Decorating with yellow – how to warm up cool rooms with this sunny shade

These expert tips on decorating with yellow will ensure you choose the right shade for the right place

Yellow
(Image credit: Neptune)

Decorating with yellow brings one of the most cheerful shades of the color spectrum into your home. Space enhancing, summery and warm, it can be used to enhance space or make a room feel cozy and intimate.  

'Use paler shades, and yellow will reflect light in and around a room to make it feel bigger and brighter – the perfect choice for small spaces, narrow corridors or rooms with low ceilings where it can broaden, lengthen and add height. Use mustardy, darker yellows, and it will create a cocooning, intimate appeal,' advises stylist and art director Sara Bird.  

Known for its mood-enriching properties, decorating with yellow also suits busy daytime rooms such as kitchens and offices where the color is a great backdrop to inspire activity. A stimulating and positive or inviting and cozy, yellow room ideas are ideal for contemporary or period homes. Here, experts describe the tricks to decorating with yellow. 

Decorating with yellow 

Decorating with yellow is an uplifting and smart choice for a home. Below, we share our favorite color combinations, what works best where as well as ideas for around the home, room-by-room. Included are the latest shades and tips on how to use them, fantastic color combinations to try, including classic themes.

Which is the best color yellow for rooms?

Yellow

(Image credit: Graham & Green)

'Love it or unsure of it, we are seeing more yellow being used in our homes this year. Yellow is an uplifting choice and is available in a variety of tones from bright and cheery to murky and earthy. Used as a feature zone or on a piece of re-loved furniture, yellow has the power to really add a pop of happiness into a space without needing to saturate every wall in it,' says Anna Hill, Brand Director at paint and color experts Fenwick & Tilbrook.

So, if you are decorating with yellow, which shade to choose?

'There are three considerations: the style of your room or property; the orientation of the space and how much natural light it therefore gets; and the effect you want to create with your chosen yellow,' advises Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief Lucy Searle.

'Muddier or spicier shades, such as the one above, will create a very different look in a room that's flooded with light compared to one that's north-facing. Matched with warm-toned accent colors and natural textures, they will conjure up a cozy appeal, or combined with flatter colors, like black, they will be perfect for conjuring up an elegant, period feel.'

Yellow, yellow paint

(Image credit: Future/Emma Lee)

For a safer choice, decorating with a mid-toned yellow is a great choice for simply adding warmth to a cool space, however it's lit.

'Opt for a gentle mid-yellow shade like that above to create a wholesome and welcoming feel in a room. This particular soothing shade brings the sun's warmth inside with its pared down appeal,' says Sara Bird.

Yellow, bed, cream

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

'Subtle and quiet, the palest hues of the yellow color palette is space-enhancing, adding a touch of warmth to a cool space. Above, a buttermilk hue is painted all over on walls and ceilings to make a vaulted room feel lifted to the skies. Deeper and richer shades of yellow are added to the mix to add warmth,' says Sara Bird.

Yellow

(Image credit: Carpetright)

If you love decorating with yellow but want to create a contemporary look, consider a zingy citrus shade. 

'This shade of yellow is best in a west- or south-facing room; in rooms with cooler light, it will take on a tinge of blue, which isn't idea. In bright spaces, though, it is fresh and modern, and works well used on its own but looks amazing with monochromatic schemes such as black and white,' says Sara Bird.

Can you layer yellows in a room?

Yellow

(Image credit: Neptune)

When decorating with yellow, indeed any color, it's always worth layering the look of your room with more than one tone. However, while layering neutral upon neutral works wonderfully to add interest, it should always be done with caution with any bold color, where it will be overpowering. How to make this work? Combine yellows that match closely in tone, and avoid contrasting yellows, as in the space above.

'Quince is a particularly versatile and adaptable shade, finding natural matches with all manner of contrasting shades. It’s also just as happy to exist in harmony with other bold yellow tones, such as Saffron and Olive,' says Rebecca Elderfield, Product and Services Director at Neptune. 'Saffron is our "true" yellow – it’s neither pastel-toned nor too bright. Olive, meanwhile, is a traditional green with a yellow undercurrent just perfect for pairing with Quince. Together, these three colors create a joyful sunshine palette.'

