Carolyn Thornton

Thornton Designs

Home interiors blush with excitement as rosy hues sweep back into vogue

By Kellie B. Gormly
Saturday, September 20, 2003

Red always has been a passionate, vibrant color to wear. But it is becoming an increasingly popular shade in American homes.

Classic and safe neutrals look bland to those who have caught scarlet fever. They are bringing red home as sofas and chairs, toasters and coffee-makers, lampshades, bedsheets and entire walls.

Red is a significant color in the fall Pottery Barn catalog, Better Homes and Gardens' 100 Weekend Decorating Ideas and the October issue of House Beautiful, where shoppers and readers can explore its influence.

"A red sofa is striking and a little daring, too," says Neill C. Stouffer, director of design for Today's Home, a Pittsburgh-area furniture retailer with stores in Green Tree, Ross and Monroeville. "I think red is warm, exciting and romantic. ... It's just a feel-good color to me. It's really stunning. It really sets a tone."

Yet, trendy as the crimson tide may seem, red is nothing new to interior design. It has been "in," at least to some degree, since the Victorian age. The color red is like the classic little black cocktail dress or classic-fit jeans: It never goes out of fashion, but during some seasons it is hotter.

"Red is both traditional and contemporary," Stouffer says. "I think people always come back to red. You can absolutely live with red forever."



There are varying theories on why so many of us have scarlet fever. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., says that red came back into vogue after 9/11, when Americans showed their patriotism with red, white and blue.

"It was a patriotic symbol at first," she says. "But as time goes on and people are getting over the mourning process, red is the one color that still speaks to us.

"It's the color of optimism," she says. "We are going to go on, and we have to go on. We need the excitement and the adrenaline rush red can give us."

Barbara Richardson, director of marketing for Glidden Paint, Cleveland, agrees, but she believes another major influence is the multicultural aspect. One of the strongest examples is coming from the saturated color used in Cuba and other Latin countries.
"One of things we are seeing is that red suggests power, and it can influence our moods," she says.

Carolyn Thornton of Carolyn Thornton Interior Design in Pittsburgh, attributes some of the recent red-surrection to shows on HGTV, which promote color in interior design and encourage people to take a chance on it.

"People are watching those shows and seeing that it's not so scary," says Thornton, explaining the warm, cheering effect that red has on people. "Now you can hardly look through any shelter magazine and not find a room with red in it."