How to Create a Colorful Living Space

Aug 3, 2021

A colorful living room with a blue sofa and a multicolored rug
Missoni Home

Color is a design element that is just as easy to overstate as it is to downplay. Most of us crave color in our lives, but it’s still difficult to know when we’ve got the balance just right. We don’t want our living spaces to look like children’s finger paintings, but we do want to bring some of the flashes of color in the home, especially in the winter months. How can that be achieved?

Here, we’re going to look at the best ways to introduce color tastefully into a room. We’ll start with the subtler applications, and work our way up to a bold color combination for living room decor ideas that are bound to spark joy.

Points of Color

Let’s start with the simplest way of introducing color. It might be a stopgap solution to a drab room, or it could be a look that’s designed into the room, from the ground up. If your starting point is a brightly painted room – not uncommon if you’ve just moved in – different colored objects can bring contrast and break up the monotony. A good place to start is with a simple bookshelf or bookcase. Books tend to come in multiple colors, so straight away you’ve got small flashes of color to punctuate the room.

Next, try dotting colorful ornaments, bowls and candles on window ledges, coffee tables, side tables and sideboards. For bright rooms, look for darker blues, burgundies and bottle greens. If your room is a muted gray or earth color, try brighter objects in lime green, orange, yellow or pink.

Now you can bring in some flora. Whether it’s indoor growing plants or a regular supply of cut flowers, it all helps to break up straight edges and get natural hues into the space. The final flourish can be throwing a few quirky pillows on your sofa. Again, follow the rules above to decide on a color that suits the sofa and the living room color combinations.

And that should be all you need. There’s enough color going on to distract away from the monochrome backdrop, but you’ll maintain a sense of calm and balance. And there’s zero decorating required, which might be important to you if you’re pressed for time or just working your way around a house.

A Single Feature Wall

A surprisingly simple but effective way to liven up a color-starved room is to focus all your attention on a single wall. It doesn’t matter which wall you choose, but the wall opposite the main window is usually the best way to maintain balance in a modern living room.

Think about your existing living room color scheme. If you have a room decorated in a warm but muted hue such as brown, cool it down with a light blue or green wall; if it’s cool or white, a darker, warm-colored feature wall will work best.

If you’re going for wallpaper, make sure you get a few samples to ensure it fits with the room. Remember, wallpaper is a perfect opportunity to bring a real splash of color with a pattern that might be considered a bit over the top if it were all over a room. A bold floral or geometric pattern in bright, contrasting colors on just one wall really works a treat. If your wallpaper is bold and interesting enough, it might be job done.

If you’re looking for quick and easy decorating color schemes, you can of course simply paint the wall. It’s your chance to get a signature color in the room, and use ornaments to pick out the same color, or one of its complementary shades, elsewhere in the room.

A single wash of color does benefit from being broken down, however. That can be achieved with pictures, wall hangings or wall art, but mirrors are perfect for lighting up a room and enhancing the sense of space.

Color Through Lighting

When you’re pondering living room color ideas, your inner living room designer might enter a decorating mindset, but don’t forget the power of light. Artificial light is probably the easiest way to get a living room color scheme that soaks specific places.

You can hide the lamps behind sofas, tables and TVs if you like, and project the hues onto white walls for instant color. Alternatively, you can make a feature of the colored lighting, placing colored bulbs in floor lights, table lamps or wall lights.

A huge boost in the past decade has been the introduction of remote control LED bulbs that let you choose from a host of colors so you can always match your mood. Most of them allow you to constantly cycle through various hues, too, which isn’t to everyone’s taste but certainly is a dynamic way to put color in your home decor.

Lighting is, of course, a nocturnal route to a colorful living room. So what happens during the day? Stained-glass windows have been a staple of the British home for generations, often with just the top pane having a floral pattern set in them.

Modern double-glazed windows are now available with patterns, but you don’t need to replace your glass – just stick imitation stained glass transfers on the windows and the effect is identical, as long as there’s a good fit (gaps around the edges ruin the effect). You can even color whole panes with a single color for a bold, Mondrian-inspired effect.

The Whole Shebang

If all of the above interior design ideas feel a little too understated for your tastes, you’re probably going to have to turn the color up to 11. By throwing caution to the wind and introducing a kaleidoscope of color to your decor, you can create a visual feast that’s sure to leave a memorable impression on all who visit.

The color-plus design is all about maximizing the palette by constantly adding to it. You can try to have a vague theme if you like – playing with reds or greens, for example – but essentially it’s creating an overwhelming festival of visual stimulus. The idea is that because there’s so much going on, nothing looks out of place.

This concept lets you go to town with a brightly colored sofa and armchair, extravagant wallpaper with ornate mirrors, exotic ornaments, vases and a fine patterned carpet to finish the look. We love this collection of colorful living rooms, so perhaps there’s one here to inspire you.

Color Your Tastes

Ultimately, when it comes to home decor, the most important opinion belongs to those who have to live in the space. If a complete color explosion isn’t your bag, you can still liven up a living room with subtle touches or the play of light on surfaces.

Whatever you choose to do, try to at least have a plan beforehand. Look at examples of colorful rooms online, or try and recall those you’ve enjoyed being in. It should give you a better idea of whether your tastes are subtle or loud.