With snow on the ground in some of New England, and seasonal temperatures, it feels like the winter holiday season. Regardless of what we personally celebrate this time of year, the most ubiquitous color scheme used by retailers, restaurants, and more involve red and green!
Officially, red and green are primary-secondary complementary hues, or what are most commonly referred to as colors; they create contrast, and when in proximity to one another, one emphasizes the other. To review color theory basics, go my blog post, Color Theory and a Breath of Spring.
As to red and green being recognized as “Christmas colors,” they weren’t always; it has been a more recent, 20th century phenomenon, according to a National Public Radio article:
Holly, with vibrant green leaves and deep red berries, was associated with winter solstice celebrations, as well as the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, according to Arielle Eckstut, co-author of Secret Language of Color. However, other colors were often used in Christmas cards, Santa’s outfits, etc., particularly in the Victorian era. Starting in 1931, Eckstut notes that Coca-Cola ran an ad campaign created an image of Santa wearing a red suit, and that seemed to solidify red and green’s primacy for Christmas!
If you want to use red and green all year round, here are some images of interiors, fabrics and more that you can use throughout the year, featuring saturated colors as well as more muted options; for example, Dorothy Draper, the iconic early-to-mid-century interior designer – who often used saturated color, and high contrast, including red and green, in her interiors; below, interiors from the Greenbriar, in West Virginia (originally done in the 1940s):
Looking at contemporary interiors, Miles Redd, in a similar vein to Dorothy Draper, uses saturated reds and greens (and blues), with texture, shine and more….
From House Beautiful, Connie Newbury’s more restful guest bedroom:
In fabrics: Jane Churchill for Cowtan and Tout – Mayflower:
In wall coverings: Osborne and Little – Rain Forest, followed by Mathew Williamson for O and L, Sunbird (in wall covering and fabric):