8 colorful small living room ideas that will brighten, not overwhelm your space

These colorful small living room ideas are equally chic and cheery

Colorful small living room ideas like this are the goal, with its blue couch and multi-hued throw pillows, art work and bright decorative touches
(Image credit: @tropicali_haven)

Colorful small living room ideas can lift an entire home. Get it right, and make this cozy spot feel more welcoming and energized, without guests wanting to run a mile to your closest neutral-colored space.

When we think of colorful spaces, we default to loud and large rooms, vast with pigment and brimming with all the colors of the wheel. But we like our home decor to have an "I woke up like this" feel. And, anything overcomplicated is rarely a good look, especially in a small space where it can be easy to overwhelm your surroundings. 

So how can you add color to small living rooms without it being too much? We asked some pros to help get the balance right.

8 colorful small living room ideas

Goldilocks, we need your advice. How can we enjoy all of the latest small space color trends and achieve a small living room that is bright and beautiful, but also not overkill?

Mindy O'Connor, Principal Architect and Owner of Melinda Kelson O'Connor Architecture and Interiors explains how color works in this convivial spot. “A living room, whether more formal or relaxed, is a space that lends itself to the use of color because of the variety of furnishings and decorative pieces composing the room, as well as the larger opportunities with walls, ceilings, and trim,” she explains.

To achieve small colorful living room success, keep scrolling for more wise words from our experts.

Principal Architect and Owner of Melinda Kelson O'Connor Architecture and Interiors
Mindy O'Connor

Mindy O'Connor is a registered architect in Pennsylvania and LEED accredited. She received her Master of Architecture Degree from Harvard University and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania before going on to open her own practice. Melinda Kelson O'Connor Architecture & Interiors focuses on residential and small commercial projects, creating modern and thoughtful spaces that nod to sustainability.

1. Keep color statements simple

A green small living room with a gray couch with colorful pillows

(Image credit: @mylifeinmulticolor)

How big you go with color will come down to your personal preferences, of course, but you need to pay attention to your home's natural features too. 

"Depending on the light and architectural features that make up the space, color can be integrated in big moves or more subtle, small ones," continues Mindy. 

We love the rich pea-green on the walls in this small living room space created by Cissi Åhlén of @mylifeinmulticolor. The paneling adds more dimension, and the throw pillows in the same hue help the space pop without feeling like too much. 

"For bigger gestures, think of going all in on a combination of a richly colored or a pretty lighter-hued paint on walls, door trim, paneling, and crown molding," further suggests Mindy.

2. Bring soft dimension with a bespoke and gradual paint effect

Gradual paint effect on living room wall, in Spring Thaw, Milan, Maple Sugar, and Rust are subtly enhanced by rug and surrounding decor

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Only Benjamin Moore could show us how color can make a small living room space feel oh so inviting and effortless with the clever contrast and gradual paint effect on the wall. Soft and blended strokes of Spring Thaw, Milan, Maple Sugar, and Rust are subtly enhanced by the rug, small living room couch, and scattered throw pillows. If you weren't into painting your walls before, we hope this convinces you.

Mindy notes how we should remember the ceiling too. “Consider the ceiling plane in the overall effect,” she says. “It’s important to make this continuous and simple since the color will do the work and does not need two-toned, fussy, or alternating patterns." 

So if you're feeling like a bigger investment that requires a little more effort, why not look to the fifth wall and settle on a color for the ceiling in your small living room?

3. Include small but bright accents for priceless flair

Bright pink red couch in small living room with pale pink walls, throw pillows and fiddle leaf fig

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

DIY shy homebodies, do not despair. Paint isn't the only answer when you want color in a small living room. "If bigger moves are too much of a commitment or budget splurge, think of adding color to a more neutral overall palette in smaller doses," recommends Mindy. 

"One simple but bespoke option is a gorgeous, colorful patterned fabric on pillows or, used to recover plain lampshades,” she says. Combining patterns you like, with pieces in one uniform color will add interest to smaller living rooms too, without making the finish overly busy.

