Monday Inspiration: The Red Thread

This has proved one of the most popular posts this year with many of you taking to instagram to describe your own red threads (rarely are they actually red) so I thought it might be useful to bring it back for anyone who missed it the first time around. 

Some weeks ago I wrote about The Red Thread – used by the Swedish to describe something that follows a theme. The idea of the red thread isn’t new; Theseus followed a red thread given to him by Ariadne to find his way out of the Minotaur’s cave in Greek mythology, and it has been used in various ways ever since. But the following collection of rooms – all from Swedish estate agent Stadshem, illustrate the point perfectly when it is used, as they often do, to show you how to find a common theme in your interior design and, from there, create a cohesive look.

wooden kitchen via stadshem
wooden kitchen via stadshem 

I had meant only to show you this rather lovely wooden kitchen with its vintage table but, as is so often the case on this Monday post, one thing led to another – perhaps one red thread led to another – and a whole post was born.

The idea is that you use the concept of the red thread when decorating your own house to link the spaces and bind them together as a whole house or flat rather than just a series of rooms linked by passages. You probably do this automatically – let us all know in the comments below what your particular red thread is.

wooden kitchen and matt black tiles via stadshem
wooden kitchen and matt black tiles via stadshem

Mine is the burgundy stair runner that flows up the middle of the house linking to pale pink rooms, dark pink cushions, toning shades of green and chocolate that all work together to create the colour palette of this house. My podcasting co-host and friend Sophie Robinson, says that while her hall is cobalt blue and there are splashes of it in all her cushions and vases, it is in fact a dash of yellow that links every room – never on a wall but always in an accessory and once on a door between the blue hall and pink sitting room. Her red thread is, in fact, yellow. Which also underlines her point that you must never decorate a room in isolation but consider the property as a whole.

pale pink walls and black accents via stadshem
pale pink walls and black accents via stadshem

And so the wooden kitchen above with its warm wooden cupboards – slightly pink in tone – is echoed in the warm pink walls of the sitting room with the black coffee table and wooden legs of the console table holding the flowers.

dark grey bedroom with ochre accents via stadshem
dark grey bedroom with ochre accents via stadshem

And look at this apartment (and you can click the links in all the captions for the full house tour) with its dark grey bedroom wall and mustard accessories (this is such a perfect colour combination and a great way to brighten up a dark grey palette).

Then look at the sitting room below which has white walls, but a mustard sofa, and one picture on the wall, which links back to the bedroom which is just glimpsed through the open door.

white room with mustard sofa via stadshem
white room with mustard sofa via stadshem

And while this doesn’t belong to the same house you can see how the idea of the red thread works as this simple yellow industrial lamp in the kitchen would tie the rooms together – especially if seen from somewhere else in the property.

yellow lamp in white kitchen via stadshem
yellow lamp in white kitchen via stadshem 

That same yellow works perfect against the soft blue grey of the walls seen below – made all the bluer I suspect by the row of dark blue denim jeans hanging on the Shaker pegs. If you need storage, haven’t got room or need full wardrobes, then putting these wooden pegs all around the room are a perfect solution – particularly if you have teenagers who might find opening a wardrobe door and extracting a hanger somewhat onerous.

pale grey bedroom with shaker peg storage
pale grey bedroom with shaker peg storage via stadshem

This is the sitting room belonging to the bedroom above and while the colour palettes are different, you can see through the door, which perfectly frames the picture on the wall, that both the chairs have a sheepskin rug on them thus providing a different red thread.

dark sofa and earth tones via stadshem
dark sofa and earth tones via stadshem

And that is the point of this thread; it can be anything you want it to be but it must be there. Actually if you scroll between the two images you will also note that both rooms have black wall lights and that the angular shape of the lights is echoed in the legs of the coffee table. Details maybe but they work whether they are planned or accidental.

