Picking out colours for a new room scheme can be one of the most exciting parts of decorating, but let's face it, it can be a minefield. After all, there's so many shades to choose from and colour can be subjective, which is why it pays to know how your chosen shade is likely to look and how it will make you feel, especially when it comes to small living room colour ideas.
Perhaps you'd like to create the impression of a more spacious room with taller walls, or have a scheme that's homely, cosy and almost snug-like? Maybe you're leaning towards something bright and bold, but are worried it might be too much for a small-sized room? Whatever your design dilemma, we're here to help.
At Ideal Home, we're lucky enough to see many small living rooms ideas, which gives us lots of insight into the colour choices that work well. We've also enlisted the help of some colour experts to talk us through the shades that are not only on trend, but can help to transform a compact living room, whatever your interior style may be.
Laurie is an interior stylist and writer who has over a decade of publishing experience, spending five years as the Homes & Interiors Editor on Style at Home magazine. Her styling work can be seen in some of the UK's leading publications, on brand material and at both press and commercial events. Laurie's extensive experience decorating and styling a wide range of interiors, from commercial room sets to some of the UK's most inspiring real homes, means she's a pro at knowing how to make the most of any size of space.
Small living room colour ideas
'Colour choice is a taste preference, however there are some things to consider when looking to create the illusion of space in a small living room,' advises Andy Greenall, head of design at Paint & Paper Library. 'Expanses of uncluttered colour can give a sense of space, even in a smaller room, so consider painting the skirting, wall and cornicing in the same colour, with a lighter ceiling to create a feeling of height.'
1. Pick a pale pink
We've seen pink take off in the world of interiors, but rather than anything too bright, using a paler pink colour can create a serene feel – ideal if you're after small living room colour ideas that leave your room feeling calm.
'Whilst a room size is clearly what it is, there are a few little tips that can help you either maximise a space or play to the limitations by understanding the effects through colour and light,' says Patrick O’Donnell, international brand ambassador at Farrow & Ball. 'Delicate earthy pinks like Setting Plaster or Pink Ground are friendly choices with an underlying warmth. You could also consider taking your wall colour onto the ceiling too, this helps blur the natural height of your walls with some soft colour saturation.'
Patrick O'Donnell has worked for Farrow & Ball since 2012 as a colour consultant and international brand ambassador. In his role as brand ambassador, Patrick builds relationships with a huge portfolio of interior designers, listening to their needs, and advising them on how they can get the most out of our palette. After studying A-level History of Art, Patrick went on to complete an ISVA in Fine Art and Chattels at the University of Southampton, and then to study specialist paint decoration at the Leonard Pardon School in London.
2. Wrap your room in a deep colour
If you're worried about using deep, dramatic colours in a small living room in case it makes the space feel too dark, you might be surprised to know that it can actually create a really cosy feel. And, if you're still unsure, you could always them on just one wall, such as a fireplace wall or alcoves.
'I love to embrace a small room and create a dramatic and intimate interior, with intense cocooning colours,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene. 'Use shades such as Mid Azure Green with Royal Navy skirting, deep green Puck or Jewel Beetle, which when paired with woodwork in Chocolate Colour creates a real design statement.'
3. Layer up neutrals
Light, bright living rooms needn't look bland – instead, use warm neutrals to create an interesting scheme that suits a small living room to a tee. Layer up fabrics, with rugs, cushions and window treatments, and use pattern and touchy-feely textures to add interest. This can seem like an expensive choice for small room, so it's worth checking out home decor discount codes to cut the costs here a little.
'Many opt to use bright white for small living room colour ideas with the aim of making the room appear larger,' says Little Greene's Ruth Mottershead, 'however, light neutrals used in a tonal scheme will have the same effect, while not appearing too stark.'
'If there's a lot of natural light in a small room, then using soft, light tones will make the room feel more spacious. Our colour scales collection is a wonderful solution for creating a light fresh space – French Grey Pale works beautifully alongside French Grey Dark and French Grey, for example, to create an elegant and welcoming living room scheme.'
4. Warm it up with rich tones
Whatever the season, you can give your compact living room a warm, inviting atmosphere by using rich tones. Dark red, for example, is ideal when mixed with plum and berry tones, as shown here, and the elements of wood and brick in the furniture, flooring and fireplace wall give the room a rustic, country feel.
Using different shades of the same colour will help give your scheme more depth, while using pattern creates visual interest, as you can see here in the check fabric used for this small living room sofa idea.
5. Be inspired by nature
Echo outdoor surroundings with soft botanical green living room ideas or sea blues for a calm, soothing scheme. Here, pale green walls are punctuated with pretty coral accessories, while the nature element is brought in with leafy print sofa cushions ad vases of flowers
'I'd recommend choosing colours that are found in the middle of the visible spectrum, meaning they are physically easier on the eye, such as soft greens or watery blues,' says Stephanie King at Dulux. 'Some of my favourite go-to, no-fail shades for small living spaces are Tranquil Dawn, Coastal Grey and Cornflower White.'
