Clever living room paint ideas to transform any space

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  • Discover how paint is the key to establishing the style and mood of your decorating scheme

    Adding a splash of colour is a quick and easy way to add style and personality to any room. Whether on all four walls or with clever paint touches, a lick of paint can instantly give your living space a fresh-faced new look.

    It’s one of the least expensive ways to update a room, compared with wallpaper or total refurbishments.

    For more decorating ideas read: Living room ideas

    Have a look at these brilliant ways with paint to inspire your living room.

    1. Define areas in open-plan living

    living room paint

    Image credit: Jo Henderson

    With open-plan living growing in popularity there are often two rooms merged into one that you might like to give a slightly different purpose to. While it makes sense to paint the two spaces in the same colour, you could clearly define the two rooms by adding accents on architectural points of interest such as archways.

    Given it’s not a huge area of coverage you can change the colour seasonally, or when you switch up accent accessories within the room.

    2. Use accent colours to highlight features

    living room paint

    Image credit: Jo Henderson

    Celebrate features rather than try to hide them under a uniformed wall colour. An accent colour border will draw attention to lovely period door frames, skirting boards and picture rails.

    3. Create an artistic watercolour finish


    Image credit: David Brittain

    Embrace your inner artist, or better still pay a skilled decorator to take the pressure off. 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.

    4. Opt for a nature-inspired palette


    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    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.

    5. Work a whitewash


    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    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.

    Related: The best white paint – how to choose the right shade for your walls

    6. Say it with grey


    Image credit: Rachael Smith

    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.

    7. Create a barely there backdrop


    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    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.

    8. Paint a feature


    Image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies

    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

    9. Be clever with white


    Image credit: Simon Bevan

    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.

    10. Balance dark colours with bold prints


    Image credit: James Merrell

    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.

    Looking for more grey living rooms? READ: Grey living room ideas to inspire you

    11. Unite shades from the same colour palette


    Image credit: Katya de Grunwald

    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.

    12. Play it safe


    Image credit: Lisa Cohen

    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.

    Related: Bedroom paint ideas – the colours and paint effects that will make your room unique

    Which colour will you be using in your next decorating scheme?

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