I’d love to hear about your red threads – leave them in the comments below.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Mine isn’t even a color, it seems every room in my house contains at least one item that came to me from someone I love/loved. When I catch these things with the corner of my eye, I instantly think of that someone. Caught in la-la land, traveling from one memory to another. Thank you for giving me the incentive to put a nam to it.

  2. Thought my red thread was greens and blues, but in fact as of last week it’s feather lampshades in every room (apart from bathroom). Makes my heart sing every time I see them.

  3. While I love this idea, in reality I find it difficult to create a cohesive look in my home. If like me you can only afford to decorate one room at a time, over a number of years your home will feature a number of trends and colours which might work in the isolation of one room, but they don’t always compliment each other. So my question would be – how do you achieve cohesion without going back and re-designing your enitre house all over again?

  4. This isn’t a Swedish thing though. Designers have been doing this for years, it’s called accessorising in fashion – and generally relates to creating a look that is cohesive. Regardless of the title, most people with an interest in design do it instinctively. And bless you Nicky, I too have a dog that sheds everywhere, but look harder, there will be something that gives your home an identity… though pets are certainly a thread… 😉

  5. Does white woodwork count? 😉 Shall I get my coat?

    Actually, deadly serious, it probably is the only common theme that ties together the rooms in my house; each room has evolved with different colour palettes but based around a fair amount of white.

  6. Birds (vintage), plants and ‘found’ things in nature – influenced by the Edwardian curiosity and collections about the natural world. (The lamb’s skull found in a field in my favourite).

  7. Mon fil rouge used to be red in my old house, very 90s. In this current house, it’s green and blue but in the next, it will only be green and dark wood. A certain type of green actually. I remember seeing a house done in a huge variety of greens from all over the spectrum and I didn’t like it. It felt much too disharmonious (is that a word?) for my taste!

  8. We’re in California so have bamboo floors throughout, with pale blue sofa, small bathrooms and 1 bedroom walls, and cheery red pop accents throughout, dining room chairs, hallway handrail, light switches and accents in my studio upstairs. But we also use yellow, lampshades, pillows, flowers and hand towels. Like the concept of the ‘red thread’ though…

  9. I don’t know about Red Threads….i’ve fallen down a Swedish rabbit hole of property porn! There’s no going back now!

  10. Immediately thought pet hair 🙈 We have an unpainted wood staircase thru the house with a piece of mid-century furniture in each room that reflects the same warm wood tone. There is a blue string in 2 bedrooms and this could be strengthened in the dining room. There is a strong thread of beautiful ceiling lights in all the rooms ( Foscarini, Norman Copenhagen, antique Kosta Boda, etc). You’ve made me think about our living room and the colours used as it is quite different from the family room/dining/kitchen. Would be nice to tie them closer together.

  11. Definately grey in our house, but having read your fab post today … i need to more conscious of the red thread.

  12. Mine is yellow accents too (great minds Sophie!) yellow cushions in the reception rooms, yellow bathroom suite (colourful suites are on their way back!) and now yellow curtains in my bedroom. Great blog as always xx

  13. I hadn’t thought about a “red thread” until I read your blog. Now I think my red thread happened by accident – but perhaps it’s more to do with what I like. So, mine is probably the “brown” furniture in every room – rosewood or mahogany vintage or antique chest of drawers or desks or tables (all rooms except the kitchen!). Oh and chandeliers… I’m quite partial to a chandelier! xx

  14. Going on from the ‘dog hair’ theme, i’m afraid my red threads are chipped and battered paint work that needs painting!

  15. We have the same grey carpet throughout all ground floor rooms and the same feature wallpaper in the rooms with colours picked out in the sofa cushions. We also have lots of wooden furniture of various colours and types in all rooms and an oak kitchen. It works well.

  16. Just looked around my house….my red thread seems to be dog hairs! Does that count?

    1. Nicky you so made me giggle, this lovely Monday morning….interesting and incite full post Kate, but I’m embarrassed to say I’m with Nicky. XX

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