Bear in mind, too, that a couple of pops of strong color sometimes works better than an all-over paler shade, as in the space below.

‘Use highlights of citrus lemon and chartreuse to make house ferns and foliage pop. A color palette of chalky yellows will reflect all available sunlight used everywhere; for added depth try a livelier shade of yellow on a wall that is at right angles to a window. As an added tip paint the recess and window frames a sunny color like Sherbert Lemon,’ says Justyna Korczynska, Senior Designer at Crown Paints.

Yellow

(Image credit: Future/Simon Brown)

What colors go well with yellow?

Yellow

(Image credit: William Morris)

'Yellow is the perfect partner for all kinds of colors, from its color wheel neighbors of greens and orange to it opposing shades of pinks and plums,' says Sara Bird. 'A pretty combination can be seen if matched with white, and it even works well with bold blacks for a dynamic and striking statement.'

But, without doubt, classic combinations of yellow and blue and yellow and green room ideas are the most successful. Packed with personality this classic archive design by Morris & Co (above) uses touches of yellow with green in the wallpaper and fabrics to bring plenty of cheer into the room. 

'If you’re unsure where to begin with decorating with yellow then we’d always recommend starting small. It might be a mustard velvet throw, a citrus-hued candle or an ochre rug for a splash of color underfoot,' advises Lou Graham, Co-Owner of Graham & Green

Can you decorate with yellow in a living room?

Living room with Kohl and Chalk Berber rug, Luke Irwin

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

Yellow living room ideas should be approached with caution. Ochre and cinnamon, yellow that's close to beige and cooler shades work best in what is usually a busy, layered space.

‘If you wanted to inject a little playfulness to a room without having to commit to big decorating decisions, you can also do it subtly with accessories, cushions, throws or even an accent piece of furniture,’ say Jenna Choate and Mariana Ugarte, Co-Founders of Interior Fox.

Can you decorate with yellow in a bedroom?

Yellow bedroom with yellow four poster

(Image credit: Future)

Yellow bedroom ideas are incredibly inviting, especially at night when light levels are low; however, it's worth bearing in mind how you might feel about yellow in morning light. 

'The zingier the shade, the more energized you’ll feel so consider creamier, knocked-back shades of yellow for bedrooms with punchier palettes in your kitchen and study,' advises Sara Bird.

Or, bring yellow into the bedroom as an accent color, as in the space above.

Can you decorate with yellow in a kitchen?

shaker kitchen with blue and yellow cabinets and patterned floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Sanderson)

'Decorating with yellow in a kitchen is a brave choice but I always say that if you love a color, you should embrace it,' says Lucy Searle. 'If you are remodelling your kitchen to sell your house, I would advise against yellow kitchen ideas, other than in accessories, since this bold shade clearly won't be to everyone's taste. However, if this is your forever home and you love yellow, why not? 

'Painted kitchens in yellow will offer you flexibility so that if you change your mind or your circumstances change and you have to move house unexpectedly, you can always repaint in a safer shade.'

Can you decorate with yellow in a bathroom?

yellow bathroom with roll top bath, artwork, wooden floorboards, wall lights, rug

(Image credit: Annie Sloan )

Yellow bathroom ideas can be ideal for making a cold, north-facing room feel instantly warmer, and can be mitigated by cooler accent tones, as in the room above. For a fun, family bathroom, you can pick zingier shades of yellow, but in more grown-up spaces, we'd advise sticking to the more muted shades, or simply accessorizing with yellow towels.

Sara Bird
Sara Bird

Creative Director, Stylist, speaker, published author of books Home for the Soul and Gardens for the Soul and Style Editor at Future, Sara has been creating commercial and editorial images and content for favorite interiors and lifestyle brands for over 25 years, including Country Homes, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens.