Tomato Red Tomato Red

Here in the northeastern United States, late summer means long, hot, days, weekend trips to the seaside, and tomatoes: bushels and bushels of tomatoes. Even for people who don't have gardens of their own, tomatoes are abundant, as every gardener from the apartment-dweller with a balcony garden to the farmer with acres of fields is suddenly swamped with the juicy red fruits.

Thanks to so-called advances in horticultural technology, too many of us have long forgotten the true taste - and color - of tomatoes, and so we're dedicating this month's Magic of Color to this rich, ripe shade: tomato red.

Unlike Chinese red, tomato red is not quite as bright, having more orange and white than does a true bright red. It's still a bright, playful color, and falls firmly in the category of "red," but it's a trifle subtler than a Chinese red.

For decorating purposes, you should apply the same rules to tomato red that you'd use for any other red. First, remember that it's a powerful color, and it will exert a strong influence on a room.

Looking first at this photo of a tomato red rug, we see how the color grounds all the other colors in the room, and sets the tone for everything above the baseboard line, providing a rich, warm base for the room. The sofa in this room is covered in a slipcover that's in the same color family but is a few shades lighter, more of a cream-of-tomato red than a tomato red.

In this room you can also see how well tomato red pairs with softer shades. Here, the pale celery green of the wainscoting to the right and in the window to the left is a refreshing accent for the warmer tones of the rug and sofa, creating a room that's relaxed and comfortable but still somewhat formal.

But tomato red is also a color that likes to get out and play, and you can see it really having fun in these red-and-white striped pillows. A red-and-white striped accessory will pep up a room that is otherwise perhaps a little too staid and predictable. It doesn't take much to find pillows, lampshades, or small area rugs in a red-and-white stripe, and a few of these strategically placed will give new life to a room.

  • Tip: You have to be a little brave to invest in a large piece of furniture that's tomato red. Just as wearing a red dress or jacket both inspires and requires a bit of confidence, so too does having a red sofa. If you understand how the piece will dominate the room, you can go ahead with it. We suggest that you place the sofa in the room and live with it for a few weeks before buying any other pieces for the room, so that you'll know exactly how its color will look in different lights, and how the look of the sofa will influence the room. You can see in this photo how bright the effect is when you pair tomato red with bright yellow. Nobody's going to complain that this room is boring!

If you have a room that's suffering from the doldrums, a bit of tomato - paired with bright yellow, or with white stripes - will be sure add a jolt of energy. And then, your fresh tomato salsa will look great on the coffee table!

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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