A red-themed lift lobby at a HDB block in Tampines has been spooking residents.

Image Source : Lianhe Zaobao

The last few days, the internet was buzzing with sinister looking lift lobbies and with bright red colour splashing our social feeds. Some creative memes came out, from Ah Long getting creative with their scare tactics to a scene from Residential Evil. Love it or hate it, as a designer, I find this whole episode amusing and felt compelled to share some viewpoints about the whole RED LOBBY saga.


Let us talk about the psychology of interior design.  This field of study is also known as Environmental Psychology. These 2 disciplines go hand in hand and in the last decade or so, this topic has been receiving more attention.  No matter what the space – your bedroom, the office, yoga studio, doctor’s office, or a criminal court   – all the objects and elements found in a space will affect you in one way or another.

Let us talk a little about home design and we often hear people talk about residential design is all about bringing out the personality of the homeowners and manifest it in the spaces we design. So, when an interior designer works on a project, we, the designer will have to perform some psychologist work by understanding the personalities of the occupants. For example, a friendly and social person may want a warm coloured dining room to eat with family and friends, whereas someone who is a little introverted may prefer to recluse and might choose a dark grey room with accent RGB lights to cosy up and watch movies. 

In home design, we need to focus on a few main things, let me list them down:

•    Colours - Colour is a big part of how we experience the world.  Colours have a big impact on mood. They can promote feelings from tranquillity to anxiety. Shades like yellow, orange, and green tend to promote communication and socialization. Darker colours such as purple, deep blue, red, etc., can promote a sad and gloomy mood. However, all these shades can promote opposite feelings depending on the appropriate environment.

•    Perception - The best interior designers play with their space. They see things differently and know how to trick the normal eye with their keen perception of space. If you train your mind to analyse a space in a certain way and choose all the correct colours and elements, a room can come across as far more spacious and luxurious than its actual square footage. For example, a small home layout should probably have at least one mirror wall. A room that does not crowd you and gives you room to think and breathe can contribute to your mental wellbeing.


Image source: https://stomp.straitstimes.com/singapore-seen/red-themed-tampines-north-blocks-like-horror-movie-hdb-to-tone-it-down-after-feedback

Observation of the lobbies from the architectural standpoint (image source: https://cnalifestyle.channelnewsasia.com/trending/tampines-greenvines-bto-red-colour-scheme-349641)

In the case of the RED LOBBY, we know that they were following some nature theme like the colours of fruits and the surrounding environment. From the architectural standpoint, we believe the architecture was designed such that the column of lobbies seen from the side of the building, will highlight the building’s unique colour scheme. From that scale, this unique approach, lends a breath of fresh air into the otherwise ‘blocky’ looking flat.

However, when the human approaches the lobby and is inside the smaller space. The scale changes and the space then becomes more intimate. A combination of low ceiling, soft, moody lights suddenly made the otherwise dramatic looking lobby become eerie and creepy. Perhaps what could have been addressed, aside from the painting of walls and ceiling in white to fix the problem, the authorities could use lighting to make it less dim and more inviting.


Photos of ZOHE All Red Booth design in HOMEDEC event KL, designed by QUADE STUDIO (images courtesy of QUADE STUDIO, KL)

We recently came back from a home renovation event in Kuala Lumpur and were enthused by one outstanding booth designed by Quade Studio. In our opinion, the ZOHE booth by Quade was intended to shock, excite and to solicit a response. Perfect for situations like in an exhibition or for a launch of a product. They had everything coated in red, like their toilet bowl, shower head and bed sheets. These ‘extreme’ measures got our attention and much like the RED LOBBY, it got people to talk about it!

Dramatic splashes of red in the ZOHE booth by QUADE STUDIO (images courtesy of QUADE STUDIO, KL)


For many designers, we have been using red for situations where we want to get attention and to ‘spice’ up a mood. This is also why we have things like “red carpets”, to add a touch of drama and excitement. In the case of the RED LOBBY, perhaps the drama was too much for many Mamas. 

Our best advice if anyone is bold and passionate to try red in a residential space is to use it with caution. Your safest bet is to have your red in a muted or darkened tone as opposed to a spicy, bright red one. This will help calm the nerves and if used in a bedroom can be quite cosy and luxurious looking. Do also remember to use it sparingly like an accent or have them on accessories as opposed to painting all the surfaces. Most designers will also approach it like a highlighted wall approach. This adds a focal point to a room and can set the mood and tone very quickly once you step into the space.

Used sparingly, like touches of colours in a room or as a highlighted wall, it really does add drama to a space.


So, there you go, psychology and interior design works are linked in so many ways. Colours and scale of a space can quite literally make or break the design of a space. All of us playing and experimenting with colours in an interior space should always pay heed and be mindful of the occupants and their uses. Intimate spaces tend to have an effect to psychologically ‘shrink’ the space, and for most people that is why they tend to prefer white and neutral colours to ‘free up’ a space. In the end, I think it is important for interior designers to be mindful and infuse the power of positivity and happiness in the spaces we design or else we can end up sending the shivers down peoples’ spines.  If we do it right, we should reduce stress and make people happier and healthier. We do it wrong, then it will make national headlines!

Astley Ng

The Designerd

Sixides Editorial Team


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