How to use colour in small living rooms

Bringing colour into small living rooms can be tricky, but with the right hues and our top tips, you can make the space look brighter, bigger and just better

We all know, using paint colour is an easy way to transform a room and can instantly alter the style, mood and perspective of any space. But when it comes to small living rooms we become stuck: what are the ‘rules’? Should certain colours be avoided? What are the tricks to make it look bigger? Panic not! We’ve got the definitive guide to using colour in a small living room alongside expert advice from the paint specialists in the know...

See also:Small Living Room Ideas

Don’t think that you’re limited with colour choice in a small living room. Broadly speaking lighter colours reflect the light in a room and create a perception of depth that makes the walls appear further away. While dark hues are full of hidden tricks too: blurring the corners and lines creating the illusion of a larger space. You can make a tiny room feel dynamic simply by playing up the cosy factor with rich dark colours.

Take a good look at your room before you begin – where is the natural light? Where are it’s darkest corners? Check which direction the light is coming into your room. A small south facing living room is filled with natural light so your colour choice is endless. Neutrals become golden and cool shades balance out that bright sunlight. North-facing rooms, generally get less light and can feel darker so need warmer shades.

‘Many opt to use bright white in small living rooms with the aim of making the room appear larger; however, light neutrals used in a tonal scheme will have the same effect whilst not appearing too stark. If there is a lot of natural light in a small room then using light tones will make the room feel more spacious,’ says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director Little Greene.

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Play around with paint – use the same shade on walls and woodwork to maximise the area from floor to ceiling – include skirting boards, door frames and picture rails. Create the illusion of a bigger space with a light coloured ceiling which appears to raise the height. Try painting vertical stripes to create the illusion of height in a small living room to make the eye look upwards. This elongates the room making the space feel taller or similarly horizontal bands exaggerate the width of space tricking your eyes.

The colours in our homes have taken on much more meaning this year where home has become the place we work and play. We’re staying at home much more and this new lifestyle requires calm, living spaces we can all enjoy. Dulux’s Colour of the Year for 2021 the warm and grounding neutral shade Brave Ground fits this bill. “Brave Ground is a soft elemental clay: the ‘Mother Earth’ of hues. Use it as the bedrock of a decorating scheme and then team with colours that express who you are, how you want to feel and what you want to do in the room," says Marianne Shilingford, Creative Director of Dulux UK.

At the other end of the spectrum is Graham & Brown’s Colour of the Year for 2021, Epoch - a rich regal plum shade perfect for a small but high-impact interior. ‘If drama is your goal then try pairing Epoch with shades of teal and pops of peach for a playful yet sophisticated space,’ says Abby Hesketh, Product Manager and Paint & Colour Specialist, Graham & Brown

What colours make a small living room look bigger?

Light colours reflect the light and make the walls recede. Create a sense of a bigger room with a shade of white that is not too stark. Make any other item in the room darker and this will become the centrepiece not the walls. “Either embrace the bold to enhance the depth of your room, or keep it light and neutral to open up every last square inch of your sanctuary. For a light and organic feel check out warmer off-whites or light beiges. Softer colours reflect light rather than absorb it, so can ping it round the room to suggest more space,’ explains Rob Green, Co-Founder COAT Paints.

See Also:Stylish White Living Room Ideas

Should small living rooms be painted light or dark?

'Some fear that adding a deep or bright colour to a small space will make it appear claustrophobic, opting instead for light neutrals to keep the space open. However, dark colours cleverly absorb the light making the space appear larger, rather than more cramped as some may fear,' says Helen Shaw, Benjamin Moore UK Director.

It all comes down to personal choice – there are no rules, opt for a shade you love and want to spend time in. ‘As humans, we crave natural light. For this reason, it is best to ensure that the rooms in which we spend most of our time during the day, and this is often the kitchen, are the lightest in our homes and then we can retire to deeper coloured, cosy rooms in the evening’, says Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball Colour Curator.

See Also:Small Grey Living Room Ideas For Cool, Compact Spaces

‘We have seen a huge trend in dark blues over the past few years, but now dark rich greens are becoming very popular. These rich tones mixed with softer setting plaster colours work well,’ says David Harris, Design Director at Andrew Martin.

This love of rich jewel shades is contrasted with the classic appeal of more muted neutrals.‘In challenging times, we crave warm tones that will enrich our homes and create cosy sanctuaries away from the outside world. The understated feel of Jitney and Dead Salmon seems to catch the mood of the moment and are perfect for use in small living rooms,’ says Joa Studholme Farrow & Ball Colour Curator.

See Also:These are the most popular paint colours of 2020

What is the on trend colour for small living rooms?

Bold and rich colours give a smaller space an energy all of its own and make a room feel more expansive than it really is. 'Deep forest greens are known to be a healing colour and are hugely popular in small spaces. They appear restful to the human eye, so are are perfect for a relaxing snug,' Says Helen Shaw, Benjamin Moore UK Director.

What is the best paint colour for a living room?

Consider when and how you use your room – is it a busy family space or a cosy evening spot for two? Are you looking for attention grabbing walls or a sophisticated backdrop? ‘I love to embrace a small room and create a dramatic and intimate interior, with intense cocooning colours to create a real design statement’, says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director Little Greene.

See Also:Living room paint colour ideas

What colours are best for North facing living rooms?

'Warmer tones are a great choice for North facing rooms where the light is naturally cold. Using warmer tones will provide balance to a scheme, whilst cool tones in the same situation may appear stark,’ says Andy Greenall Head of Design, Paint & Paper Library.

See also:Storage ideas for small living rooms andSmall living room layout ideas

What colours are best for South facing rooms?

'South facing room get lots of strong, warm light which makes dark paint shades appear brighter and delicate shades paler. If you like a softer kind of vibe, then look for light greige, soft violets, pale teals and dusty blues which will balance out intense light.’ says Rob Green, Co-Founder COAT Paints.