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Color Therapy: Seeing Red

Red is a physical and quite visceral colour whose properties include strength and stimulation, fire and passion, energy and warmth. Too much red within an interior space can appear bold, even overbearing, stimulating the senses in a manner that is mentally demanding. Red is an attention-grabber and the colour we tend to see first. For this reason, its use is predominant in conveying caution and danger the world over: a red traffic light, a red ‘don’t walk’ symbol and a plethora of red warning signs are just a few examples.

Nevertheless, red is a colour that strengthens confidence and enthusiasm; an energising and emotional colour, red adds an element of vigour and fervour to our surroundings.

Accents

With thoughtful application, red is the perfect accent colour owing to its ability to focus our attention.

Armchair 401 (in red) designed by Alvar Aalto in 1933.
The Armchair 401 (in red) was designed by Alvar Aalto in 1933.
The KC002 Rival Chair (in red) was designed by Konstantin Grcic in 2014. The Vitra Toolbox (in 'brick') was designed by Arik Levy in 2010.
The KC002 Rival Chair (in red) was designed by Konstantin Grcic in 2014. On the desk, the Vitra Toolbox (in ‘brick’) was designed by Arik Levy in 2010.

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Colour Wheel Ottoman designed by Alexander Girard in 1967 (pictured in a Hopsak red mix). 'Love' graphic print pillow by Alexander Girard. Uten.Silo II (in classic red) designed by Dorothee Becker in 1969.
The Colour Wheel Ottoman was designed by Alexander Girard in 1967 (it is pictured in a Hopsak red mix). The ‘Love’ graphic print pillow was also designed by Alexander Girard. On the wall, the Uten.Silo II (in classic red) was designed by Dorothee Becker in 1969. And notice the red wood balls on the Eames Hang It All, designed in the 1950s by Charles and Ray Eames.

Images via Artek.

Strike a balance

In this Manhattan office design by Clive Wilkinson Architects, the main aim of the project was to “encourage movement [and] eliminate silos.” Accordingly, redthe dominant colour throughoutcertainly excites the eye, but its application is excessively heavy-handed in this writer’s opinion. One needs to strike a balance when using red.

Red ceiling in Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.
Red ceiling in Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.
Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.
Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.
Red on red in this Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.
Red on red in this Manhattan office by Clive Wilkinson Architects.

Photography by Michael Moran via Dezeen.

Standing out a mile

Often, red is a conspicuous colour, easily seen and obvious.

The Formosa Wall Calendar, designed by Enzo Mari in 1963 for Danese Milano, is a perpetual design classic. The red version is highly conspicuous in this image.

Formosa Wall Calendar, designed by Enzo Mari in 1963 for Danese Milano, is a perpetual design classic. The red version is highly conspicuous in this image. Image via Klat.
Formosa Wall Calendar. Image via Klat.

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In this reissue of the Braun ET66 calculator, the red ‘off’ button is plainly visible and its function is crystal clear. Originally designed by Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs in 1987, the calculator is the quintessence of the ‘less but better’ philosophy.

Braun ET66 calculator. Image via Viviane Valenta.
Braun ET66 calculator. Image via Viviane Valenta.
Braun ET66 calculator. Image © WallpaperSTORE*.
Braun ET66 calculator. Image © WallpaperSTORE*.

The Cross medicine cupboard was designed by Thomas Eriksson in 1992 for Cappellini. Lacquered in red, green and white, it is the red version that immediately stands out.

The Cross medicine cupboard was designed by Thomas Eriksson in 1992 for Cappellini. Lacquered in red, green and white, it is the red version that immediately stands out. Image via Cap Design S.p.A. 
Cross medicine cupboard. Image via Cap Design S.p.A.

A red sky at night

A Midsummer bonfire in Finland. Image © Visit Finland. 
A Midsummer bonfire in Finland. Image © Visit Finland.

London’s Bus

In 2010, Heatherwick Studio revamped London’s famous Routemaster bus. A controversial commission (particularly for fans of the original and iconic 1950’s Routemaster), the new London bus design was sleek and well-groomed. Today, the bright red Routemaster traverses the city’s streets with style and aplomb (although the joy of jumping on and off at will has been removed, due to the predominance of health and safety killjoys).

London bus. Image via Heartherwick Studio.
London bus. Image via Heartherwick Studio.

Festive

Red is the colour most associated with Christmas and the festive season. It is also the uniform colour of choice for a certain Santa Claus.

RELATED: Color Therapy: Grey In Every Way

Santa Claus Finland. Image © Visit Finland. 
Santa Claus Finland. Image © Visit Finland.

Designer Klaus Haapaniemi created Taika for celebrated Finnish brand Iittala. Taika (meaning ‘magic’) is depicted here on an Aika series mug, designed by Heikki Orvola for Iittala. Haapaniemi’s work embraces elements of fantasy, wonder and traditional crafts, with references to Finnish folklore and an artful contemporary edge.

Taika mug in red. Image © Fiskars Finland.
Taika mug in red. Image © Fiskars Finland.

Kay Bojesen designed this original wooden Santa, with his sack and walking stick, in the 1940s. A Christmas object to cherish and rediscover year after year, Bojesen’s festive toy will bring much merriment to kids young and old.

Kay Bojesen's Santa. Image via Skandium. 
Kay Bojesen’s Santa. Image via Skandium.

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