The symbolism of red is vast and varied — by culture and by context. But whatever our heritage, red in our surroundings evokes a reaction. Culturally, red may denote different things, but it always means the ultimate.
In Asia, red symbolizes luck, success, fire — and stock market profits — while in Western culture, red indicates a bad day on Wall Street. Of all the colors in the visible spectrum, red is the one that demands — and attracts — the most attention. In nature’s palette there is an abundance of greens, blues, browns and even whites. Against any of these backdrops, red stands out and impacts our moods; arousing, startling, warning, electrifying or agitating us.
Red Impacts Energy
Feng Shui teaches us that red impacts the energy of a space. So in design, red can be a slight tease or an overwhelming force. New York City-based interior designer Heather Higgins tells us that darker red walls in a very small space might make the space smaller — but simultaneously increase our energy level.
“A visual trick is to use the same hue on the walls, in different shades, on all the elements of the room. Since those elements don’t stand out, they optically occupy less space,” she explains.
For Higgins, color is magic. It can instantaneously, and many times inexpensively, change both the look of a room and the mood of its occupants. It can also shape a room as well as any furniture arrangement or positioning of walls,” she adds.
Soaring foyers and dining rooms wear deep reds well as they suggest warmth and stimulation. Smaller accents of these same shades, in a chair, rug or a pillow, work extremely well in both living and work areas and can make a neutral color schemes come to life.”
Reactions To Red
Reactions to red, like beauty, however, depends on the beholder. For some a little splash can go a long way while others can literally bathe in it — and find themselves a glow. In her research on the effects of color on productivity by Nancy Kwallek, Ph.D.at the University of Texas, Austin, she found that workers who are distracted easily by irrelevant stimuli are overwhelmed in an all-red environment, while those who can ignore irrelevant stimuli are more productive. For the record, Kwallek’s research discovered that the least productive environment — was an all white one.
Higgins notes that if you are the type who can become agitated by red, there is no need to forego this hue entirely. Just turn it down a notch. A pale rosy peach can evoke similar sensations without the punch of a powerful red.