WASHINGTON — Looking for a way to start the new millennium in style? Leave the holiday decorations up. Red isn't just for Christmas anymore.
Call the color scarlet, persimmon or poppy. There's little argument that any shade close to a ripe tomato red will reflect the mood of the moment.
"We all need to be warmed up," says Marian McEvoy, editor in chief of House Beautiful magazine. "We need to be cheered up."
Color has long been the design world's way of telegraphing mood. Rarely have the forecasters, who work years in advance, gotten the feeling so right. Red not only is the most emotional shade on the spectrum, it incorporates enough complexity to serve as a bipartisan salute. Pick your position: Red is the color of love and celebration, but also anger and revolution.
"It's a very lively, aggressive and powerful color," says Carol D'Arconte, a New York consultant and member of the 1,500-member Color Marketing Group in Alexandria, Va., which helps Fortune 500 companies agree on colors from fashion and cars to furnishings.
Red can make the meek feel mighty, especially when walking on the appropriately rosy carpet. Studies have shown that people who drive red automobiles are stopped more often for speeding. D'Arconte points out that red is also the color of a power necktie.
As for Inauguration Day, "Red will be a very strong color," predicts April Riccio, spokeswoman for Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie here. "There are a lot of bright-red gowns out there."
Red is being championed as the new black in fashion. For product designers, red edged out green as the color of money soon after Apple Computer used it to overcome a major sales slump. Whether red will become the new beige in interiors is less clear.
Crimson has supplanted placid hues on high-end silk sheets as well as kitchen blenders. But the color really comes into its own on big, upholstered furniture.
Bold red chairs were star attractions at furniture fairs all year, from Milan to North Carolina. Now, as products arrive in stores, their bold images fill the pages of glossy magazines. Some are new, but some have been revived from the '60s, another era in which celebration and thoughts of revolution coexisted, at least stylistically.
One famous chair is a bright-red inflatable known as Big Mama, which is due in the window of the B&B Italia showroom here in mid-January. The chair was designed about 1968 by the Italian artist Gaetano Pesce. His Botero-like interpretation of the female form became a design classic. B&B reintroduced the design at the Milan Furniture Fair.
B&B, which was among the first to call attention to the coming color direction, also showed signature minimalist sofas in tomato red instead of silvery gray, and introduced a swivel chair called the Tulip in bright-red wool.
Since then, says showroom manager Mark Myers, global interest in red has reached "almost to the cult level."
Metropolitan Home magazine's January-February issue sports a bright-red wing chair on the cover. The magazine's design editor, Linda O'Keeffe, who will lead a panel on trends at the Washington Design Center on Jan. 9, says neutral palettes already look like the '90s. But she urges caution. Americans are not yet as ready to adopt bold color as European consumers have been.
Not to worry. Color forecasters have already looked beyond. D'Arconte suggests bright red will evolve into burgundies, plums and purples.
The burst of color suggests we've come a long way since the movie version of 2001.
Stanley Kubrick's icy late-'60s vision for "2001: A Space Odyssey" provided a sleek white loft-like interior to suggest space-age elan. That imagery shaped a generation's vision of the future as hard-edged, slick and cool. But now that the moment has arrived, we're not in the mood to chill out.
Ironically, one of the most stunning of today's red chairs would have been available when Kubrick made his film. It is the bright-red Heart-Shaped Cone Chair designed by the Danish colorist Verner Panton in 1959. The chair was re-released this year by the Vitra company and appeared last month on the cover of I.D., the international design magazine.
It embodies all the passion and promise of our very real 2001.