Decorating with Chinese Red

Every successful home scheme needs an accent colour, and Chinese Red is a timeless top pick

Detail of the red hallway, seen previously in this home in Copenhagen. Dark colours always make wonderful backdrops for artwork. It also makes what could have been a real Cinderella space, into something marvellous. Photographer Birgitta Wolfgang.
Photographer: Birgitta Wolfgang

Every successful home scheme needs an accent colour, and Chinese Red is a timeless top pick. A room entirely decorated in this shade might be too much, but a pop of this rich red on a feature wall or for a few key items, especially if finished in gloss or lacquer, will look amazing. Think of it as the red lipstick of the home.

1 A proper red. A real Chinese red has quite a bit of orange in it, which gives it a lustre that’s pretty intense. As such we’d only ever recommend this colour as an accent for a feature wall or key accessories. This home is a masterclass in its usage, as the owners have used it to create a dramatic hallway in an otherwise all-white space. It transforms this narrow linking zone into a room in its own right.

A clean, chic, typically Danish home is enlivened by painting a narrow hallway in a deep cochineal red, and using it to display the homeowner’s artworks. The colour is then echoed in the main space by a single red-lacquered Habitat cabinet. First featured in the June 2016 edition. Photographer Birgitta Wolfgang.
A clean, chic, typically Danish home is enlivened by painting a narrow hallway in a deep cochineal red, and using it to display the homeowner’s artworks. The colour is then echoed in the main space by a single red-lacquered Habitat cabinet. First featured in the June 2016 edition. Photographer Birgitta Wolfgang.

2 Classic with a twist You really couldn’t get a more classic chair than Hans Wegner’s Wishbone (read all about it in Classic Design: the Wishbone chair) but look how marvellously refreshed it seems with a custom coat of Chinese red lacquer. It’s the gloss that really does it.

Wishbone chair updated with a Chinese red lacquer finish. Available from Skandium.
Wishbone chair updated with a Chinese red lacquer finish. Available from Skandium.

3 Chinese motifs. As this colour is so intrinsically interwoven into Chinese culture, then to use it as wallpaper art makes absolute sense. We love this ‘Portobello’ silk wallpaper in red from Chinoiserie experts, De Gournay.

Chinese red “Portobello” silk wallpaper, from £704 for a panel from De Gournay. First featured in the February 2017 “Trends” edition of ELLE Decoration
Chinese red “Portobello” silk wallpaper, from £704 for a panel from De Gournay. First featured in the February 2017 “Trends” edition of ELLE Decoration

4 Classic with a twist This is probably a lesser known piece, famous for its original iteration in natural beech. Designed in 1977 by Vico Magistretti for Cassina, it justifies its place in the canon of classic works by its ability to continue to look eternally contemporary, never more so than in this gorgeous lacquer red finish.

For loads more pictures see our comprehensive Chinese Red moodboard of rooms, products and interiors inspiration.

And see more of our wonderful Colour boards here

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