Unexpected red: how to nail this viral colour theory in your home


The unexpected red theory suggests that a sudden splash of the bold hue can lend brightness and intrigue. Here’s how to make it work for your interiors

 words Adrianne Webster

A quick scroll through your Instagram feed will show that ‘unexpected red’ is having a big moment. From shoulder bags to ballet flats and now our interiors, the bold shade is tempting us to throw caution to the wind and embrace statement colour with open arms.

In the world of interior decorating specifically, a trend called the ‘unexpected red theory’ has been cropping up. Coined by New York Interior Designer Taylor Migliazzo Simon in a viral TikTok video where she says that she’s “petitioning to make red a neutral colour – because it just looks good with everything”, the concept goes that, in a room more traditionally follows a muted colour palette, a sudden injection of red can add instant panache.

However, it’s not the easiest shade to play with, so if you’re a bit stuck for ideas, the following ideas should give you plenty of inspiration.

An example of unexpected red theory in a blue bathroom with a bold red mirror
A bold red mirror can liven up an otherwise pared-back bathroom. This red circular mirror moves the nautical feel up a few knots. Photo by: @dado.atelier

How to accessorise unexpected red

The key to making red look interesting rather than garish is by being specific with your shade and careful usage of the colour. Anything too orange-red could end up looking too coral and border into making a room look more tropical. Too dark, and you risk losing the bold impact.

One of the best ways to use red is through your choice of accessories. Instead of making a loud statement in the way of a scarlet sofa, incorporate red lamp shades, mirrors, throw pillows, curtains and door handles, as a way to add a sudden hint of boldness. These smaller accents can be easily swapped out or changed if you want to update the look in the future, thus making it more versatile.

Photo: @heidicaillierdesign
Photo: @harrisvintage

Take a seat

Consider incorporating unique red statement pieces like a red chandelier, a bold piece of artwork, or a red accent chair, as illustrated above. These items can serve as conversation starters and add personality to the space.

Unexpected red sink in a blue bathroom
Photo: @samanthaefaella

Use red to add warmth to cool spaces

Bathrooms are naturally a space where a lot of blue and green is used, but a jolt of red in the shape of a sink or waste basket can warm things up a bit. Combined with gold hardware as shown above, it can add a luxe feel, too.

Unexpected red lampshade and flowers
Photo: Dulux

Combine and contrast

For a bold and dynamic look, pair red with complementary colors like turquoise, teal, or mustard yellow. This creates a striking color scheme that adds visual interest to the room.

An unexpected red vase
Photo: The Modern House

Incorporate red through natural elements like flowers, plants, or wood accents stained in a red hue – it brings a sense of warmth and organic beauty to the space.

Looking for more ways to use colour in your home this year? Our guide to the top trending colours for 2024 offers plenty of inspiration

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