11 small living room colour schemes guaranteed to maximise potential in a tiny space

How to make a big impact in a small space with the help of colour

A sage green-painted living room with a matching pouffe and a cream sofa
(Image credit: I Love Wallpaper)

Colour can do wonders for a space, both large and small. But if you’re working with a small room, the shades you use in it are especially important to make it appear bigger than it is. That’s why choosing the right small living room colour scheme is crucial as it can make or break the room.

These colour-centric small living room ideas come recommended by colour, paint and interior experts in order to make a big impact in a small space, proving that you don’t need the square metres to wow your guests and feel good in your living room.

But even if you like the cosy nature of your compact living space or simply give the room a modern makeover that will look good given the proportions, there is something for everyone in this round-up of the best small living room colour ideas.

Small living room colour schemes

The best living room colour scheme for you and your space will largely depend on your preference, but also on what feeling you want to convey in your living room.

‘Colours to use in a small living room totally depend on the look and feel you want to achieve,’ Caroline Thornborough, design director of Thorndown. ‘To make a small space feel larger, the general rule is to use lighter shades, thus making the space appear larger and more airy.’

On the other hand, if cosy living room ideas are more your jam, then opting for darker shades can create a cocooning atmosphere. But be careful with the colours you choose as discussed later on.

1. Go for off-white over bright white

A small living room painted in an off-white colour with a boucle cream sofa at front

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

We love a white living room idea. But perhaps surprisingly enough, the cleanest and brightest of white shades should be reserved for larger spaces rather than small living rooms, according to experts.

‘Warm off-white often works better in small living rooms with low light as bright white can make the space feel bland and sallow. And it exaggerates shadows,’ says Mandy Rippon, product manager at Frenchic Paint.

Anjelica Delfino, paint and interiors expert from Valspar, adds, ‘Creamy colours such as Valspar’s Moonshot are the perfect paint colours to maximise your space, and going lighter on wall trims and mouldings make the walls appear further away too.’

2. Opt for the colour of the moment – sage green

A sage green-painted living room with a matching pouffe and a cream sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Scott)

Sage green is the currently the biggest paint trend and colour of the moment. So if you want to create a modern living room scheme, then incorporating this shade can’t hurt. Especially since it’s very small living room-friendly and it fits in with the tendency towards nature-inspired interiors.

‘The most on-trend colour for living rooms currently is sage green, a versatile and calming shade that brings a touch of nature indoors,’ says Sam Sutherland, Flitch interior stylist. ‘It works well in small living rooms as it adds a soothing ambiance without overpowering the space, especially when paired with light neutrals and natural materials. Sage green can make a small room feel both fresh and cosy, enhancing the overall sense of openness and tranquillity.’

3. Pick a pale pink

Living room with pale pink walls and grey sofa and yellow and blue accents

(Image credit: Future)

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.'

Headshot of Patrick O'Donnell wearing a blue shirt
Patrick O'Donnell

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.

4. Wrap your room in a deep colour

Chimney breast painted chocolate brown wall with wood burning stove framed by natural accessories

(Image credit: Future PLC)

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.'

5. Layer up neutrals

white living room with white sofa and blinds

(Image credit: Future PLC)

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.'

6. Colour drench in peach

A living room with peach-coloured walls and fireplace bearing an artwork

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

Given the fact that Pantone’s colour of the year for 2024 is Peach Fuzz, a (you guessed it) peachy pink shade, peach tones keep popping up in homes and both high street and designer collections continuously this year. But apart from being on trend, this is also a shade that works perfectly in small living rooms. Especially if you combine it with the trend of colour drenching.

‘Peach is cheery and warming. Paint the ceiling in the same hue for an enveloping effect to make the small space appear larger,’ Mandy at Frenchic Paint says.

She continues, ‘Colour drenching is when you paint areas like your ceiling, skirting board, windows, doors and frames the same colour as the walls. Carrying the same shade throughout evens things out and the eye travels around smoothly rather than being distracted by contrasting architectural features.’

7. Combine various shades of grey

I Love Wallpaper Patina Concrete Effect Wallpaper in a living room

(Image credit: I Love Wallpaper)

Similarly to other neutral colours, greys can also work in a small space and make the room appear larger. But only as long as you opt for lighter shades of grey. If you want to create a real sense of depth, then combining different grey tones in one room will work best.

‘Lighter shades of grey can make a room look bigger, as they work in the same way as cool-toned neutrals, reflecting natural light,’ says Chelsea Clark, head of marketing at I Love Wallpaper. ‘Layering various shades of grey, and using a lighter colour as the base and mid-tones on furniture or as accents, can trick the eye into perceiving more space than there actually is.’

Jimmy Englezos, senior brand manager from Ronseal, adds, ‘This is also because lighter tones can better reflect natural light causing them to bounce around the room and increasing the overall sense of space.’

8. Break it up with cheery yellow

living room with half-height yellow wall and a gallery wall above

(Image credit: Future PLC / Jo Henderson)

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.

9. Avoid too much red in a small space

A pink-painted living room with a red sofa and a teal velvet armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Red is a beautiful, vibrant colour. But using too much of it in a confined space will likely overwhelm the room. Instead, opting for pops of red here and there in the form of accessories or a chair will look much better as per the viral unexpected red theory.

‘Red paint works well in many spaces, but a small room often isn’t one of them if you want it to feel larger. Cosier is what you will get,’ Mandy at Frenchic Paint explains.

‘Dark colours such as rich reds can make a room feel smaller as these hues absorb light rather than reflecting it, reducing the perception of space. Bold and intense colours can also overwhelm a room’s visual balance, making it feel more confined and less spacious,’ Chelsea from I Love Wallpaper warns.

10. Combine pastel shades

A pastel living room painted in two colours of blue with a colour-blocked rug and cream sofa with a round coffee table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

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.'

11. Turn to homely shades

Soft sage green living room with built in sofa and shelving and painted panelled ceiling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

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.

Lucie Annabel Coral Cove Wallpaper in a living room

(Image credit: Lucie Annabel)

What colour makes a small room look bigger?

'This is the holy grail of questions!' says Stephanie King from Dulux. '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.'

Neutral living room with window frames painted bright coral as an accent shade

(Image credit: Future PLC)

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 at Dulux.

'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!'

Whichever colour scheme you choose, we’re sure it’s going to look great as long as you keep these tips in mind. Most importantly, never forget to have fun with it and enjoy yourself.

Laurie Davidson

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 

With contributions from