Archive for Sunday, September 1, 2002

Red, green not just for holidays anymore

September 1, 2002


Even in the middle of summer, I miss the reds and greens of the winter holiday season. To remedy this, I've learned to decorate my home in those colors, the most recognized complementary color scheme out there.

Believe me, there is nothing like a red room to give your home a decorator feel. It's a strong hue that commands your attention, and it brings life and richness to everything placed inside it. Green, on the other hand, can calm red with it's nature influences and it can be a wonderful background to red accents.

Some of the best places to use red are entries and dining rooms. They are rooms that usually aren't used for long periods of time, yet they are often visible from several areas of the home. The color red is so powerful, it can actually affect you physically. Red tends to cause your blood pressure to rise a bit, making you more energetic or feel a bit more romantic. Too much, though, will tire you out, so take red in small doses.

Green can be used liberally throughout your home. It is an earth tone and is the most balanced color of the spectrum. This balancing characteristic transfers to those who live with it, creating a harmonious and calming home. However, too much calm can be dull and boring for some, so reds serve as the perfect pick-me-up. And remember, when pattern is added to red and green, other colors that soften the pair are often added as well.

For instance, in a red dining room my partner Matt Fox and I decorated, we used several patterns of red and green to give the room a softened level of excitement. Our inspiration piece was a woven table runner in a large scale leafy pattern on a bold red background. It included a whole range of greens, golds and browns that augmented the red and green scheme. We accented this with a smaller scale plaid to be used as draperies and on the dining chairs. The plaid was made up of fewer colors so it didn't compete with the centerpiece table runner. For the wainscoting in the room, we upholstered the wall in a red, green and cream stripe. The small scale of the stripe almost read as a solid from a distance. Again, this didn't detract from the rest of the room, it just added to ambiance of the red and green scheme.

Now, if red and green seem too much like the holidays for you, you may want to try other complementary color schemes one cool and one warm color that create instant drama. Blue and orange is one such scheme used more often than you might think. It might not be in the bright blue and orange of high school mascots, but more subdued shadings have the same effect.

For instance, a wedgewood blue with a soft pumpkin shade of orange can be a lovely combination. If you want a more exciting atmosphere but don't want the red, make orange your dominant color in the room. Can't you picture russet walls with a beautiful dark parquet wood flooring? Imagine a dark walnut traditional bedroom suite with a patterned bedspread in slate blue, cream and touches of orange in a berry or floral design. A grouping of rust, pumpkin, blue and cream plaid chairs would be pretty with a few solid or mini print pillows that pick up the color of the lined draperies. For a calmer feel, make the blue the dominant color in the room.

The last complementary color combination is purple and yellow. I can sit here and think about it for a long time, but I find it very difficult to picture anything attractive in purple and yellow, except for the pansies in my garden. Hey, how about a pansy themed bathroom? I'm sure it would bring lots of "compliments."

Shari Hiller writes this column with Matt Fox. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show "Room by Room." For more information, visit

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