Seeing red

Painting walls red is less forgiving than, say, painting walls Linen White. Make a mistake, and you’ll feel like you’re dining inside a tomato. Change your mind, and you’ll need at least two new coats of paint to cover your regrets. Here are tips on where and which red to choose.

  • Painting walls red can make large spaces feel more intimate, and small spaces look more interesting. Splash a little red in a powder room, or on just one wall in a den.
  • Bluish reds can be festive and a good choice for dining and living rooms.
  • Orange-hued reds are anxiety-producing colors—popular in casinos—so keep them out of the bedroom
  • Paint your selection of a sheet of poster board—not on the walls—and place it in different parts of the room, at different times of the day, and in different sunlight conditions. At night, turn on lamps to see how your red reacts to artificial light.

Choose to re-choose

Red walls don’t play well with new colors: Whites turn pink, yellows become orange, and blues look purplish. You won’t be able to throw up a coat of crème and call it a day.

Here’s how to neutralize red:

  • Tint primer to make it closely match your final color. Or, choose a grey or pink tint to help transition from red to a more neutral color.
  • Paint two coats of primer and let dry completely. Use fans to speed up the process.
  • After priming, choose a good quality paint and you’ll likely need only two coats. For a high-quality paint, look for 100% acrylic and stick to national brands.
  • Apply new color with a 3/8-in nap roller. The shorter the nap, the better the coverage, which is important when covering red colors.