Colour is enormously evocative. Discover how paint is the key to establishing the style, mood and personality of your decorating scheme
Give your living space a fresh-faced new look with a lick of paint. It’s one of the least expensive ways to update a room. Have a look at these brilliant paint colours for living rooms to inspire you.
Want more colour ideas? READ: Living room colour schemes brimming with character
Paint in purple
Go for decadent living by painting your living room in a dusty purple. This colour is so rich and indulgent, it lends itself to a really luxe look. Choose a flat, chalky matt finish for purple-tone paint or it’ll look dated, but bring the colour to life with lots of texture in the room. Dusty purple looks great with off-white furniture fir classic style, but team it with shades of cool grey for a more modern scheme.
Get the look
Buy now: Velvet Plum matt emulsion, £18 for 2.5L, Crown Paints at Wilko
Buy now: Marble square coffee table, £599, Dwell
Buy now: Atworth three-seater sofa in Aubergine, £1,169, Willow & Hall
Buy now: Penelope armchair in Peony, £990, Sofa.com
Opt for a nature-inspired palette
Not all hero colours are bold attention-seekers. This soft tone that hovers between brown and grey is a quiet game-changer that’ll make a room look warmer and more sophisticated at a brushstroke. Plus, it plays well with other colours, so you can indulge pretty much any whim when it comes to accents. Sandstone blends with other browns, as well as greys for a smooth mix. Brown neutrals can be sludgy and dull unless you cut through them with the right accents. We recommend blue and mimosa yellow.
Get the look
Buy now: Walls painted in The Rocks matt emulsion, £14 for 2.5L, Crown Paints at B&Q
Buy now: Harry Sisal Aluminium carpet, £97 per sq m, Crucial Trading
Buy now: Alvar sideboard in light oak, £825, Barker & Stonehouse
Work a whitewash
Brilliant White paint has a transformative effect on interiors – use it on walls and ceilings and it will make a star of every non-white piece of furniture and accessory in your living room. White is a wholly selfless paint shade, providing all the light and energy while reflecting the attention elsewhere. Here, as the white sofa receeds, pictorial and striped upholstery and fabrics are brought into sharp relief along with myriad accessories on shelving and walls. Painted tongue-and-groove walls and cupboards give this scheme additional coastal kudos.
Get the look
Buy now: Brilliant White matt emulsion, £19 for 2.5L, Dulux at B&Q
Powder pink is a quiet shade, perfect for creating a clean, lows-key look in a living room. Use it to add soothing sophistication and a fresh hint of prettiness that’ll upgrade any like, from simple country to upscale glamour. Balance powder pink walls with an equal amount of soft white and touches of warm neutrals – sand, stone and caramel.
Get the look
Buy now: Walls painted in Pink Slip, £42, 2.5L Intelligent emulsion, Little Greene
Buy now: Dylan in Gainsborough Rose Quartz, from £2,295, Content by Terrance Conran
Buy now: Diamonds cushion, £19.95, West Elm
Buy now: Helle Stripe Coral Throw, £44, Holly’s House
Buy now: Hebe stripe in oyster pink, £50; curtain made in Gabriela Oyster Pink, £55 per metre, Neptune
Create a barely there backdrop
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Match wall and ceiling paint and flooring for a super-streamlined decorating scheme. This collection of sofas and armchairs, coffee table, mirror and accessories seems to float in its neutral pale grey space. Pops of perky orange are a feature throughout. Geometric rather than floral patterns in this mix of grey tones give the space a cooler, more masculine feel.
Try classic cream
Consider transforming a section of a white living room with country cream. Floor-to-ceiling shelving is the perfect vehicle for this classic shade – smart fitted bookshelves occupy two walls and a corner of this magnificent room and frame a panelled window along the way. Paint the architrave and panelling too, as well as the back of shelves for a truly cohesive feel. Raspberry reds are the perfect accompaniment to cream – so bring them in aplenty on cushions, lighting and upholstery.
Paint a feature
If you’re not too keen on the bold-is-beautiful school of decorating, pick out a single feature in your living room and treat it to your favourite shade. This warm pink doesn’t overwhelm because it’s restricted to one area only – the chimney breast. Pick a shade that will work with your fireplace and integrate it into your room by using the same shade on a single piece of furniture and for a small selection of accessories.
