Living room color combinations – 12 clever color choices for living spaces

Whether it’s bright and brave or soft and subtle, a well-considered color palette will lend design edge to any space

Bold colors and creative paint techniques work wonderfully in any home. But tying color combinations together can be tricky, so start by building a complimentary palette of trending tones and classic shades and add accent hues to create bold effects. Consulting basic color theory will ensure your scheme is soothing and that it flows effectively from room to room. Be inspired by our favourite living room color combinations.

Color is powerful. It can uplift and relax us but it can also make us uncomfortable, so often there is trepidation around experimenting with new hues. To gain confidence in choosing unusual shades, and to express your personality, begin by making a sample board. Think of it like cooking, with colors representing ingredients and flavours. Collate images, swatches, fabric and photographs to paint a picture of your desired scheme. This allows you to marry finishes together to ensure they work as one.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

WHAT ARE GOOD LIVING ROOM COLOR COMBINATIONS?

Color combinations are very popular at the moment, perhaps as a counter-reaction to so many tonal greys. But even neutrals come to life with a pop of yellow, peacock blue or pale pink, without losing the luxuriousness of that tonal palette. The other trend is unusual color combinations. 'I am currently seeing peacock blues and teals used alongside oranges and yellows, which creates a crisp and uplifting look,' informs Jennifer Manners, Jennifer Manners Bespoke Rugs.

For a basic but effective approach, try combining no more than two or three colors in a scheme, focusing either on primary or secondary tones. To create eye-catching contrasts, study the color wheel and look at opposing shade combinations, such as canary yellow and grey, or electric blue and hot pink. Neutral color blocking, combining monochromes and soft tones, such as black, white and grey is also effective, but be prepared to edit a scheme strictly for maximum effect. Accessories are also an important color blocking tool – a vibrant block colored couch against a contrasting block panel will set off a scheme, while cupboards, work surfaces and table tops are all great canvasses.

‘Combining color is a perfect and affordable way to create an impressive design statement, achieved by applying a modest amount of color for maximum impact. It’s an easy trend to assimilate but does require bravery. We all experience color differently from one another and each will have an energy that appeals. Work with your instincts. Assert your whims, and look at the clothes in your wardrobe for color inspiration,' advises interior designer, Andrea Maflin.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

For more living room color schemes, see:Living room paint ideas – 17 ways with paint, and your questions answered

WHAT COLORS ARE ON TREND FOR LIVING ROOMS?

Blues and green are popular in 2020 and this year’s colour from Dulux is Tranquil Dawn, a color inspired by the morning sky, to help give homes the human touch.It can be blended with a softer palette for a soothing scheme. ‘A new decade heralds a new dawn and the hazy pale green tones of Tranquil Dawn are calming and comforting just when we need it most in our lives,’ says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director, Dulux UK.‘When paired with neutral pastels and rich jewels it becomes incredibly powerful at creating spaces that encourage making better human connections.’

Pantone’s 2020 shade of choice is Classic Blue. This blue is suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking color highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era. The color is reflective of the nostalgia trend that's sweeping through interiors, offering comfort, calm and a connection to nature as well as being a beautiful hue to look at. It's all about wellbeing, biophilia, and creating a restful sanctuary within your home.

A striking scheme does not need to be bright. Interior Designer Abigail Ahern is known for using dark tones; think intense indigos and brooding charcoals, which create a snug and cosy feel. Abigail adds pops of color through furnishings and a color inspired by the morning sky, to help give homes the human touch.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

1. SET THE SCENE WITH PRIMARY COLORS

For a sophisticated room full of fun and energy, create a scheme that hinges on the three primary colors. Bold blue walls instantly add a cosseting effect to a space, making the room feel more inviting yet spacious. For inspiration, look to design movements of the era, such as Bauhaus from which you could choose from primary colours such as blue and mustard yellow, or lavender purple and tomato orange. The colours need to be bold but not bright, so choose hues that are knocked back to give them a more authentic tone.

(Image credit: Jon Day)

2. DECORATE WITH PRETTY PASTELS

Pale shades of rose are becoming firmly established as the new neutral of choice in the most stylish of schemes. Yet it is in combination with soft green, muted grey, black and accents of gold that its delicate allure really comes to the fore.

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

3. WARM UP BLUES AND PURPLES WITH ORANGE

Aubergine, heather and indigo have a lasting appeal that makes them decorating favorites, but used on their own, they can feel a little cold. Warm them up instantly with a hit of flame orange – it works really well with colors that have a blue base, like purple or teal. Don’t be put off using orange in a color scheme – it never fails to make a statement and the results are both dramatic and rewarding.

(Image credit: Ryan Wicks)

4. USE A COOL COMBINATION OF BLACK AND WHITE

Striking, cool and confident, black and white is always a winning combination and will make a dramatic statement in a living room. Create a perfect balance of the two neutrals, by using equal amounts of each. It will give a bright and fresh look for day, together with a dramatic and tailored look for night. Introduce pattern and character with a statement rug or cushions and some sophisticated framed artwork, and keep the rest of your furniture and accessories plain and more colour blocked.

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair)

5. CREATE A NATURAL BALANCE WITH SANDY COLORS

Sandy shades are very usable and work well as part of an earthy palette too, coupled with terracottas or warm cinnamon, or even splashes of bright teal and zesty orange. They can stand alone providing a calm, neutral backdrop on which you can layer accent colours like sunflower. Or use harmonious tones of sandstone, beige or taupe for a multi-layered look that brings in other off-white or neutral tones.

