Designer Palette: Tomato Red

Tomato Red

Tomato red and hot yellow is tempered by shades of stormy blue-gray. This attention-getting combo benefits from weathered wood finishes and lots of white.

Designer: Molly Luetkemeyer

Getting Started:

Use a ratio formula to help you put together a color scheme. Choose one main color to serve as 40-60 percent of your color palette, then one to two supporting colors to comprise 30-40 percent of your color palette, and fill the remainder with one to two accents. Thinking of color this way can help you determine how much of each color to use. Go to the next slide to see how this scheme breaks out.

The Colors

Red stars in this color palette. Try it on a wall or your largest piece of furniture. “When you do a strong move on the wall, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet,” designer Molly Luetkemeyer says. “The other pieces need to have the same intensity.” Enter bold yellow. As the supporting color in this scheme, a solid yellow fabric is great on accent chairs or ottomans, or try a yellow-and-white print on curtains.

Deep blue-green is Luetkemeyer’s top choice for accenting an orangey hue. She prefers the two colors side by side, such as blue-green draperies against orange walls. With this color scheme, use it in small doses as an accent. Look for a fabric that contains earthy green, tomato red, and yellow to use on throw pillows or bench upholstery. Also consider this color as a paint finish for wood furniture.

Balance these strong hues with wood tones that contrast. For a traditional look, try dark woods, and for a modern look, go with cerused (limed) woods that have gray undertones. Include an end table or coffee table with grayed wood finished to temper the tomato reds and yellows.

Tomato Red: Sophisticated

For a sophisticated look, interpret the yellow in this color scheme as gold -- both as a metallic and a neutral (such as the color of the sofa in this living room).

Tomato Red in This Space: If you are hesitant to use red in one large dose, use it in several medium-size doses, as this room does, with splashes of red on a large piece of artwork, a chair, and throw pillows.

Tomato Red: Country

For a room without a lot of wall space, use yellow on the walls and save the impactful red for upholstered pieces.

Tomato Red in This Space: In this living room, a matching red armchair and ottoman comprise much of the visual space. Although they are a set, the two pieces are placed apart for maximum impact, carrying the red across the room. Subbing rich browns for cool greens as an accent gives the room a warm country look.

Tomato Red: Finish Matters

The paint finish you choose will convey the attitude of the color itself. "If you want to go all the way, go for high-gloss -- the room will feel like a jewel box," designer Molly Luetkemeyer says. "A matte or flat finish will be more chalky and subtle."

Tomato Red in This Space: In this kitchen, a matte tomato red introduces color without being overwhelming, and the green plays out on the island, while the yellow is picked up in the stool cushions.

Get the Look

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Go to the next slides for tips on using tomato red.


White paint color: White Opulence OC-69, Benjamin Moore;

Use for: Trim

Red paint color: Claret Rose 2008-20, Benjamin Moore;

Use for: Walls

Blue-green paint color: (Top) Mountain Laurel #AC-20; (Bottom) Silver Pine #AC-21, Benjamin Moore;

Use for: Painted wood furniture


Floral linen fabric: Sultans Garden in Indigot/Saffron, Martyn Lawrence Bullard;

Use for: Curtains or throw pillows

Yellow-and-white silk fabric: Positano in Kumquat, Amanda Nisbet Design;

Use for: Curtains

Red linen fabric with doves: White Dove in Coral Red #4002-03, Victoria Hagan Home;

Use for: Throw pillows

Yellow eco-friendly imitation suede fabric: Ultrasuede Green in Canary #30787-4040, Kravet Fabrics (to the trade);

Use for: Upholstered furniture

Create a cheerful look in any room by decorating in bright colors. Learn how to create a bright color scheme that can be used in any room by taking a cue from the color wheel.

More Tips

Watch and learn tips for decorating with bright colors.

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