Did I make a mistake painting all my walls white? These are the bolder colors I am trying in my small apartment

After years of living with white walls, I am going bolder with my color scheme

Colorful paints to try instead of white
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball | Kate Guinness Design, photography by James McDonald | Future)

When I first moved into my apartment, the first thing I did was unpack a roller and paintbrush and paint over the only non-white wall in the space. It was was dark green feature wall around the fireplace, and even from when I first viewed the place, I knew it had to go. And I don't regret that decision. 

However, after living in my home for almost 3 years I am starting to reconsider my choice to paint every single wall with Brilliant White paint. Not even a warm white, or an off-white, nothing nuanced, just a bog standard pure white. My thought process behind it was twofold – I like my decor to be the focus of any room, I add character through a lot of books, crockery, and patterned fabrics. So having white walls as a backdrop to all this did make sense. The apartment also isn't huge and we all know interior design 101 is lighter paint ideas make small spaces look bigger.

But, I am now getting a feeling it's time for a change. 

Dark green glossy bedroom

(Image credit: Molly Rose)

Admittedly this change is led by color trends I am seeing for 2024. White is hardly on trend anymore, it was replaced by plaster pinks, beiges, and soft creams a while ago. But, 2024 is seeing us be even braver with color, everything is a neutral nowadays – reds, greens, blues. So I am inspired to try something bolder, that will make my small apartment feel more cozy, more characterful. These are the colors and paints I am considering to replace my boring white walls.

1. Terracotta

Rustic dining room paint in Farrow & Ball terracotta paint

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Let's start with the safest option. I have had swatches of various plaster-toned paints on my bedroom walls for the best part of this year and each time a guest catches them they always ask what am I waiting for?

My bedroom isn't huge, hence why my go-to was to keep everything light and white. But the longer I spend in the space, the more I feel like I want to embrace the room's smaller proportions and make the room feel more cozy and welcoming. The great thing about plaster tones is that they do just this without straying too far from the white walls I know so well.

That being said, I do want the change to feel like a change. And the plaster hues I am most drawn to are darker than just a wispy muted pink tone. The color that's at the top of the list is Farrow & Ball Faded Terracotta which is closer to an orange than a pink and would work wonderfully taken over the ceiling too to create a really warm, soft space. 

2. Red

unexpected red painted door trim woodwork

(Image credit: Mylands)

I'm sure a lot of you have now heard of the unexpected red theory, and even if you haven't I bet you've seen it in action. It's the concept that you can elevate a neutral scheme by adding a pop of red, and rather than it becoming a really bold, very obvious accent color, it gives the scheme a focus but it's not jarring. 

I do pride myself on not jumping on interior design trends as soon as they arise, but this is one I have tried and tested in my wardrobe many a time, and I'm keen to bring it into my interiors. I love the idea of painting my kitchen window frames a really deep, rust red to add some depth and interest to the white walls and cabinetry. 

3. Yellow

yellow shaker kitchen with a wooden round table and chairs with a large vase of flowers at its center

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

This is a trend I have seen emerging over the last few months, instead of very muted neutrals like beige and cream, there's an increased use of more yellow, buttery tones. Sure, it's a very spring trend but I think there's longevity in it. Yellow neutrals are making a slow and steady comeback, and they are such joyful hues to decorate with. 

I may not be blessed with lots of square footage, but I am lucky that my apartment has high ceilings and lots of light. A pale yellow needs lots of light in order to look sunny and bright, it can turn into quite a different, much darker shade when used in a darker room. It looks wonderful paired with a crisp white, which keeps it feeling fresh and darker woods to ground it. 

4. Green

moody living room with striped armless sofa and a large sketch of a dog

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

No surprises here, if you want to be more colorful in your interiors but not go overboard, a soft green paint is the perfect choice. Designers keep telling me a sage or pale olive green really does act like a neutral, so I am all for trying it instead of the white walls in my living room

The shade I have my eye on at the moment is Benjamin Moore's Dill Weed. It's soft and muted but there's still a vividness to it that stops it becoming too muddy. I tried swatches in my darkest room (the bedroom) and lightest room (the living room) and it's such a chameleon shade, but definitely looks best under plenty of light.

So bye-bye (some) white walls and hello color. I like to remind myself that paint is one of the funest, easiest most low maintenance ways to switch up a home. It's the perfect way to experiment without committing to something permanent, so I should be bolder and try new shades, worst comes to worst I always have an emergency pot of Brilliant White paint in my attic. 

Hebe Hatton
Head of Inteiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learnt I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.