6. Break it up with cheery yellow
If an all-over colour on the walls isn't for you, try your chosen shade in a dedicated area instead. Here, the bottom half of the wall has been painted in a sunny yellow shade, while the top half has been kept white. It's worth noting that in for small living room colour ideas it's better to keep the darker of the two colours to the bottom half of the wall if you're looking ways to make a small living room look bigger.
Remember to take into account the height of your furniture and bring the lower colour up over your sofa or sideboard, so it's not hidden behind.
7. Try the 'new' blue
While dark, industrial grey-blue was the go-to a few years back, these days a lighter navy has taken the limelight, and it's great for small living room colour ideas as it creates drama without being too overpowering.
'If you want to add colour to a living room without going dark all over, a solid block of colour in a deep tone such as Paint & Paper Library's Plimsoll can create interest, acting as artwork or providing a design detail without impacting on space,' says Andy Greenall.
8. Combine pastel shades
From sorbet shades of pistachio and soft strawberry to lemon and icy blue, combining a few of these different colours can give a pretty, feminine feel and create an on trend living room colour scheme. Or, you could keep these colours to your accessories and opt for a wall colour in a more neutral shade instead.
'Many people crave lightness and brightness in their home so an off-white, which has a pink, taupe or peach undertone will be both warming and light,' says Anna Hill, brand director at Fenwick & Tilbrook. 'Try Oyster or Driftwood shades and take the same colour across the ceiling, too, which will give a feeling of height to the room and open it up, as opposed to a white lid effect, which can happen with traditionally painted white ceilings.'
9. Colour drench in a dark shade
Colour drenching is a key paint trend this year and we've seen it become a big hit with interiors. Just because your living room isn't a cavernous size doesn't mean you can't get on board with this trend for small living room colour ideas. Start with your walls and take the same colour onto furniture and even flooring, too.
'If your room is darker and smaller, white is not your friend here, so play with darker colours,' says Farrow & Ball's Patrick O'Donnell. 'Don’t fight the constrictions of the restricted space, play to the limitations of the room by introducing a darker colour over walls, ceiling and woodwork. While this may feel counter intuitive, some dark colours will recess and you will create a cosy and comforting place to dwell.'
10. Turn to homely shades
Mid greens, blues, pinks and taupes are all great choices for small living room colour schemes, whether you're looking for period or modern small living room ideas.
'If your living room is small and only used in the evening for a bit of relaxing TV time, why not embrace the size and drape your living space in a truly snug, homely colour that really wraps its arms around you?' says Dulux's Stephanie King. 'Go for easy to live with colours the whole family can’t disagree with in the day, but which look amazing in dim, evening light.'
What colour is best for a small living room?
'Whilst a room size is clearly what it is, there are a few little tips that can help you either maximise a space or play to the limitations by understanding the effects through colour and light,' says Patrick O’Donnell, international brand ambassador for Farrow & Ball. 'If your room is small but wonderfully lit, probably south or south-west facing, keep it fresh and simple with gently nuanced off-whites and neutrals.
Dulux's Stephanie King agrees: 'There are some beautiful, cosy griege neutrals that would work perfectly in a living room,' she says. 'My absolute favourite warmer neutral being Egyptian Cotton, as it just works for everything and with everything. It has an almost green undertone to it that counteracts some of the lilac undertones certain beige colours can get in certain lights. However, the best colour really does depend on how you use the living space and how you want your room to feel.
What colour makes a small room look bigger?
'This is the holy grail of questions!' says Stephanie King. 'The best colour to make spaces feel bigger is a question we often receive from consumers and annoyingly, my answer is often “well, that depends” as there can be many variables within a room that can aid or hinder the feel of space. As a general rule though, light to mid-tone colours work best for making spaces feel larger and more airy.
'People often assume the only option is to go for a standard bright white, which could be a rash decision,' she continues. 'Very cool, crisp white can be stylish but also read as stark and clinical, which in a small space can leave it feeling a little pedestrian and cold. With this in mind, off-whites like Timeless, warmer vanilla whites such as Summer Linen and paler blush shades like Blush Pink are a much more welcoming addition to a space, for both your eyes and guests into your home.'
How do you add colour to a small living room?
'Think about different areas to use paint to add colour, such as the window frame, doors and skirting boards,' suggests Anna Hill at Fenwick & Tilbrook. 'Using a bolder colour on these areas can bring a wonderful pop of colour and draw the eye towards the edges of the room.'
It's also wise to take the architecture of the room into account when considering small living room colour ideas. 'Lighter tones cause the perception of the walls physically receding further away from you, as opposed to darker shades advancing towards you, so you can always play with colour across the walls of the space to use this to greatest effect,' says Stephanie King. 'For example, if you have a living room with a protruding fireplace and you want to make it less obvious as a feature, consider painting it in a light, warm blue such a Coastal Grey. You may have a low-ish ceiling, so keep the colour of your ceiling light with an off-white shade such as Rocksalt, but take it down onto the top of the wall as well, almost as a mock picture rail. This will cause your eye to think the ceiling expanse above you is bigger than it really is. Remember, the ceiling is probably the largest portion of paintable space in the room, so don’t neglect it!'
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Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at lauriedavidson.co.uk
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