Skip to main content

Red Room | Resort & Spa


Red Room in resorts and spas is generally manifested by a space filled with a vibrant red light; surfaces are neutral to successfully absorb and emit the red light.


Red is both bright and deep, a color that has been used throughout history as a representation of sacredness in many cultures. A Red Room conveys royalty, evokes a romantic quality, or demands attention. When purple inclines toward redness, it signifies royalty and priestly superiority. Red has also symbolized heroic virtue. When red is diluted with white, and sometimes with blue, it results in rose and pink, symbolizing beauty, love, and hope. Pinkish red was often used in museums to simulate an historical setting, such as a French decorative-art room.1

Various artists of the 18th and 19th centuries captured the visual power of Red Room, namely Henri Matisse in The Red Room (1908) and The Red Studio (1911) and, later, Josef Albers in his series Study for the Homage to the Square (1950-1970), not just as a gallery canvas in which to display art, but as a captivating subject matter.

The cultural significance of the color red expanded during the 18th century with the advent Red Light Districts and cabarets across America and Europe. For example the iconic windmill atop the Moulin Rouge (1889) in Paris is scarlet-hued, suggesting the nature of the building to visitors and locals, alike. Initially, red became visually synonymous with venues of prostitution as railroad workers would leave their red lanterns on the porches of the brothels they employed. The term “Red Light District” was further developed by the collective red glow of grouped brothels that used electric light tinged red with lampshades and draped fabric.2

Private residences and art museums have used Red Room throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The White House (1792) the residence of the President of the United States in Washington, D.C., has an aptly titled Red Room since the early 19th century; it is a parlor used by First Ladies for entertaining and conferences. The red twill satin fabric and red Empire-style furniture has become a cornerstone of the space since its refurbishment during the Kennedy Administration.

Red Rooms of similar stature are present in the Queen’s Audience Chamber at Hampton Court (early 18th century) and the Red Velvet Room and Red Closet in the Chiswick House (1729) England. The Red Velvet room features red velvet walls and matching Persian rug on the floor, while the lack of natural light in the Red Closet was alleviated “by the sheen of the glazed crimson lute string used for the wall hangings and for the festoon curtain.”3

Regardless of the location or method of utilizing red in an interior, the use of the strong color in a large space creates a dramatic effect as light and color reflect off of all surfaces, including patrons, bathing the entire space in a rich, red glow.

Red light best mimics the longest wavelengths of intense sunlight or fire, and its vibrations lend themselves to spaces that pulsate with energy and warmth. With the advent of electricity, and growing popularity of colored light in interiors during the mid-to-late 20th century, red light that mimics a heat lamp became commonplace in resort and spa interiors. Although red light may imitate natural light, interiors that feature a red glow are generally devoid of natural light. If windows are present, such as in the pool area of Hotel Puerta America (2005), shading and glazing strategies are used to reduce glare and ambient sunlight. Red Rooms utilize neutral furnishings and reflective materials, such as metal and water, in order to maximize the dramatic, enveloping effect.

Lounges, guestrooms, and treatment rooms filled with red light are most often located in urban climates, particularly in cities renowned for passionate cultures and vibrant lifestyles, such as Miami, Madrid, and Rome. “[Red] is the color of strength, vitality, sexuality, and passion. It increases body temperature and stimulates blood circulation.”4

These characteristics of red are most successfully employed in areas devoted to exercise and socialization, such as pre-treatment areas in spas, as increased blood flow and body temperature allow for an easier transition and better experience during massage and other body treatments. Bar and restaurant areas within urban resorts use the glowing red technique, as well, such as Starck’s Ameritania Hotel (1999)5 in New York. Red Room, particularly when sourced from ambient red light, is an inexpensive, yet effective, method of stimulation for patrons in interior spaces.6

end notes

  1. 1) Robert F. Ladau, Brent K. Smith, and Jennifer Place, Color in Interior Design and Architecture (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989), 69; M. Luckiesh, The Language of Color (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1918), 103, 104.
  2. 2) Paul Vallely, “A Brief History of Brothels,” The Independent (London), Jan. 21, 2006; Stuart Berg Flexner, Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases From Our Lively and Splendid Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 452.
  3. 3) T.S. Rosoman, “The Decoration and Use of the Principal Apartments of Chiswick House, 1727-70,” The Burlington Magazine 127, no. 991 (Oct. 1985), 669-70; Joori Suh, “Theory Studies: Contemporary Museum Design” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2004), 23.
  4. 4) Lounge, Ameritania Hotel [1999] Philippe Starck; New York City in Aurora Cuito, Ultimate Hotel Design (Barcelona: LOFT Publications, 2004), 195.
  5. 5) Catherine Cummings, Color Healing Home (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2000), 16.
  6. 6) Evidence for the archetypical use and the chronological sequence of Red Room in resort and spa was developed from the following sources: 1980 Auditorium, Tropicana Nightclub [1989] Welton Becket Associates; Las Vegas, NV in Robert F. Ladau,  Brent K. Smith, Jennifer Place, eds., Color in Interior Design and Architecture (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989), 18-19; PhotoCrd: Anthony Alvarello / 2000 Lounge, Le Meridien [2003]; Antunovich Associates, Architect; Yabu Pushelburg, Interior Design; Minneapolis, MN in Holly Gordon, "Best Roll-Out Concept Hotel-The Tech Hotel," Hospitality Design Magazine 19, no. 2 (Mar. 1997): 104; PhotoCrd: David Joseph; Locker Room, Boscolo Hotel Aleph [2003] Adam Tihany; Rome, Italy in Bisazza Mosaic, (accessed August 2008); Treatment Room, Hotel Arts Ritz Carlton [2005] Pablo Stutz of Giad UK Ltd.; Barcelona, Spain in Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 148; PhotoCrd: Six Senses Spa and Hotel Arts Ritz Carlton; Bathroom, Hotel Puerta America [2005] Zaha Hadid, Bathroom Design; Madrid, Spain in Michael Webb, "Womb with a View," Hospitality Design Magazine 27, no. 8 (Nov. 2005): 89; PhotoCrd: Rafael Vargas; Lounge, Spa at Red Rock [2006] Architropolis Corporation; Las Vegas, NV in "Best of Year: Beauty and Spa," Interior Design 77, no. 15 (Dec. 2006): 62-63; PhotoCrd: Eric Laignel; Lobby, g Hotel [2006] Philip Treacy and Douglas Wallace, Interior Design Firms; Galway, Ireland in JoAnn Greco, "Hats Off," Hospitality Design Magazine 29, no. 2 (Mar. 2007): 90; PhotoCrd: James Balston and gHotel ; Red Bar, Mondrian [2007] Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz; Scottsdale, AZ in C.C. Sullivan, "In the Beginning ...," Interior Design 78, no. 8 (June 2007): 208-209, 212; PhotoCrd: Ken Hayden.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Goldfarb, Rachel. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Resort and Spa Design.” M.A. thesis, Cornell University, 2008, 67-74.