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paint the room red


Things are heating up in the bedroom. And that's got a lot of people seeing red.

Red is spicing up bedding, walls and furniture in dramatic fashion. This may be a jolt to those who can imagine only soothing hues to lull us into sweet dreams.

When it comes to red, there's no middle ground. Pick up any book on the edgy color and you'll read how red arouses, energizes, empowers. And don't discount the effect that red can have in rooms besides the bedroom.

Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman says people don't just like red -- they love it. Eiseman is executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which provides color specifications for virtually every product made in the United States.

But it's not just that red moves us emotionally. In her book, Colors for Your Every Mood (Capitol Books, $20), Eiseman writes that red evokes a physiological reaction with "increased frequency of eye blinking and rise in blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat and pulse." Since red is believed to promote passion, the obvious response, she says, could cause a run on red paint for the bedroom.

"But in reality, most people are too timid to paint the bedroom red," Eiseman says. Still, that's not stopping paint manufacturers from suggesting a color that's hardly shy.

True Value Paint advertises that ruby can create a dramatic backdrop for a Victorian-inspired metal bed dressed with white curtains billowing from a wall bracket above it. The manufacturer points out that such a choice adds mystery and adventure to any room and offers paint tips for working with deep, strong hues.

The shade you choose makes a big difference, giving a room character that ranges from rustic to exotic. Too bright won't delight -- especially in the bedroom. But a deeper crimson approaching the hue of a merlot is an elegant choice.

Libraries or studies often are painted in rich shades of red, which enhance wood bookcases and make the room toasty and inviting. A rusty red, like a weathered barn in the country, also is appealing. Raspberry, which has some pink in it, is perkier and every bit as sophisticated, especially when set off with white.

In 1985, the legendary fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland, former editor of Vogue, wrote about the color in her autobiography. "Red is the great clarifier -- bright, cleansing and revealing," Vreeland wrote. "It makes all other colors look beautiful."

With lipstick red as her signature color, Vreeland said that she couldn't imagine ever getting bored with it. "It would be like getting bored with the person you love," she said.

There is, of course, a sexiness about red. It's the color associated with valentines and such typical love symbols as bouquets of roses and silky lingerie.

Bringing red into the bedroom may be a simple matter of introducing accessories such as a red vase, picture frame or jewelry box. You might introduce a jolt of red in a bedside lamp. One fetching example from Donghia Studio has an Italian hand-blown glass base striped in red and smoke.

Graduate to the bed, where a claret throw in chenille or velvet will add a layer of luxury. You'll find an array of styles for bedding, from solids to patterns including florals, stripes, ginghams and plaids.

There are many choices this winter, but the trend, according to buyers at Garnet Hill, a mail-order catalog specializing in natural-fiber bedding and clothing, spills into spring. (There were already hints last summer, with red-and-white plaids, pinstripes and images of cherries, of what was to come.)

One of the most arresting flannels on the market has life-sized blooms of vermilion roses scattered on a watermelon-red ground. Leaves and shadings are a soft neutral with hints of olive green, making this Garnet Hill bedding a standout.

Equally inviting is an ensemble from Neiman Marcus that teams an old-fashioned scalloped floral cotton quilt in country red and buff with a fetching floral stripe.

Combining solid red with patterned sheets that have red on a white or cream ground is striking, especially when the scale is kicked up a notch. One option from Pottery Barn is a duvet cover and shams that combine dahlias and mums in cotton percale bedding. Teamed with a solid red floral matelasse, or embossed coverlet and shams over white sheets and dust ruffles, the effect is divine.

Pierre Frey has designed an alluring pattern, singling out flowers such as parrot tulips in red raspberry with touches of buttercup on a cream ground for Yves Delorme.

You might even consider dashes of red in furniture. A walk through most department stores is bound to turn up a red chair, table or even armoire. Donghia Studio shows the impact of a coral-red upholstered armchair with upholstered bed to match.

Unless you're a true aficionado, though, a red-on-red look may be overwhelming.

"In small doses, red is so much more livable," says Beth Eslinger, editor of Quick and Easy Decorating, a publication of Better Homes and Gardens. "It can be rich, sexy and cozy."


* Garnet Hill, 800-622-6216, or

* Neiman Marcus by Mail, 800-825-8000, or

* Pottery Barn, 800-922-5507, or

* True Value Paint, 800-642-7392, or

* Yves Delorme, 800-322-3911, or

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