"Your local tailor can even usually make these if you supply the fabric. Using fabric to cover or recover a small bench is another wonderful option to bring in pattern and color in a relatively low-cost way."

4. Make the space pop with a touch of peel-and-stick wallpaper

Green living room with plush sofa and patterned red wallpaper in the distance

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

Bespoke still, but with the potential to be even more budget-friendly, Mindy explains, “A personal favorite is to apply a colorful patterned or textured wallpaper added to the back of built-in or freestanding bookcases or display pieces.”

I have to say, this is one of my favorite ways to add color and interest to a small space too. You might feel the same when you see how DIY blogger Ruth Jackson documented many a cool wallpaper project for us. 

"This will add depth, layering, and interest to the living room and is a much simpler and more minimal investment than wall covering applied on all of the walls. You can do this to add color to your room with its existing built-ins in a limited but playful and beautiful way and tie the colorful pattern to accessories and pillows through the room." 

Novice? We have a piece on how to install peel-and-stick wallpaper, the right way.

5. Let plants add height and take the lead on your color palette

Bright lilac living room with rusty accent chair, pink throw pillow, and accent vase on small side table

(Image credit: @mylifeinmulticolor)

For a fresh dose of green energy, let's put our best green thumbs forward. Plus, you don't have to be the best plant-mom either, lots of low-maintenance greenery will still bring lots of impact. 

Ginger Curtis, CEO and founder of  Urbanology Designs tells Real Homes how indoor plants work as a quick color fix in small living room spaces that want a new look, without a big cash, time, or DIY investment. "In addition to books, window treatments, and artwork, plants and greenery are also a great way to add a pop of color into your home without a lot of commitment,” she says.

What's more, using plants or freshly cut flowers as coffee table decor as @mylifeinmulticolor has done in this space, will add much-needed height, a welcome design detail to give small living rooms a little lift and length. 

Brad Ramsey, principal and founder of Brad Ramsey Interiors agrees. He says, “A natural way to liven up any room is to add plants to your small space." Fiddle leaf figs he says are particularly unfussy, and ideal to liven up a gloomy corner. "And who can ever turn down a beautiful orchid on a coffee table?"

Ginger Curtis, CEO & Founder of Urbanology Designs
Ginger Curtis

Ginger Curtis is CEO and founder of Urbanology Designs, an interior design studio at the forefront of trends, that takes a 'soft, modern approach' to styling clients' homes. Ginger is a passionate design expert, the author of Beauty By Design (Harvest House Publishers), and is regularly featured in other prominent publications., including our sister website Homes & Gardens.

Principal and Founder of Brad Ramsey Interiors
Brad Ramsey

Brad Ramsey began his design career in 2008 and launched Brad Ramsey Interiors in 2012. Brad's team takes a creative and intuitive approach to design with both residential and commercial spaces around the country.

6. Keep colorful accessories textured (and on their toes) for depth

Bright living room with mustard yellow couch topped with bright pastel throw pillows, coffee table dressed with pot and bright freshly cut flowers and bohemian wall decor including mirrors with wicker frames

(Image credit: @tropicaliheaven)

Maximalists will know that there is an art to keeping lots of color in a space, and for those that are either color-shy or prone to decorate their space in brick red one day, only to decide the next that blue is the mood (guilty), keeping bright decor choices flexible is key. 

"A tapestry is another great way to not only add a pop of color that you love but also tons of texture which is super important for adding depth and life to a space," says Ginger. 

Choose throw pillows or textured wall coverings, though a small addition, it will be enough to brighten a small living room space in a way that isn't overwhelming. "It's not a big commitment at all, you can easily move it from room to room until you find the perfect place for it," Ginger adds. 

This way you can easily relocate them or take them out of a space completely when they don't feel like part of the ambiance you want to create.

