The Unexpected Red Theory Makes Any Room Look Better—Here’s How It Works


There is no doubt that 2023 was dominated by the color red. Over the past few seasons, pops of red have become a go-to for punching up any outfit, whether you’re donning red tights, throwing a red sweater over your shoulders, or tying a red bow around your ponytail. And once a trend hits the fashion space, design trends are often not far behind. Personal style can absolutely translate from our closets into our homes, so it makes total sense that pops of red are showing up not only in our outfits but in our interiors, too. Most recently, you might have heard about this phenomenon through a now-viral TikTok about the “unexpected red theory.” Keep reading to learn more about what that means and how you can incorporate pops of red into your own space.

What Is the “Unexpected Red Theory”?

Interior decorator Taylor Simon originally explained the theory in a TikTok that now has nearly a million views. According to Simon’s video, “The unexpected red theory is basically adding anything that’s red, big or small, to a room where it doesn’t match at all, and it automatically looks better.” She then goes on to share examples, including a red sconce in an otherwise blue and yellow living room and a red framed portrait against a mauve-colored wall. Simon adds, “I’m petitioning for red to be a neutral color because it just looks good with everything.”

As current design trends shift away from minimalist color palettes, pops of red are a great alternative to traditional neutrals like white or cream. Many of us are collectively making bolder design moves and having more fun with our spaces this year (kitschy kitchens, anyone?), so if you’re ready to add some unexpected red to your home, we’ve rounded up a few ways to do exactly that.

Source: Emily Henderson Design | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

How to Try the Unexpected Red Theory

1. Keep it simple with red accents

If you’re nervous about adding such a bold hue into your home, remember to start small. Painting an entire room red may be a little too much, but simple accessories like vases, throws, and lamps are great places to start. To go a step further, you could try out the shade on accent furniture, like a coffee table or side table.

2. Add a pop of red to your kitchen

Kitchens are generally pretty neutral, so it makes sense that a bold color like red could really shake things up. Start small by adding accessories like red glassware or dish towels, or go bigger with red appliances or seating to really add some zest to your space.

3. Zhuzh up your entryway

I recently heard a quote from designer Corey Damon Jenkins that said your entryway is like the appetizer to the meal that is your home, and I literally haven’t stopped thinking about it. Your entryway is a great place to play around with a different aesthetic, and adding a pop of red to your setup can be simple and fun. Try styling with other primary colors to really make a statement, or keep it neutral and let the red be the star of the show.

4. Try different shades of red

The key to the unexpected red theory is making it look intentional, not like it was an afterthought. To do that, you need to find the right shade that complements the room. Most shades of red will pop against neutrals, but a richer shade of crimson will pair better with cool tones like blue or green. For a more colorful look, try mixing bright cherry red with vivid colors like purple, teal, yellow, or even pink to really make a statement. Play around to find the shade that packs the most punch among your existing decor, and don’t be afraid to look at shades like scarlet, ruby, and maroon as well.



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