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The living room is probably the one space in your home where you spend the most amount of time during the day. It makes sense that you would want to paint and furnish it in the most appealing way possible.
There is no single one-size-fits-all living room color that will work for every home. It really depends on the color palette that you are working with. Of course, light neutral colors are generally the most timeless and easiest option to work with since they allow you to accent them with just about any other color.
However, you may be searching beyond the obvious choice of whites or cream colors and looking to add a certain mood or feel to the room. Keep in mind that wall color is only one element of a room’s color scheme.
Flooring materials and color are also important to consider when selecting the hue. You also need to factor in all of the furniture and accessories in a room when working with a particular color palette.
If you are starting with a new, unfurnished room, you’ll have a greater degree of flexibility. However, if you already have existing furniture, you’ll need to work with it to come up with the best solution.
Take Inventory of the Room
When trying to come up with a color scheme for your living room, think about some of the characteristics of the room. Is it a large or small space? Are there a lot of windows in the room, or few to none?
What about the flooring material? Do you have carpeting in the room, wooden floors, or perhaps natural stone? Is the ceiling high or low? Does it have special characteristics? Is it coffered or are there beams in the ceiling?
What about natural light in the space? Does the room feel airy and well illuminated? If you have existing furniture, what are the colors and materials? Are they dark materials or light materials? Are the sofa fabrics a dark color or light color?
What Mood Are You Looking to Convey?
Equally important is the mood that you want to create. Based on the characteristics you have noted, what mood does the room currently convey? Conversely, what would you like it to convey?
Should it be a relaxed space, an introspective space, calming, inviting? Do you want it to be more cheerful and exciting? Do you want it to be a space for unwinding or a place that is full of energy?
If the room is very open and has a lot of natural light, perhaps you want to play off of this and use colors that reflect light well. If the room is more enclosed rather than open, maybe you want to create a more intimate feel.
Colors have the ability to create a certain mood in the room. Your choice may come down to personal preference, however, it’s always a good idea to draw inspiration from the surroundings already in place.
Bringing it All Together
Now that you’ve taken inventory of the room, you can begin to come up with a color scheme that works best. For example, if your sofas are a dark color, you will likely want to paint the walls a light color to create contrast.
If on the other hand, you have white or very light colored furniture, you may want to add more color to the walls to create that same contrast. Of course, if you want to create a more monochromatic look, you could go with a light wall color as well.
If the room lacks windows and natural light, or if it is on the smaller side, light wall colors work well to make the room appear larger and more spacious. Light colored walls reflect light which makes spaces feel more open and airy.
On the other hand, if the room feels too large or cold, darker and richer colors which absorb, rather than reflect light. This will tend to make the room feel a bit more intimate and cozy.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used colors and how they can convey a certain mood within a space. You can begin to narrow down your color choices based on the mood you want to create and the characteristics of the space.
Light, Neutral Shades
Neutrals by strict definition lack color. However, in reality, they do have undertones of color that can vary. The most basic light neutral is white. However, there are various shades and hues that can be mixed with white to create a neutral tone.
Because they have little to no saturation, neutral colors tend to be restful and provide a space with a relaxing background. They also have the advantage that they reflect light very well, making a space feel more airy and open.
Of all colors, light neutral shades are probably the easiest to work with. If you paint your walls in a light color, it gives you much more flexibility in terms of how you can decorate the room and the furniture colors you select.
Blue Provides a Peaceful Background
Blue has a calming effect. Studies have shown that the color can lower one’s pulse rate and body temperature. It is associated with serenity, peacefulness, and stability.
It’s a color found often in nature, in the form of a daytime sky and of the ocean, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Because of its natural association with water, it is perceived as a cool color.
Light blue hues, in particular, can provide a feeling of serenity and tranquility. Darker blues and turquoise can provide a bit more energy, though they are also cool and soothing at the same time.
Green Harkens to Nature and Renewal
Like the color blue, green is closely associated with nature. Green represents renewal and creates a feeling of calmness in a space. Green is even thought to reduce stress and heal.
In addition, the color green is associated with being eco-friendly. Combined with renewable and environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo, cork, or salvaged wood, green can help create a sustainable theme.
Light shades of green tend to be the most soothing. Darker hues, on the other hand, bring a bit more energy. Lime green, which is green combined with some yellow, can even bring about excitement and stimulate a space.
Yellow Brings About Warmth
Yellow represents warmth and energy. It is associated with sunshine, energy, optimism, positivity, and cheerfulness. It prompts feelings of happiness in all who enter and is also said to encourage communication.
However, because yellow is an attention-getting color, it can be overused. Since it reflects a lot of light, yellow can be fatiguing to the eye if it is used excessively in a room or if it’s too bright a shade.
It’s probably best to stick with very light shades of yellow for the living room walls in order to not overwhelm your guests. Balance the yellow color in the walls with furniture and accessories that are more neutral or that are complementary with the color yellow.
Brown is a Relaxing Earth Tone
Brown represents reliability and strength. As an earth tone, brown is associated with natural land, trees, mountains as well as the Fall season. Similar to green, it can also be associated with “natural” and “organic”.
Brown encourages friends and family to slow down and relax. It makes visitors feel like they fit and belong. While brown falls under the category of a neutral color, it can be warm depending on the hue it is mixed with.
Light brown, beige, tan, or taupe are some of the most commonly used tones of brown in living rooms because they are very versatile and easy to work with. Often times brown is mixed with green to create a more earth-friendly tone as well.
Gray Provides Serenity and Sophistication
If you are looking for something a bit more subtle, gray is a good option. The color gray provides a sense of serenity and can serve as a good alternative if you are looking for something other than white on your walls.
A mix of white with black, gray is considered a neutral or achromatic color. It is balanced and considered a cool rather than warm tone. Gray is a conservative color that can bring about a sense of sophistication.
Light shades of gray are generally the best option since they are easier to work with. However, darker shades can work in situations where the furnishings in the room are very light.
Choosing Your Color Scheme
Once you settle on a color for your walls, you’ll want to think about the scheme you want to use. If you want to go with a more subtle effect, you can stick with a momochromatic scheme. That is, using the same color througout with varying shades, tones, or tints.
On the other end of the spectrum is the complimentary scheme. This is a high contrast scheme which incorporates colors that are on the opposite end of the color wheel. For example, purples with yellows, reds with greens, and orange with blues. Be careful not to overdo it if you opt for this scheme.
A middle-ground between these two color schemes is an analogous color scheme. An analogous color scheme involves three adjacent colors on a color wheel. Typically two colors will be primary, with the third being a mix of the two. Examples would include red, orange and yellow or, similarly, red purple and blue.
Remember that if you choose either a complimentary or analogous scheme, you can and should mix in neutrals to soften up the color pallete. Try to remeber the 60-30-10 rule as well. That is, chose one color as your dominant shade (60 percent), another to support the dominant shade (30 percent), and one to accent the dominant shade (10 percent).
Coming up with a color scheme for your living room requires some thought and planning. However, taking the extra step can really provide some benefits in making your space look well thought out and cohesive.
There are various things to take into account. From the mood you want to convey to the existing characteristics of the space. And finally, the scheme you want to use, ranging from subtle contrast to extreme contrast and everything in between.
Remember as well that the color of the walls and the furnishings are only the building blocks of the color scheme. How you accessorize the space also plays an important role. You want to find a balance between all of these elements to achieve a look that is both pleasing to the eye and captures the feeling you want to convey within the space.
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.