Chinese Red Chinese Red

What better way to kick out the mid-winter blues than with blue's opposite on the color wheel, red? And what better red than this one, Chinese red, a red that stands up to any other color in its midst, even the steely gray of a February sky.

There are, as you know, many shades of red, simmering on the gradiant stove of color, from a dusky rose to the deepest maroon. Chinese red is not to be mistaken for any of these; there isn't anything watered down or tempered about Chinese red. While a maroon has more blue than Chinese red, and tomato red more orange, Chinese red is simply one thing - red!

This is the fire-cracker red that you see used for Chinese lanterns, used in the Chinese New Year's parades, or for the bright moon doorways in the fronts of homes in Shanghai. In China, red is a lucky color, so it's often used to bring luck into a household. As the Chinese New Year falls on Februrary 12th, bringing us out of the Year of the Snake and into the Year of the Horse, you can look for Chinese red at New Year's festivities in your city's Chinatown.

It's all well and good to have a giant Chinese dragon snaking down Mott Street, but what interior could possibly handle such a strong color? Certainly Chinese red is so strong you wouldn't use it for any large pieces in a room, and using it for wall color would take a kind of courage few of us can maintain.

But what Chinese red is perfect for is trim and accent, those dashing color swaths that bring a room back to life. If your walls are white or off-white, how about adding crown molding in Chinese red, for a crisp Valentine look? Or if your room has shades of yellow and blue, a little dash can bring in a Mexican tone, calling to mind sun-washed patio tiles of bright red and yellow.

When you're thinking of using a strong color, remember to take into consideration the material with which it will be used. A pair of light, silky curtains in Chinese red won't overwhelm the other colors of the room, as light will filter through them, making them appear lighter without diluting the richness of the color. The heavier the material used, the more attention it will draw in a room, so that a wooden bookcase painted Chinese red will stand out more than a satin cushion tossed on the sofa will.

Are there any colors that you should avoid mixing with Chinese red? One of the ironies with strong color is that they can actually be mixed quite successfully with other colors, even those that are somewhat unexpected. Greens, oranges, yellows, blues, and any white or off white works, and Chinese red paired with black will really snap a room to attention, even as the world outside seems to slumber through the rest of winter.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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