What is the unexpected red theory? The hot design trend that will be your new favorite style

If you like a pop of color, you're going to love the unexpected red theory

The unexpected red theory is so stylish. Here are three rooms - one with a red dining table, one with a white couch with a red throw, and one of a pink bathroom with a red mirror
(Image credit: @juliecylt)

If you want to add drama to your home, the unexpected red theory is the way to go. This stylish trend is so simple to do, but can instantly lift a space with bold red touches.

We've spoken with design pros — including our very own social media editor — to find out what the unexpected red theory is, where it came from, and how to decorate with it. No matter what your design aesthetic, you'll be able to easily bring it in.

When it comes to interior design trends, we're always big fans of ones which require minimal effort and bucks, but provide maximum impact. Our good friend, the color red, is a brilliant example of creative decor trends that zing.

What we love about the unexpected red theory

It's such a brilliantly simple and universal design tool to have in your arsenal, and works as well in larger homes and as it does in small space interior design trend-led abodes. We've scoped out everything you need to know about making the most of the unexpected red theory with our panel of design experts.

What is the unexpected red theory?

A pink bathroom with pink and red tiles, a sink, shower, and gold mirror

(Image credit: Ca' Pietra / Sasha Compton)

The clue is kind of in the name, but for those looking for an exact definition, we’ve sought one out.

“The unexpected red theory is the idea that adding just one element of red, no matter how big or small, to a room where it doesn’t fit the overall color scheme, will instantly make the space look more elevated,” says Nishaa Sharma, social editor at Real Homes.

photo of Nishaa Sharma, social editor
Nishaa Sharma

Nishaa Sharma is the social editor here at Real Homes. She's always on top of the latest design trends, thanks to her managing the Real Homes TikTok and our other pages, and seeing minute by minute what our community is loving (and hating).

She adds, “It’s similar to the wrong shoe theory in fashion because making a bold and out-of-place style choice is so clearly done on purpose, it makes the space feel very on-trend and intentionally designed.”

While red isn’t one of the best paint colors for small rooms, a small dash of it in your decor can make a big impact.

Where did the unexpected red theory come from?


♬ original sound - Taylor Simon

While this phrase for the theory is new, the concept of using red to add strength to spaces is one the art world has used for a long time.

“Red's historical significance in art, from the Louvre's Les Salles Rouges (The Red Room) to the hues inspired by Pompeii frescoes, highlights its transformative power,” says Ana Kurtsikidze, interior designer and owner of ArcheA Studio and designer at Pet Portraits.

A picture of Ana Kurtsikidze, a woman wearing a black dress in front of a white background with writing
Ana Kurtsikidze

Ana Kurtsikidze is an interior designer and the owner of architectural and interior design consulting company ArcheA Studio, located in NYC. She's loves pushing the boundaries of design with interior design trends and timeless styles.

“This legacy underscores red's role in elevating spaces, marrying boldness with the art's timeless appeal,” she adds.

This new wave of unexpected red is a TikTok interiors trend which has made major waves in 2024.

Nishaa adds, “While the general principles of this theory have been used in the art world for a long time, the unexpected red theory itself came from a viral video by interior designer Taylor Simon on TikTok.

"Red itself is a super-energetic color, and one of the most popular shades both in fashion and in dopamine decorating.”

How to decorate with the unexpected red theory

A pink bed frame with white bedding with red trim, next to a vase of lilies on a nightstand

(Image credit: French Bedroom)

Whether you’re looking for colorful small living room ideas or bedroom ideas, there are plenty of ways you can bring the unexpected red theory into your home.

“Choose a shade of red that best works with your current decor and lighting conditions, and opt for a matte or eggshell finish to minimize glare,” suggests Ana.

For those renting and looking for red small space decorating ideas, you can also bring the shade in with soft furnishings.

“A simple yet effective way to incorporate this trend is by adding red throw pillows (this Ashler Heart Pillow on Amazon is so cute) or blankets to your living room or bedroom,” says Ricky Allen, interior designer and director of Ever Wallpaper.

Nishaa adds, “Some of my favorite ways to decorate with the unexpected red theory are through artwork and functional pieces.

“I’m a big fan of this Love Is All the Small Things print by Nepthys Illustrated, this Pushyplinen Scalloped Bedding from Etsy which feels straight out of Montmartre in Paris, and this splurge-worthy Flowerpot Rechargeable Lamp from Anthropologie.

A picture of Ricky Allen in a suit
Ricky Allen

Ricky Allen is the interior designer and director of Ever Wallpaper, experts in high-quality wallpapers and murals, using non-toxic, odorless, and environmentally friendly materials. He's always on the lookout for the latest interior trends to use for wallpapering and beyond.

Play about with different combinations in different rooms — you might surprise yourself with how good red looks in certain places.

Ricky adds, “The beauty of the unexpected red trend is that it adds a sense of excitement and energy to any space.”

Shop the unexpected red theory edit

Loving this bold color trend and want to bring it into your own home? We've picked out some ravishing red buys to help you do this.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

Our hearts are full of the unexpected red theory — but if you don’t love the color, you can still apply its design principles in other ways.

Nishaa finishes by saying, “I think this theory can be applied to any bold, warmer shade, like magenta or orange. I’m also loving this effect with royal and cobalt blue.”

While this trend is firmly here to stay, you may also find it useful to know the outdated decor trends to avoid, if you want to keep your home fresh and fabulous in 2024.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.