wikiHow to Choose Living Room Colors

Three Parts:Deciding on the Ambiance You WantSticking with Proven Palette ApproachesGoing Your Own Way with Color Selection

You've heard thrilling tales of excitement and relaxation, set between walls of taupe and accented beautifully with maroon or a deep royal blue. These stories keep you up at night, dreaming of the perfect color scheme for your own living room. Whether guided by the mood you’re hoping to create or a tendency to surround yourself with tried and true thematic influences, you’ll benefit from an understanding of how to match colors and determine dominant, secondary, and accent hues.

Part 1
Deciding on the Ambiance You Want

  1. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 1
    Develop an idea of the mood you want to create. Ambiance refers to the tone, character, and atmosphere of an environment.[1] Ambiance can strongly affect the mood that a room imbues. Think about the role you want the room to play in your life.[2] Among the most important factors to consider are the following:
    • What time of day you tend to use the living room?
    • Are you hoping for the room to energize or relax you?
    • Do you usually allow sunlight in through the windows?
  2. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 2
    Take advantage of natural light. There are certain color combinations meant for supremely sunny spaces. If the living room will be occupied during the day and is particularly well-lit by the sun, color the walls with saturated jewel tones or earthy shades.[3]
    • Bright tones, like a sapphire blue or emerald green look great in the sun.
    • Similarly, dark earthy shades only work in spaces with a lot of natural light, since the light prevents the living room from looking too dark.
    • Note that these colors tend to be overpowering in lower light, and should not be used in rooms that are not well lit.
  3. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 3
    Lighten up a dark room with sunny hues. If, on the other hand, your living room doesn’t get a good amount of sunlight, or you’ll spend more time in your living room during the evening, there are certain colors than can help brighten the space up.
    • Ivory and buttercup yellow can make a living room that does not receive much light look brighter, especially when these colors are prominently used.[4]
  4. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 4
    Create a warm space with warm tones. A similar, though distinct aspect to consider is a room’s warmth. Deep reds, burnt oranges, and nearly all shades of gold and brown can be used to create a cozy, glowing space that is especially appropriate for a living room.[5]
    • These combinations are great for living rooms that are used both during the day and in the evening, as they emphasize comfort over energy, but aren’t too dark for daytime use.
    • Avoid using bright shades of red or orange as dominant or secondary colors, though, since these colors tend to carry too much energy and may seem overwhelming in excess.
  5. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 5
    Relax the room with cool tones. On the other hand, blues, cool violets, and grays are especially useful in creating a calm atmosphere capable of soothing you, your family, and your guests.
    • If your living room tends to have occupants predominantly in the evening, cooling tones may be best, especially if you tend to relax in this space.
  6. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 6
    Shrink or expand your living room with color. This is another extremely important aspect to consider. One of the most certain ways that color can impact the feel of a room is by manipulating your sense of the room’s size.[6] Light colors open a room up, while darker colors make a space look more enclosed.
    • If you have a small living room, you can make it appear larger by filling it with lighter hues.
    • Make the same room look even cozier with a medium to dark shade.