Think pink is just for little girls? Think again! READ: Decorating with pink: new ways to work it
Update a coastal scheme
Update a simple country look with a swathe of deep, dramatic blue. The mix of white linens and neutral cushions helps brighten the dark-hued colour, thus creating an updated coastal look. If you have a vibrant accent wall, choose furniture in a selection of painted or reclaimed wood. Go for wool or sisal carpeting to warm up the scheme. Linen, hessian and rattan accessories add to the rustic vibe.
Be clever with white
Plan carefully and an all-over white decorating scheme doesn’t have to be plain. A white backdrop provides the opportunity to be more adventurous with bold patterns and signature furniture, allowing you to create a living room that is chic, modern and adventurous. The whitewashed walls and white furniture featured here work together because of the touches of black. Look for fabrics with a subtle modern black-and-white design that will break up a run of pure white.
More expert advice: The best white paint – how to choose the right shade for your walls
Balance dark walls with prints
Combine the richest, deepest of shades on walls and woodwork with swirling freeform designs and animal-inspired prints on upholstery and floors. Reflect these designs in your choice of accessories. Going dark need not be scary; it can bring a real sense of character and sophistication to your living area. The heady mix of textures, tones and patterning used here makes for a luxuriously atmospheric space.
Make it mid tone
Look for a gentle mid-tone neutral for the perfect calming backdrop to a country-style living room. Mid tone green has natural country credentials and oodles more warmth than its pastel equivalent. Use it on all the walls of your living room for a welcoming, inviting atmosphere. Keep the ceiling and woodwork pale by contrast and bring in textured wools, tweeds, checks, paisleys and florals in a well controlled palette of comforting burnt orange and rustic brown.
Say it with grey
Grey is the new neutral – use it in a living room where its rather understated nature allows it to introduce warmth without shouting at your visitors. Start with your chimney breast and take the paint into alcoves too where it will make a feature of stripped wood shelves and your book collection. This scheme has bravely taken grey down to the skirting and up to the ceiling too, leaving just the floor – in stripped pine – to provide a contrast. Bring in wood furniture and leather and cow-hide style upholstery to complement the shelving.
Looking for more grey living rooms? READ: Grey living room ideas to inspire you
Be brave and bold
Give a traditional space a modern update with a lick of vibrant paint. Not one for the faint-hearted, this daring scheme packs an almighty punch in the colour stakes. Paint period panelling in a smooth shade of turquoise, which recedes to create a sense of space, placing the attention firmly on the real hero of a living room – the (mustard leather) sofa.
Stay cool with ice-cream shades
Team contemporary chalky colours with stripped-back wood to create a pale but interesting look. Give your space a thoroughly modern update using a palette of gentle pastels in unexpected places. Paint a door frame and door in a sundae shade and keep the rest of the wall space white to stop the scheme from looking too sickly sweet. If you have two interlinking rooms, create harmony by repeating key colours across both, but on different surfaces.
Think beyond walls
Let the sunshine in with cornfield yellows and olive greens – all inspired by nature. Use colour to emphasise a different zone or function in a multi-use room. Perk up a desk area by painting it in your favourite shade – a great way to give it a new lease of life for a fraction of the cost. Don’t forget to sand and prime your furniture before painting to give it a smoother finish.
Play it safe
Choose versatile teal for a living space that’s both sophisticated and on-trend. Paint the walls, skirting boards and fireplace in one shade to give your space a truly cohesive feel. Team this classic shade with mid-century modern pieces and interesting artwork to offset the green-blue colour. Teal pops with bright white and its colour wheel match is coral. It’s a classic that works with nearly any style, from contemporary to traditional.
Work with watercolours
Use brushstroke patterns to add an artistic flourish to any scheme. Don’t be afraid to experiment with innovative paint techniques. Choose your favourite colour and work with shades from the same palette to create a graduated effect along one feature wall. Think about including inky dyed textiles with soft blurry edges and ombre, watercolour washes for a painterly effect.
Go for something different
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Pick a white and navy-blue colour scheme and keep (fabulous) furnishings to a minimum for a dramatic living space that’s big on style. Geometric and tie-dye patterns break up the whites and blues, while a statement beaded light fitting hangs centrally over sofa and rug. But it’s the nebulous white-painted shape emerging ghost-like from the navy blue wall that is the showstopper – and undoubted talking point – here.
Which colour will you be using in your next decorating scheme?