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Drop Red Gorgeous: How Designers Are Using the “Unexpected Red” Theory To Transform Spaces


From its use as an accent in decor to colour drenching, here are a few artistic ways in which leading architects and designers have employed the power of red to bring drama into design.

By Sai Keerthana

5 May 2024

Pops of striking red at the Villa Palladio in Jaipur designed by Marie-Anne Oudejan | Image Courtesy of Bikramjit Bose

Conceived by the Brooklyn-based interior designer Taylor Migliazzo Simon, the theory of the ”unexpected red” started as a TikTok video that went viral earlier this year in January and is now the reason we can see many design styles embracing a touch of red as their own.

The use of red dates back to prehistoric times. This vibrant pigment derived from natural clay earth rich in iron oxide minerals played a significant role in art and culture across civilisations. With myriad hues that range from playful candy apple to the deep jewel tones of garnet and ruby, red has been synonymous with warmth, high energy, courage, passion, victory and even luck. But the use of the color in modern interiors has always been a bit of a cautionary tale due to its bold presence. The “unexpected red” theory explores the possibility that an arbitrary element in red in any setting will not just seamlessly fit in but add a dash of dynamism to a space. From architecture in the booming 50s to the present era of sleek modern architecture, here is our roundup of designs that exemplify the trend creating timeless spaces that are drop red gorgeous!

An Artistic Statement in Red at L’Étoile Des Baux by Josephine Fossey Office

In the serene south of France, a quaint farmhouse called L'Étoile des Baux designed by Parisian interior designer Josephine Fossey seamlessly integrates into the limestone cliffs of the region. The home's muted material palette, inspired by the surrounding landscape, finds a lively counterpoint in a statement mural by artist Florence Bamberger in bold, earthen red. This hue then weaves through the entire house finding expression at various points, including on textured bathroom walls, lampshades and soft furnishing. The sharp contrast of the vivacious color against the otherwise restrained tones of the home creates a delicate balance between stability and dynamism in this design.

A statement mural in red creates a burst of visual impact against the limestone-inspired color palette at Josephine Fossey’s L’Étoile| Image Courtesy of  Josephine Fossey Office

Patterns of Whimsy in Radiant Red at Villa Palladio by Marie-Anne Oudejan

Dutch-born, Jaipur-based designer Marie-Anne Oudejan, known for her signature use of exuberant color, geometry, and motifs, transforms bare shells into spaces that radiate whimsy. “I love colors. Lots of different colors,” she says, “ all depends on the space and project. I enjoy mixing different traditions, styles, time periods, and countries. It is the coming together that inspires me to create a story.”

Marie-Anne Oudejan uses the color red to celebrate traditional motifs at the Villa Palladio in Jaipur | Image Courtesy of Bikramjit Bose

Oudejan’s design for Villa Palladio, a luxury boutique hotel in Jaipur, wields red to highlight local and traditional architectural elements such as the arched openings of the heritage structure. Wallpapers and wall paintings, also in red, accentuate traditional motifs and are coupled with delicate inlay patterns set into the flooring. Her exquisite use of the bold hue guides one’s eyes effortlessly from one point of focus to another; this pairing of traditional elements with striking red gives the spaces a rooted yet whimsical ambience replete with nuanced detail in an ode to the region’s legacy.

Red outlines emphasize the arched openings of the heritage structure at the Villa Palladio, infusing a fantastical otherworldliness to the traditional architecture of the region | Image Courtesy of Bikramjit Bose

Red in Precise Proportions at Le Corbusier’s Cabanon

The Cabanon de Le Corbusier is a modest retreat that holds a unique place in architectural history for being the second home for the Swiss-French architect who pioneered the modern architecture movement. Nestled on the rugged coastline of the French Riviera in the south of France, the cabin is a study on the effect of color in modulating space. Red emerges as a pivotal element in shaping the ambiance with select portions of the ceiling panel painted in this vibrant hue, which is echoed by curtain partitions. These accents of red ingeniously infuse the compact space with visual richness, enhancing its perceived depth.

At the Cabanon de Le Corbusier, red in the ceiling brings a measured brightness while balancing out the other colors in the composition | Image Courtesy of Fondation Le Corbusier 

The red used in the fabric partition attracts visual attention and creates an illusion of visual depth | Image Courtesy of Fondation Le Corbusier 

“Polychromy is as powerful an architectural tool as the plan and section,” the architect known for his bold use of primary colors once famously said. Over the course of his career he developed and worked with his own color palette known as the Architectural Polychromy, a meticulously curated palette developed to harmonize with his architectural designs. Comprising a range of vibrant hues carefully selected for their psychological and spatial effects, it represents a holistic approach to incorporating color as an integral element of architectural expression. Red forms a key component of this palette, lending his designs an additional layer of depth and dimension.

A Tint of Vintage Red at the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel by Kelly Wearstler

L.A.-based interior designer Kelly Wearstler, known for her eclectic, maximalist designs that bring together various styles, textures and periods, uses the color red to imply a sense of order and hierarchy within her detail-filled spaces. At the historic building that now houses the Downtown LA Proper Hotel, she uses varying hues of red to highlight elements that reflect its multicultural roots.

The red accent console unit adds to the vintage allure of the common area at the Downtown LA Proper Hotel | Image Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

Through the strategic placement of red accents, from cheekily tinted furniture to the warm earthy tones reminiscent of Morocco enveloping the cocktail bar, Wearstler orchestrates a visual journey for guests. The nuanced use of red underscores her mastery of color theory, as she deftly modulates its intensity to dictate the emphasis of each space within the hotel. At times, red commands the spotlight, serving as the focal point, while at others, it subtly punctuates the surroundings, adding depth and intrigue.

The earthen red used on the walls in the cocktail bar infuses warmth into the space | Image Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler


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