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Living room with red couches
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Viral TikTok Theory Offers Quick Home Décor Fix

The "Unexpected Red" theory, first suggested by Taylor Migliazzo Simon, has rapidly gained momentum, with more than a million views on her TikTok video.

NEW YORK – Is your living space looking dull and drab? Add a bit of red, and it will look better instantly.

"The 'Unexpected Red' theory is basically adding anything red, big or small, to a room where it doesn't match at all, and it automatically looks better," Taylor Migliazzo Simon, a Brooklyn-based interior designer, explains at the start of the video. She then goes on to showcase various examples of red in interior spaces where its inclusion might appear unconventional yet remarkably enhances the visual appeal.

These include a bathroom featuring a striking pair of red sinks set against green marble, a red lamp on a blue living room wall, and a hallway with purple walls and red doors. Purple and red are a color combination "you normally wouldn't think to pair together," she points out, but in this case, the conventional color wisdom does not seem to apply.

"I'm petitioning to make red a neutral color," she says, "because it just looks good with everything."

Some viewers commented, "You could do that with any primary color," and offered the colors yellow and blue as alternatives to red. But will these colors work just as well?

Unexpected Red's relation to color theory

The Unexpected Red theory works due to the psychological impact of the color. "Red is known to evoke strong emotions and stimulate energy, making it a powerful choice in interior design," interior designer Raf Michalowski of Meble Furniture explains.

In color theory, red is often used as an accent color in design to evoke passion and attention.

The Unexpected Red theory extends this idea by boldly utilizing the color to interrupt neutral, subdued palettes. Pops of red redefine spaces through contrast and interest without adhering to traditional color-matching principles.

This trend gained rapid popularity due, in part, to its accessibility; even those without design experience can dabble in color theory. Execution can be as simple as placing a red vase in a typical bookcase or introducing a red throw or pillow on a sofa. There are no hard and fast rules. Best thing? The immediate, often pleasant, creation of an elevated space.

Ready to tackle this theory head-on? Here are seven ways to test it out at home today.

7 ways to use the Unexpected Red theory

Use it to add drama: Michalowski thinks those looking to make decor changes should apply the theory judiciously. "Its use requires careful consideration as it can also be overwhelming if not balanced correctly. The theory suggests using red sparingly but strategically to create focal points or add drama to a room."

He recommends using red accent walls, statement furniture pieces, accessories like throw pillows, rugs, or even vibrant artwork to create a focal point that effortlessly draws the eye.

Use it selectively: Consider the function of the room when incorporating this trend. "A bold red accent wall can be perfect for a living room or dining area, but it may not be suitable for a bedroom where you want to promote relaxation and calmness. In this case, opt for a softer shade of red or incorporate it through smaller elements like bedding or curtains," he adds.

Choose your reds: Countless shades of red comprise the shade's broad spectrum, from deep, moody wine tones to fiery chili-hot reds. While it may seem that any red shade will suffice, the art lies in choosing the perfect hue to achieve the desired impact.

Cool reds lean toward the purple side of the color spectrum and harmonize well with cool tones like greens and blues. Conversely, orange-forward warm reds exude heat and energy. Use these to punch up your decor and make a bold statement.

Red in social areas: Incorporating red into the home's social areas, like the dining room or living room, can elevate the ambiance and create a welcoming atmosphere. Adding a red dining chair, table settings, or a dramatic lighting fixture can infuse passion and excitement, creating a striking backdrop for a lively social gathering.

Pair it with neutrals: "Red is a bold color, no doubt about it. But to keep things from feeling too overwhelming, it's all about finding that perfect balance," says a U.S.-based interior designer, Riley Annen. Pairing red with neutral tones like whites, creams, or grays can help create a look that's equal parts bold and sophisticated."

Layer it on: Contrary to conventional wisdom, red can be a serene and sensual choice for the bedroom. Opt for deep, rich red bedding or velvet pillows in maroon or darker shades of red to create a cozy and intimate ambiance.

Contrast it: Pair it with contrasting colors and textures to create a captivating visual dissonance that stops people in their tracks. Don't be afraid to mix things up; unexpected combinations often yield the most stunning results. "Experiment with bold patterns, luxe fabrics, or even a splash of another vibrant hue to make your red accents pop," suggests Annen.

Whether a seasoned interior designer or an armchair decor enthusiast, incorporating red into unexpected spaces could be the bold change an uninspired space needs. Are you ready to paint the town red — or rather, your living room?

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