Part 2
Sticking with Proven Palette Approaches

  1. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 7
    Follow the 60-30-10 rule.[7] Regardless of the colors you choose, it’s helpful to plan how much space each color will account for. As a rule of thumb, 60 percent of your living room should be a dominant color, 30 percent should be a secondary color, and 10 percent should be an accent color.
    • Choose dominant and secondary colors you're especially comfortable with. Know that your dominant color choice will greatly impact the room's feel. Don't choose a dominant or secondary color that you are not absolutely sure of.
    • Only use bold colors as accent colors. A punch of powerful color can do wonders to the energy and character of a space. Make this sort of impact with your accent color. For a sense of vitality, make your accent color the brightest of your palette.
    • Ensure that all three colors coordinate well with one another. Group your chosen colors together in a small trial area before committing to painting and decorating the whole room.
  2. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 8
    Match the color scheme of your furnishings. For instance, if you have modern furniture and decorations, you will probably be better off with a modern color scheme of white, black, and gray than you would be with a traditional color scheme filled with rich hues.
    • If your furnishings share a color scheme, complimenting that color with a secondary or accent color will tie the room together quite well.
  3. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 9
    Stick with the simplest, cleanest option of all. White is the safest bet there is.[8] While some may prefer a more interesting dominant color, there’s no denying that all-white or mostly-white color schemes can create a very clean, crisp living room.
  4. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 10
    Use a contemporary color theme. Contemporary colors include subtle, muted shades of natural colors that can help create a calm atmosphere while still allowing you to inject a bit of personal style into the space.[9]
    • Light browns and soft grays can readily serve as dominant colors, and slightly darker shades of the same colors make great secondary and accent colors.
  5. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 11
    Modernize your living room. One popular approach when updating a living space is to make it feel more modern. Certain colors combinations help facilitate a more modern feel. In general, create a modern living room by using neutral colors.
    • White acts as the dominant color in most modern living rooms. Black or gray make great secondary colors.[10] You can also add an intense, bright hue as an accent, such as a bright green or fire engine red.
  6. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 12
    Give your living room a traditional color scheme. Traditional living room designs use deep shades of elegant colors to invoke an almost formal classiness in your living room. Use neutral colors for walls and other dominant swaths of space, but weave in secondary and accent hues in rich shades of red, blue, or brown.[11]
  7. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 13
    Employ a transitional color scheme. A transitional color scheme combines the colors commonly found in both contemporary and traditional spaces.[12] Incorporate contemporary shades of tan and vanilla with rich hues like maroon or navy blue.
    • Taking a transitional approach is a great option, as it imbues a sense of both fun and class.

Part 3
Going Your Own Way with Color Selection

  1. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 14
    Familiarize yourself with the color wheel. In order to know how to balance colors, you should have a general idea of where they are in relation to one another on the wheel. Typically, complementary colors—colors found on polar opposite ends of the wheel—coordinate well with one another.[13]
  2. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 15
    Compare swatches. If you feel uncertain about how a prospective color scheme might look, look at paint cards, swatches of fabric, or other color samples side by side. Bring swatches and paint cards home to your living room, and hold them up in the spaces you’re considering using them.
    • Take advantage of this mini test run before you invest time and money in paint and furnishings.
    • Paint cards are readily available at both hardware stores and paint suppliers, while fabric swatches can be found at furniture stores. Either can be sent directly to your home by manufacturers.
  3. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 16
    Stick with the colors you love. Instead of trying to create a living room that looks impressive, create a living room that feels comfortable. It’s your living room after all, and should be decorated according to what you like. Further, the more comfortable you feel in it, the happier you’ll be showing it off.
  4. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 17
    Select a color scheme based on a prominent piece in the room.[14] If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the objects you intend to keep in the room. Prominent pieces of art or furniture can greatly complement (and be complemented by) the color scheme you choose. Planning for what you intend to have in the room will also ensure that your color scheme coordinates with the most noticeable pieces in your living room.
    • If you have a patterned couch, for instance, snatch colors from that pattern to create your overall color scheme.
    • If you have a piece of artwork that you want to dominate the space, play to its prominence with the colors you choose. You might match your accent color to a prominent color featured in the piece, for instance.
  5. Image titled Choose Living Room Colors Step 18
    Pair complementary colors. Since complementary colors are effectively opposites, they play off of one another in order to make one another "pop" or stand out.[15] Examples of complimentary colors include; red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and violet.
    • Due to the vibrant nature of complementary colors, you may want to consider using muted shades of the colors you favor. Bright shades of complementary colors have a tendency to assault the eyes, but muted shades can add a pleasant buzz of energy to your living room.


  • Check your closet for ideas. People tend to wear clothes in colors they favor, without thinking too much about it.
  • Color the living room from floor to ceiling, dark to light. Use darker colors near the floor, medium shades on the walls, and lighter shades on the ceiling. This can create a comfortable setting that mimics the natural world. In nature, the rich hue of soil is darker than the flowers, trees, and structures seen at eye level, and on a sunny day, the sky provides substantial brightness.

Article Info

Categories: Home Decorating | Bedroom Style