(Image credit: Mark Bolton)

See:Small living room ideas – 15 ways to plan and decorate a smaller space

6. GO FOR A SOPHISTICATED COMBINATION OF RED AND GREY

'Red is more and more popular lately and is a very stimulating shade. In this palette, it also represents the moment during exercising when you are at the top of your game,' according to trend forecasters, TrendBook. This color was inspired by the already evident success of orange and bright red. It is the extroverted color for the season, and when paired with grey – the color of sustainability, it represents the full cycle of a routine. 'This color is the quiet one and represents the end of the journey, the warming down after an exercise.'

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

7. ENHANCE ENERGY WITH SAGE GREEN AND ORANGE

'Sage green works wonderfully in a living room, or somewhere south facing where the nuances of the color will be visible in the bright light,' advises color and paint expert, Annie Sloan. 'Pairing sage green with a vivid orange will give more energy to a space; contrasting complementary colors emphasizes the qualities of each and creates a bold statement look. I’d use a strong black, too, to give a solidly masculine mid-century modern scheme. It’s calming because it’s strong and looks very put together.'

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

8. PACK A PUNCH WITH ACCENTS OF FUCHSIA AND VIOLET

Purple is all about power and passion. Its strong and versatile hues are associated with creativity, individualism and inventiveness. When choosing purple, always select a color several shades lighter than the one you are aiming for, as they are more powerful when applied. Lavender reflects light really well, even in the depths of winter. Living rooms always look smart bathed in or accented by purple and pink, as do dining rooms. The analogous combination of purple and pink is a powerful and popular one. Serene and interesting in living spaces, calm and contemplative in bedrooms, colors in the purple spectrum are equally at home in restful spaces as they are in dining and entertaining areas, appearing quiet or bold depending on the setting. Set against a backdrop of charcoal grey, this daring color combination is bound to stand out.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Alicia Taylor)

9. TEAM A CALMING BLUE WITH A PALE PALETTE OR WHITE, WOOD OR YELLOW

Keeping blues warm is a matter of applying a shade with warm tones in it and teaming it with rich sandy shades that echo the seashore, or else crisp whites, cool greys and palest yellows. White is the perfect foil for this colour as it copies the skyline Pale clear blue often looks fabulous combined with oak or chestnut furniture, which serves to keep the atmosphere warm. These colours and combinations are adaptable enough to suit any room, from living rooms to bedrooms. They work best in spaces that benefit from generous natural light.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

10. SPICE UP WITH A TROPICAL SCHEME

'Neutral pink is best in living rooms; it’s surprising yet subdued,' says Annie Sloan. Pairing with deep burnt reds will create a sophisticated tonal palette with a lot of warmth; alternatively, bright oranges and turquoises with neutral pinks give that tropical, jungle intensity. 'There’s a reason we see this colour combination all over our Instagram feeds. It’s highly emotive, it shows confidence in color, and a certain joie de vivre.'

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

See:Small living room storage ideas – 16 ways to clear the clutter in a compact space

11. INSTIL A SUNNY DISPOSITION WITH YELLOW AND BLUE

Yellow’s reputation as a fresh and lively sunny color means it is often used in the kitchen. It is said to stimulate the brain and promote a sense of open-mindedness and also aid concentration, so it also works well in utility rooms and home offices. Using yellow in relaxing spaces like living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms do not gain much in ambience or restful atmosphere. But paler shades can work nicely and become especially inviting when used in harmonizing or contrasting tones. Yellow’s complementary shade on the color wheel is blue and if both are used in a muted combination like cornflower yellow and pale blue-grey it will look stunning.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

12. COMBINE A COLOR PALETTE OF EARTHY HUES

Reinvigorate your home with a fresh and soothing colour palette of limestone, lichen and sage. Choose a subtle shade of limestone coloured paint for walls then layer different but tonal shades of green on furnishings to create a restful scheme. A patterned couch will add a punchy highlight to the room, layer it with cushions depicting foliage and forest scenery. Finally, bring the garden indoors: Mix plants and cacti with fresh spring blooms and accessorize with striking botanical prints, faux coral and crystal geodes for a scheme that is at one with nature.

Living color combinations

(Image credit: Chris Everard)

HOW DO YOU COMBINE PAINT COLORS IN A LIVING ROOM?

It’s tempting to play it safe when it comes to injecting color into your home, but interiors that experiment with bold tones are often the most striking. The key is to do your research, testing contrasting palettes out before decorating, using color and fabric with confidence.

Color can have a profound effect on mood, and a bright scheme can uplift the senses as well as adding depth to an interiors scheme. Unexpected color combinations, such as blues and reds or oranges and pinks, can work well but try to provide relief with some neutral touches, like white woodwork, or introducing pattern to break up the look and add texture.

Before decorating walls, try painting the inside of a shoebox with your preferred hue. That way, you’ll see how the light falls into the corners too, which will give a truer representation of how the color will look in a room. If you prefer to keep walls more neutral, a large rug is a great way to inject vibrancy, complemented by colorful accessories such as cushions and fabrics, whether a single throw or a brightly upholstered ottoman.

Consult a color wheel to find daring hues that will work well together. Remember that color changes with its surroundings. The tone is never quite the same depending on the surface material you choose. The right paint finish will also transform the final look. Matt and eggshell produce a soft sheen and gloss and oil are both shiny finishes that reflect light. Test paints first using sample pots to see how they will look before you decorate. Inspiration can be found in the latest trends.