Colour essay: Set designer Anna Burns on her particular red

Set and spatial designer Anna Burns once said her design philosophy was to put “the wrong thing in the right place,” an approach she’s been perfecting for countless events, music videos, films and photo shoots for clients such as Balenciaga, Hermes, Vogue, Basement Jaxx and Barneys – all with wonderful, colourful aplomb. She recently added Anna Burns Object to her body of work – two textile collections shown at fashion week in collaboration with Talisman. With such a breadth of work we were interested to hear which colour, Anna says, “has been with me forever.”

The front to Anna’s studio in east London

“I have for the longest time been in love with an orangey tomato 70’s red. It is unapologetic and zings, and as an accent it goes with everything. I generally associate it with lacquered furniture and interiors from the 1970s. I don’t know if it’s because it’s something I lived with or my family owned (probably not – they were more muted than that and that’s probably why I love it). I painted my studio facade [above] this colour a few years ago so I see it every day as I enter and leave work. It’s wonderful because it glows even when it’s cloudy and in London that’s essential. We also find that is tends to be a very popular backdrop to the selfie obsessed passing public.

It has to be the exact right shade of red otherwise it bothers me A LOT. The mood it conjures to me is pure joy and if it had a taste, it would probably be tangy.

In work, the colours I am drawn to do change to a degree and I get stuck and obsessed with certain colours, but this red had been with me forever and seems to pierce through time and space.

A set designed by Anna for a Miles Aldridge Vogue Italia shoot featuring Jessica Brown Findlay

MARIPOL book cover – Madonna’s original stylist, whose work Anna loves

“When it comes to combining colours? No, I don’t have a formula but I do like kicks of colour whether it’s a bright yellow tile and orange taps in the kitchen, orange gloss walls in the lounge or a neon pink carpet (in my daughter’s room). I don’t really go for the full-on muted feel anywhere. It can be a tiny touch, but I generally need something with punch somewhere.

My orangey red works alongside any dirty or muted colours and natural textures go great with it. At the moment I am trying to find a carpet for my staircase in this colour and I already have dusty green walls so it will really ping where the two shades meet.’

Door and wall in the underground, Stockholm – “This colour-combo is what I will be going for in my hallway,” Anna says | A classic dala horse “a possible reason why I love the colour as we have always had these in our house,” says Anna, whose mum is Swedish.

All images courtesy of Anna Burns. Find her on Instagram here

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist