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How do I tone down red in my living room?

How do I tone down red in my living room?

Red is a bold and vibrant color that can make a powerful statement in a living room. However, too much red can feel overwhelming in the space where you relax and unwind. If your living room features a lot of rich reds that you want to tone down, there are several effective techniques you can use.

Use Accent Colors

One of the easiest ways to tone down the red in a living room is to use accent colors. Introducing hues like blues, greens, tans, grays and off-whites will help balance out all of the red. Try painting one accent wall in a neutral color or choosing solid upholstery or accent pillows in earth tones. The neutral accents will temper the red without removing it completely.

For example, if your living room has red walls or carpet, painting the ceiling, molding and doors a crisp white will add contrast. Or pair a vibrant red sofa with tan armchairs and ottomans. The neutral tones in the accessories bring the look together. Just be sure not to choose accent colors that are too similar to red, like pinks, oranges or purples, since they won’t have the right toning effect.

Layer Lighting

Carefully layering lighting is another excellent way to ease up on red’s strength. Overhead lighting tends to accentuate red even more. Dimming the overhead fixture and relying more on table and floor lamps will soften the look. Go for fixtures with warm white bulbs rather than cool fluorescent lighting. And consider adding pale lampshades to diffuse the light. Sheer curtains on the windows can filter incoming sunlight as well.

You can also add variety with different lighting sources. For example, try pairing halogen and incandescent bulbs, or mixing recessed cans with track lighting. The more you can remove glare and harsh lighting, the less domineering the red will feel.

Natural Textures & Materials

Incorporating plenty of natural textures and materials like jute, linen, cotton and wool will also help soften red’s boldness. Avoid highly reflective surfaces like leather, vinyl and lacquer since they emphasize saturated colors. Instead, choose woven throws, sheer curtains, cozy textured rugs and rattan or wicker accents. The organic surfaces absorb light differently and cut down on red’s reflectiveness.

Unfinished wood furnishings also help absorb and temper the red rather than amplifying it. And live plants bring soothing greens and textures into the space. Just a few leafy plants in natural terracotta pots can make a big difference in toning down the red all around them.

Rearrange & Remove

Take a look at how your red living room is arranged to see if repositioning helps reduce the red intensity. You may find that simply separating dominant red furnishings breaks up the color. For example, if you have red chairs and a red sofa, try placing them in different zones rather than clustered together.

Removing a few red accents can be an instant fix too. Eliminate any extras like throw pillows, blankets or artwork where you can. Just be sure to store the items in case you want to bring them back later for more color. And don’t be afraid to replace a red area rug or curtains with something more neutral. Every bit helps tone it down.

Repaint or Reupholster

If simple steps like adding accent colors, upgrading lighting and rearranging don’t tame the red enough, consider repainting or reupholstering key furnishings. Just switching out a red accent wall for a muted blue or green has a dramatic effect. Painting the ceiling and trim a lighter color also minimizes red’s intensity.

Reupholstering red chairs or sofas in lighter solids or patterned fabrics resets the room’s balance instantly. And replacing dark red flooring with resilient vinyl planking or carpet in oak or gray tones completely transforms the space. Just be sure to save any discontinued red materials in case you change your mind down the road.

Add Mirrors

Hanging mirrors strategically in a red living room is an innovative way to temper the color. Mirrored surfaces reflect light as well as the colors surrounding them rather than emphasizing reds. Choose wide leaning mirrors or circular mirrors above accent tables to splash neutral colors and soft lighting around the room.

Hang larger mirrors opposite windows too so the reflection of the outdoors brings natural greens and blues into the space. Just be careful not to hang mirrors too close to one another or across from each other, as repetitive reflections may have the unintended consequence of amplifying the reds again.


Toning down too much red in a living room is very doable without removing it completely. Accent colors, lighting adjustments, natural textures, strategic rearrangements and decorative mirrors can restore balance easily. But if the red still feels overwhelming, repainting or reupholstering dominant areas knocks it back enough for a more relaxing space. With some thoughtful tweaks and additions, you can rein in the reds for a warmer, more welcoming living room.