Colour theories in interior design and lighting: Red

How and where to use the colour red in your home interior design. Plus a guide to red table lamps, red lampshades and all things red lighting…

Colour is one of the key elements of interior design: colour choices affect mood and atmosphere, and reflect tastes, identities and changing fashions. Our series looks at different colours in interior decor: what they mean, how to incorporate them into your home, and how to use them in relation to lighting.

Following the neutrals black and white, here’s Pooky’s guide to red…

One thing is certain, there’s nothing neutral about red. The colour provokes strong views, at least when it comes to interior design. Indeed, one of the scariest scenes in literature involves the poor child Jane Eyre being locked in the overpowering ‘red room’ of her aunt’s house as a punishment. So it’s tempting to steer clear of red, for fear of overdoing it or getting it completely wrong.

But in fact red can be used imaginatively in so many ways, from subtle hints, accents and backdrops to striking centrepieces, from floors and ceilings to furniture and furnishings. Red is festive, joyful and brave; in China, red symbolises luck and happiness – and we can always do with a little more of those in our lives. 

So if you’re ready to embrace this vibrant colour, we’re happy to help. Pooky lighting comes in many shades of red and one or more of our red lampshades, red table lamps or red ceiling and pendant lights will be just right for your home.

Red is for grandeur - and versatility

red room kennedy
The Red Room at the White House, Washington DC, the 1962 version designed by First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Image: Public domain

It’s not surprising that some of the world’s grandest rooms – deliberately designed to impress – have gone large with red, often with a generous helping of gold. The Red Room, one of three state parlours in the White House, has been redesigned many times over the years by various Presidents and their First Ladies (perhaps most successfully by Jackie Kennedy in 1962, and most recently by Melania Trump). But whatever the contemporary touches, it always remains classically red.

Here in the UK, which still has an abundance of fine houses, hotels and, red is a sure sign of historical grandeur and old-money swank. Think the William Kent Room at the Ritz. Think the the seriously scarlet Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, or the jaw-dropping Ballroom. Sometimes, only more is more.

ballroom buckingham palace
Where red stands for pomp and pageantry: The Queen hosts President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace. Image: Public domain

But red is also surprisingly versatile. Whichever red colour palette you choose, what is striking is the extent of the full range, from borderline pink to deepest burgundy, via scarlet and crimson, brick and garnet. So, something for everyone, every home, and every room. And, don’t forget, you can mix shades and tones of red, as well as match. Whatever your approach, whatever you choose, red will bring warmth and depth into a room.

A surprising use of reds in the famous Art Deco bathroom at Upton House. Image: Andrew Stawarz via Creative Commons

Using red in interior design

Roll out the red carpet... Image: Creative commons by Katherine Hanlon

If you want to introduce red into a interior colour scheme but don’t want to risk being overwhelmed, simply minimise the number of red elements. 

A red floor or carpet is a strong look, but a patterned rug can be equally effective in bringing depth and warmth without being overbearing.

man with a hammer bedroomThis bedroom by Greg Penn features a red rug and a subtle extra touch thanks to a Pooky lampshade. Photo: @Manwithahammer

Red walls can work in any type of room but you need to think about tone, shade, natural light sources and the right lighting if you don’t want to risk claustrophobia. This hallway by Jessica Buckley uses red walls in a gorgeous contrast with the white ceiling and doors:

jessica buckley hall
Hall by Jessica Buckley. Photo: Douglas Gibb

Red can also have a surprise element. It’s perfect for colour ‘pops’, delivered via a limited number of furnishings or accessories…

pajama hub bedroomBedroom by Amara of @thepajaamahub.. Image: @thepajaamahub

brooke copp-barton
Sitting room by Brooke Copp-Barton. Photo: Megan Taylor.

sean symington
Cotswold cottage, Tetbury, by Sean Symington (image credit) - including Pooky's Berries ikat lampshade

Using red in lighting

Yes, opting for red can take some courage but we like to be helpful, so we’re pretty sure that our carefully curated red collection will lead you to the perfect red Pooky shade, lighting, or accessory.

Red table lamps

nellie table lamp in redNellie table lamp in oxblood

Starting with table lamps, take a look at Nellie (above): neat and elegant, with a long, slender neck. That oxblood glaze is deep and strong but subtle too, perfect for introducing red into a neutral scheme.

Red strips can be wonderfully effective. Our Waldo table lamp (below) is a slimmer version of a classic ginger jar shape, decorated with vermillion hand-painted stripes — guaranteed to make you smile.

See all red table lamps here.

waldoWaldo table lamp 

Red pendant and ceiling lights

Moving on, to pendant lighting…this is the smaller version of our Jute pendant, which has proved consistently popular. It’s made of wide woven jute, in a stunning shade of red, with a fabric baffle to diffuse the light.

jute pendant shadeJute pendant in red

The mellow yellow lining adds warmth to its glow, and an elegant twisted silk flex provides the finishing touch. Its simple lines make it a perfect addition to a contemporary home, for example, or a mid century modern interior.

And what would you say to a row of these red beauties? Our Stanlette pendant shades have a copper interior, and cast a gentle but directed light. Small and elegant but bound to be noticed. 

stanletteStanlette pendant shade in red with copper interior

Alternatively, what about the ripe cherry glaze of Hania, a ceramic shade as red inside as it is outside? Hania is made by a delightful couple, who run a tiny pottery in the hills of southern Poland. Every shade is handmade, so there may be little lumps or bumps, the sort of imperfections that make handmade ceramics so appealing. 

haniaHania ceramic pendant shade in cherry glaze

See all red ceiling and pendant lights.

Red lampshades

Next — the lampshades. We wanted to show you four strikingly different red versions of our Empire lampshades, all of which come in various sizes. There’s something rather scrumptious about the red tanaro version of our handmade marbled paper Empire shade.

0cm straight empire shade in hand made marbled paper in red tanaro40cm straight empire shade in hand made marbled paper in red tanaro

Raspberry ripple, anyone? Marbling is a fascinating and ancient process: paint and oils are dropped onto thickened water, then raked and stretched to create the pattern. The paper is then slowly laid on top and, once imprinted, removed and dried. No two pieces are ever the same.

We had to include at least one of the fabulous shades that Matthew Williamson designed for Pooky and opted for Leopard Love in red and blue; its leopard spots shift into love-heart motifs.



If you’re after the ideal blend of old and new, try the modern ikat pattern of this soft natural linen shade, which draws on the colours of medieval heraldry for a very contemporary look. 40cm straight empire gathered lampshade in heraldic printed linen ikat40cm straight empire gathered lampshade in Heraldic printed linen ikat

And our final Empire line is Scarlet Tapers, hand-painted (like the Waldo table lamp) and made of card. Stripes galore, but unevenly distributed, which means that each shade is unique.

straight empire shade in scarlet tapers hand painted card45cm straight empire shade in Scarlet Tapers hand painted card

See all red lampshades here.

Pooky make beautiful lights for beautiful interiors - find inspiration on our blog and shop our huge range of affordable designer lights and shades.

See also: Colour theories in interior design and lighting: Black

Colour theories in interior design and lighting: White