5 best colors to paint a small office — expert advice for a productive, stress-free space

Scoping the best colors to paint a small office? Class is now in session with our color theory experts

Choosing the best colors to paint a small office might lead you to one like this tranquil green look with natural accents and plant themed wallpaper
(Image credit: Little Greene)

We recently updated this article in January 2024. In this update, we added a trio of product blocks to each section, to provide you with tangible suggestions, be it paint, peel-and-stick wallpaper, or sample pots of emulsion. Though we won't necessarily test these shades in our own homes, we have included highly-rated brands that we know and trust to provide a variety of finishes and perform well in your small office. Many of the brands we have selected work sustainably to create water-based formulas with minimal VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and package these up in vessels that can be recycled or upcycled.

When choosing the best colors to paint a small office, there’s a lot to consider. The type of color schemes you like, the best shade for a space you’ll spend hours in, and even if it’ll put you in the right mood for work. 

Combined with the challenges of limited square footage, that’s where our colour theory and design experts are best placed to lend a paint-covered hand — and their immense color knowledge — to help you nail this decision.

The even better news is when picking the best colors to paint a small office, the sky really is the limit. We spoke to our design experts for their best small office ideas, and superb color tricks to maximize your small office decor.

Best colors to paint a small office  — hues for every mood

First, familiarize yourself with the worst paint colors for small spaces, then get to choosing the right color. 

Nicole Gibbons, founder and CEO of Clare, suggests evaluating your lighting (you may have to learn how to properly light a small apartment) and then choosing the color. “Ensure your office has ample natural light, or use warm, ambient lighting to enhance the true beauty of these colors,” she explains. 

“The right lighting can dramatically affect how these colors are perceived and can contribute to the overall mood and productivity of your office space.”

Nicole Gibbons
Nicole Gibbons

Nicole Gibbons is the founder and CEO of Clare. 

1. Warm up with beige

Warm beige office with rug and built-in shelves

(Image credit: @carlanatalia)

If you are looking for an easy color that works with just about any aesthetic, you can’t go wrong with a warm beige in a neutral small office

“Neutrals like warm beige are a fantastic choice for small office spaces. They have a calming effect — perfect for a workspace,” says Nicole.

This versatile color is a great alternative to plain white. It also feels like a more intentional neutral, adding a chic design element.

To prevent the space from feeling flat, Nicole explains that adding texture is key, even if you have a minimalist small office idea in mind. “Textures bring depth and dimension to a room, making it feel more inviting," she says.  

"Consider incorporating textured fabrics in your window treatments or office chair, woven baskets for storage, or even a subtle printed wallpaper to create a visual interest that's both understated and sophisticated. These elements can make your office feel more personal and thoughtfully designed.”

Carefully-considered textures is also one of the quickest ways to make a small office feel luxurious. Think leather chairs and faux sheepskin rugs (like this sub-$80 pick from West Elm).

Alternatively, to modernize a small office, why not create a wall mural using paint, or paint a wall arch where your desk is? It's unlikely that you'll use a full pot of paint, so it's a great way to makeover a small office on a budget. If you don't have any leftover emulsion from a rental project, see if a friend or family member has some.

2. Go green

Green small office with wooden desk and large floor planter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Green is a fantastic color for a colorful small office. It’s stylish and creates a feeling of bringing the outside, according to Nicole. 

Creative Director of Little Greene, Ruth Mottershead says bringing nature into your office can have a grounding effect, and Olive Colour is just the shade to do that. This mossy, olive green not only brings balance and tranquility but also connects you to the natural world, which can be incredibly soothing in a work environment, and create calm in a small office setting. 

”The sense of wellbeing we gain from time outside in the natural world has resulted in a desire to recreate this sense of connection and positivity in our homes, driving a renewed love for greens of all hues,” says Ruth.

Ruth Mottershead
Ruth Mottershead

Ruth Mottershead is the Creative Director of Little Greene and an expert in color theory.

3. Delve into dark gray

Dark gray home office with wooden desk chair and lots of small green potted plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ruth explains how dark grays have replaced dark blues as the most-loved colors. “Darker hues are perfect for a study space, where they create a sense of focus. Color blocking (pairing colors opposite each other on the color wheel) with gray is a clever technique if you want to add an accent color.” If you'd like a brighter shade, light gray may even make a small space look bigger.

Color blocking is ideal for small office layouts with wainscoting (wall paneling) or chair rails. Painting these embellishments one color, and the wall a complementary shade will add depth to a small space, leveling up the design exponentially. 

4.Try icy blue

Light blue room filled with colorful large paintings on two walls

(Image credit: Clare/@ashleyswhiteside)

For those who prefer bright, refreshing hues, a crisp shade of blue such as Frozen by Clare can be a smart choice. “This icy, cool blue is reminiscent of a crisp winter morning, fresh and invigorating. In a small office, using a bright color can open up the space, making it feel more expansive and lively. It's perfect for stimulating mental energy and boosting creativity,” says Nicole. 

Using a soft but bright color may even help you feel more motivated in a small office.

To complement this color, she suggests incorporating art and colorful accents. Nicole adds, "These pops of color can be in the form of artwork (we love Desenio), decorative pillows, or even colorful stationery. They add a playful and inspiring touch to your workspace, turning it into a place that fuels your creativity and confidence.”

5. Pick pink

Little Greene Castell Pink

(Image credit: Little Greene)

While pink might not be the first color you think of for an office, it’s a unique choice that’s particularly good for those in creative fields. Pink home decor also makes for a great Zoom background. 

Castell Pink by Little Greene is one example of this. “This shade is very versatile, allowing you to incorporate deeper accents, zone areas, and add interest,” says Ruth.

If you’re looking for a way to compliment this hue, she suggests a deep red on your doors or woodwork. “Using colors with related undertones together creates an inviting contemporary scheme,” Ruth adds. 

Whatever you do, don't be tempted to slather your space in a bright pillar box-style red. Bright reds can cause stress and are one of the worst colors to paint a small office.


What are the best colors for staying motivated in a small office?

If your job is a little stressful and you need to unwind to focus, think about soft neutrals and beige. However, if you prefer a more energetic color, try brighter shades like a vibrant blue or green.

What do you need to paint a small office?

You need primer, paint, and a roller or brush. However, you may need additional tools depending on your space. You can pick up everything you need with this painting kit from Amazon.

Just because your office is small doesn’t mean it can't be beautifully designed. If you don't have much cash to splash, consider little changes like swapping out an area rug, or adding a cozy throw blanket on your office chair. A sheer curtain or divider screen might be all it takes to create a hidden small office idea, especially if you have an open-plan apartment, or share your home with a roomie and need some privacy. when working remotely. 

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!

With contributions from