balance the final effect. Consider things like wall art or a mirror as an additional safety net.
  •  Dulled, but still dense and saturated reds can still be stunningly striking, just not as jarring. My favs: Benjamin Moore Dinner Party (Affinity line) #AF-300, #1316 Umbria Red or #2080-10 Raspberry Truffle.