What Paint Colors Go With Red?

Red asserts itself, whether it's the color of the furniture, the carpet and curtains, or the upholstery in a room. That's a great thing, if you love red, but you do need to balance a strong color with the right shade on the walls. Decide on the main mood your space is meant to evoke and then explore the whole paintbox to find unexpected partners to your fabulous scarlet wall hanging, the "lips" sofa you scored off Craigslist, the enameled reproduction stove that dominates your kitchen, or the priceless antiques you inherited from your globe-trotting grandma.

Man holding paint samples
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Man with color samples

The Red Sofa

Modern design living room with red sofa
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Red sofa

Your red leather sofa is the star of any room but, like Norma Desmond, it can lean too heavily on past decor glories in the wrong setting. Give that spectacular couch its due with rich, unapologetic walls of slate blue with a touch of teal in the paint. The slightly indefinable color calls up slabs of rugged stone as well as the sea, powerful subconscious imagery to balance the marquee quality of the sofa. Don't shy away from the definition of an even deeper intensity of teal or a spruce green for trim and interior doors, but add some relief with the creamy white of mountain laurel for lampshades, sofa throws, chair upholstery, art or other decor elements.

Candy Apple Lacquer

Red and orange empty interior
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A green wall

Chinese lacquered furniture in rich red shades is set off strikingly by green walls. Green is the complement to red, and cinnabar, deep rust and candy apple red lacquered cabinets, gleaming benches or Chinese Chippendale chairs stand out next to acid-green, chartreuse, light jade or mint walls. A red oriental carpet with lots of green, cream and neutral fibers in the design further pulls the room together. If the wall paint is a light color, you can risk the weighty accent of embroidered Chinese silk for upholstery or throw pillows.

Walls Made of Sunshine

Interior of nursery.
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Nursery with yellow walls

Red chintz curtains, a red corduroy crib quilt and a red Mid-Century Modern rocker make a happy nursery when the vivid color is surrounded with honey-yellow walls. The sunflower/ochre/harvest-gold paint adds extra warmth to the room, even in winter gloom. Polished wood floors and a cheerful, thick area rug along with a linen, cream or pale apricot ceiling complete the cozy cave. Be sure to add enough shelves and cupboards to contain toys, books and baby paraphernalia so the bright space doesn't seem cluttered and claustrophobic.

Harmony for Hullabaloo Hue

chess styled floor
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Checkerboard tiles

The kitchen cabinets, vintage stove and rack of hanging enameled pans are unapologetic red. The heart of your home definitely doesn't lack for warmth, but it needs a serene counterpoint behind the counters to tone down the dynamism. Acknowledge the bold color choice with oversize black-and-white harlequin or checkerboard floor tiles, and then paint the walls soft lilac or gentle gray. The pale-colored walls frame the cabinets, deepening their visual impact, and the floors steal a little of their thunder so the red isn't the only vibrant element in the room. The almost-neutral walls "match" any brushed stainless fixtures or appliances, such as a double sink or a fridge.

Benna Crawford

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .