At this time of year, you see red and green everywhere. It’s a color combination that is, of course, synonymous with Christmas. It obviously makes for a winning color scheme, but can this palette shake free of its festive connotations to be a part of our home the rest of the year?
It only takes a few good examples to show that shades of red and green can help create a wonderful modern interior. The key to getting it right? It all depends on the intensity of the shades you choose, and how you plan to incorporate them into your home.
These shades are naturally complementary, as per color theory, and the combination has the power to create a perfectly balanced color palette for a warm and sumptuous design.
I’m convinced it’s a color palette we’re not using enough, so I spoke to designers to help find out how to make this combination work every time, without invoking the spirit of Christmas.
Aditi is a home writer and editor with several years of experience. Her articles, backed by expert insights, offer helpful suggestions at helping readers make the best home design choices. For this article, she spoke to several designers to understand how to use green and red in interiors, far beyond Christmas.
Do red and green go together?
The straight answer to that question is: yes. While green and red are opposite each other on the color wheel, they’re considered completely complementary, the two tones can still have a wonderful partnership.
Usually, this palette is seen abundantly during Christmas, but when it comes to designing with these tones all year round, this combo doesn’t have to look too much like an explosion at Santa’s workshop. Red and green are easier to work with than you might think. Using them in textures, furniture, wallpapers to even cushions or curios can keep your space from looking too seasonal, but cheery all year round. But most of all, choosing the right tones of red and green matters.
There are many colors that go with red and green, allowing a third shade to be introduced that can further uplift the scheme.
‘Contrasting and complementary colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at paint brand Crown (opens in new tab). ‘The wisdom received is that the most striking color combinations are achieved when you use colors, such as yellow and blue or red and green. These are called complimentary colors. As the name suggests this creates interesting color schemes that are both harmonious and opposite.’
For a more sophisticated setting, choose deeper tones
Dark tones are a great way to ground a red and green room and avoid that Christmassy feel. Warm tones have an inherent cocooning feel and can create a cozy environment, especially helpful in spaces like the dining room or banquette seating, which are intimate areas.
If the deep palette feels too one-dimensional, introduce patterns to break up the solid tones, and give the design some movement.
‘When red and green are paired together, Christmas often comes to mind,’ says Helen Shaw, UK Director of Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab), ‘yet, the results can be surprisingly sophisticated with the correct styling and shades. Richer hues of these colors such as burgundy and forest green complement each other well and jewel tones add a luxurious feel to the home, especially when styled with gold accessories.’
‘When using colors like red and green, you’re approaching the design with the intent to make a statement,’ says Katie Paulsen, interior designer at Maestri Studio (opens in new tab). ‘In this case, space is needed to be exciting but also needed to have a soothing quality that the family can always enjoy.’
‘We did this by softening the brighter values of the red and green by pulling in wood tones and by adding warmth to the metal finishes,’ he adds. ‘We knew that our best approach to using these bold colors was knowing they would stand out but also keeping in mind that they need to feel like they belong.’
Avoid primary colors and choose tonal shades
Thankfully, red and green are available in several interesting undertones and shades. From mint, sage, and forest to teal and moss green, and terracotta, rust, scarlet, to poppy red and more, there’s a whole gamut of hues you can use to create this palette. Whether you’re looking for bedroom color ideas, living room, or kitchen, this offers a much less stark color combination than pure tones of red and green.
“There are many shades of red and green that go together beautifully, such as soft green with a rusty red that looks incredible,” say interior designers Jenna Choate-James and Mariana Ugarte of UK-based Interior Fox. (opens in new tab). ‘It’s all about avoiding the primary colors and playing the shades in between if you want to avoid a festive feel.’
Scatter the palette around the room for a more subtle look
Another way to work with this palette is by scattering it around the room, or by concentrating it in one corner of a room. Consider bringing in more tones such as black, gold or beige to ground a scheme that may seem too OTT with just green and red. A living room or bedroom accent wall with red and green, with the rest of the room drenched in neutrals, could do the trick too.
“Use red and green together for much stronger and powerful decorative schemes that stay relevant and interesting over time,” says Justyna. ‘Today we are far more creative, schemes such as feature walls can take many forms, shapes, textures and materials that stand the test of time.’
Mix red and green with other complementary hues
Keep in mind that you don’t need red and green to dominate your space. With your red and green color scheme, consider weaving in a masterful job with multiple colors. The trick is to use pieces of decor that combine all of the hues in your palette, instead of trying to use individual pieces in each color.
A nice, vibrant combination of red, green, yellow, blue, and pink can look stunning, all against the backdrop of crisp white walls and ceiling. Don’t forget to bring in loads of natural light to help balance the electrifying scheme.
If you want the presence of red and green but want to keep it restrained, consider adding these as smaller elements to a larger color scheme of, say all blue or dark gray rooms. Several colors go with blue or grey, and red and green can do the job of lifting a moody scheme like this.