Live With Your Favorite Colors

The living space just doesn't feel right until you've found the perfect color palette. Talented design experts weigh in to help you get started right away on picking the best colors for your living room.

decorated living room

Identify your style… and your stuff

"First, you need to decide what kind of look you are going for," says Erica Lugbill of Lugbill Designs in Chicago. Do you envision a light and airy living room? Or do you prefer something calm and serene? Perhaps your style is simple and earthy, or bold and dramatic.

"Secondly, look at all of the items you own that need to be incorporated into the space," adds Lugbill. Consider your furniture, storage pieces and accessories, for example.

Get inspired

Begin by selecting an inspiration piece. An inspiration piece typically has a palette of three to five colors. Try to envision those colors in your living room. "Choose something you love, such as your favorite outfit or a painting by your favorite artist," says Sehra Han, an interior designer at Scarlett Designs in Los Angeles.

"Many people make the mistake of starting with a paint color," adds interior designer Robin Baron of Robin Baron Design in New York City. Instead, "find the one thing you know you want to put in the room… like a fabric," Baron says. "Even a favorite pillow is a good place to begin. Play off that item for your color palette."

Consult your mood

Ask yourself if this color palette will make you happy. "This is really and truly the most important question," says Han, "and it's a gut response."

Baron agrees. "It's always a good idea to start by thinking about colors that make you happy." So don't over think it.

Pick a wall color

Now that you've selected your inspiration piece, decide which of its colors might look good on your walls. Pick up free paint color samples from any paint store and tape them to your walls. Experiment with different shades of your original color selection.

"Remember, your favorite color comes in many different shades," says designer Sophia Stone of Chateau Sophie in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. "Selecting one that compliments all seasons is my first step in picking a color palette for the living room — you want to love it all year long and for years to come."

Pick an accent color (or two)

After you finalize the paint color for the wall, choose another color from your palette for your draperies and throw pillows. "You can choose the same color as your wall for a monochromatic look or choose a contrasting color to give it a punch," explains Han.

Use the contrasting accent color for any side chairs and accessories you'd like to use in your living room. "For added fun," suggests Han, "pick interesting patterns or textures."

Be loyal to your palette

If you like to continually add items to your living room, then keep a photo with you and try to stick to your original color scheme. Stay true to your palette, and your living room will always look finished!

More home painting tips

How to use reds in every room
5 Fun paint techniques for your walls
Photo gallery: Paint ideas


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Comments on "Choosing a color palette for your living room"

Shannon May 21, 2013 | 9:39 AM

This is a truly helpful article. I just recently repainted my room but based it off of one color. My favorite tip from this article was to base the color palette off of something that you want in the room . I didn't think to do that.

Rachael September 18, 2012 | 2:31 PM

Great article! It is good to hear famous designers share their living room tips in their own words. I like the idea of choosing a color scheme based on your favorite outfit or painting. This is an ingenious way to make the most elegant room in your home stand out and reflect your own unique personality.

Jeanie September 10, 2012 | 10:33 AM

I agree: pick a color that makes you happy! For years I experimented with trendy colors from magazines, but none of them looked right. Finally, I went with some greens (my favorite) and my living room is perfect for me.

Leslie September 04, 2012 | 4:25 PM

Ahhh color palettes. It took me 4 months to finally decide on my choice of colors. I've decided I'm going with blues and greys. We have a dark blue accent wall, and light blue/grey walls in our kitchen. It turned out exactly how I hoped - classy, cozy, and charming.

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