7. Let yourself be pattern-wild

Eclectic small living room with wooden coffee table central to couches, blue cabinet and large patterned area rug

(Image credit: @picsfromcandice)

It can be easy to shy away from prints in a small space, but it can work and Ginger encourages us to unleash our inner pattern lover. The easiest way to do this, especially on a temporary level, is with your fabric choice in soft furnishings. 

When it comes to the pattern itself, choose less busy prints and go for large-scale forms instead as @picsfromcandice has done in this candy-colored hued space, and don't be afraid to contrast accessories in the space, it will add dimension and interest to make the living room feel bigger. 

Ginger adds, "Throw pillows are an easy way to incorporate wild, bold, and stunning patterns with really low commitment. Likewise, a pouf of any color or pattern adds a splash of fun storage and they are movable! Super easy to put it under an entryway table, in the living room under a coffee table, or in front of the fireplace. 

“Don't be afraid to make a statement! Incorporate something outside of your comfort zone and see how it transforms your space in seconds.”

8. Vary hues via curated objects and artwork

Small living room with monochrome color palette accented by colorful artwork on the wall

(Image credit: McNeil Baker for Maestri Studio)

We've seen how throw pillows and accessories can bring lots of color and dimension to a room. Let's not forget wall art and decor, and even subtle objects like books that can bring a pop to smaller spaces, without taking up much square footage, or costing too much. Mindy notes how the decorative benefits will often far outweigh the price, too.

She says, "Think of bowls, vases, or objects by artists — local artists starting out are often showing beautiful but well-priced pieces. You can select a palette and look for objects in varying hues of the same and a few complimentary shades And, of course, visually arresting books add color too and are always wonderful to read and own. These are all quick and easy ways to bring bright, rich, or simply pretty colors into a space without a huge investment."


What colors are best for a bright small living room?

It is no secret that light colors expand a room visually, but even small spaces are punctuated with colorful accents for a striking finish and cool design detail. 

Real Homes writer Eve Smallman told us that bright white, green, and navy blue are the top three best paint colors for your small living room, according to interior designers.

So to make your living room look bigger whilst adding lots of fresh color, incorporate color in small doses and be clever with placement. Remember, even a little black and/or white can lift brighter colors and bring more dimension to a living room space on the smaller side. 

"Or you could go with a bold black and white photograph for dramatic effect," adds designer Brad Ramsey. "Don't forget black and white are colors too!"

What is the easiest way to add color to a room?

Paint, of course, will transform a room. Even in very small doses like on molding. "Simple accent trim on a neutral window treatment is another minimal but impactful way to introduce or weave in a colorful accent. Small side pieces are another low investment path to play with color- paint an existing one or find a unique shape and color to layer in with your larger neutrals," suggests Mindy.

But for an even quicker (and less messy route), you want to use accessories to brighten up your surroundings. "Hands down, the number one easiest way to add a color accent to a room is with throw pillows," notes Brad. "But don't settle for two of the exact same and get stuck in the one-hit-wonder zone, go for a collection of coordinating pillows. In other words, if blue is your jam, try finding your favorite color of blue and pairing it with some blue-gray and blue-green tones in the other pillows."

How can I bring color into a small living room cheaply?

Paint, reclaimed bright decor, and art are all clever ways to curate a colorful space, often without having to spend too much. Look to thrift stores, locally, or online. Brad notes how this is a great way to bring more personality to your entire home too: "Look around on Etsy for a few minutes and you can find all kinds of inexpensive framed art, and that would be my second suggestion for adding color to your home in a bold way without a lot of commitment,

"A large abstract landscape could bring in earthy green and brown tones.  While a painting of the ocean may provide beautiful blue hues."

Throw pillows and accent pieces, whether temporary or permanent with paint, will help brighten up a small living room. Pay attention to color pairing, patterns, and how much room accessories will need to curate the right amount of vibrancy and your lounge will be memorable for all the right reasons.

If you’re one to follow trends, you might want to take a look at these TikTok interior trends for 2024.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!