The paint colors to avoid in small living rooms — and what to use instead

Knowing the wall colors to avoid in small living rooms will make the most of your space. And if you still love the deeper hues, we have accent pieces help scratch that itch

Knowing the colors to avoid in small living rooms is so important. Here are three picures of living rooms - one with a coral couch, one with blue walls, and one with a yellow couch
(Image credit: Loaf / Benjamin Moore / Desenio)

We're sorry to have to tell you, but there are some wall colors to avoid in your in small living rooms. We're all for embracing your personal style, but the reality is some shades won't serve tiny spaces as well as we'd like. 

Our design experts are on hand to share the paint hues to steer clear of — if you're into bold, dark, tones, brace yourself — whilst also revealing the best color solutions for compact living rooms. 

Don't worry though, if richer hues are very much your vibe, our color pros share how to work them in without overwhelming the space with some gorgeous accent buys. Knowing the best paint colors for small living rooms will usher in greater balance.

Wall colors to avoid in small living rooms — and what to use instead

As well as delving into great small living room ideas, it's also well worth knowing the ones to avoid when revamping your space.

For the solutions, we've found cute paint samples so you can right those wrongs, along with accent pieces to satisfy all.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

1. Avoid navy, try seafoam

A light blue living room with a white fireplace, yellow couch, and white rug

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Navy blue may give you the coastal grandmother look, but splashing it all over your small living room doesn't work well.

“I never recommend using deep or dark shades such as navy blue, as this makes a room feel heavy and closed off, especially when used on all four walls,” says Jonathan Faccone, design expert and founder of HALO Homebuyers.

A picture of Jonathan Faccone in a black shirt
Jonathan Faccone

Jonathan Faccone is a design expert, real estate investor and developer. He is the managing member of Halo Homebuyers, a real estate home-buying company based in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

He continues, “It also absorbs light, making the space feel even smaller and darker.”

Instead, Jonathan suggests opting for lighter blues. This will make your living room look less like choppy, stormy, water, and more dreamy blue sky. 

If navy blue makes your heart happy but you don't want to make your small living room feel claustrophobic, a small pop of navy soft furnishings instead might just hit the spot.

2. Ditch forest green, try sage

A sage green living room with a glass light, a gray couch, wooden coffee table, and jute rug

(Image credit: Snug Sofa)

Natural colors are always a gorgeous way to go when decorating your small living room — but don’t go too far down the forestcore trend when your square footage is limited.

“While forest green may look very stylish, it tends to visually shrink the room,” Keely Smith, lead interior designer at JD Elite Interiors.

A picture of Keely Smith in a black top, next to a black and white wall
Keely Smith

Keely Smith is the lead interior designer at JD Elite Interiors. With more than 10 years experience, Keely has helped numerous businesses and individuals realize their interior design goals.

She continues, “Dark shades absorb light instead of reflecting it, so they can give the illusion of smaller walls and ceiling height.”

For those who feel green with envy when eyeing forest-style living rooms, you can still bring the green spectrum into play with a brightening sage green. It's far lighter and still super lush, leaving you a big of wiggle room to add accent throws, pillows, and candles in the darker shades.

3. Bye-bye black, hello gray

A gray living room with gray couches, coffee table, rugs, and a window

(Image credit: Royal Home Living)

Bathing your room in the dark academia, Halloweeny life at all times of year is a cozy vibe for sure, but use black sparingly, and avoid painting the walls with it. 

“This color absorbs light, which can make a space appear small and confined — something you don’t want in a room already without a lot of square footage to work with,” says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, an award-winning interior design studio based in New York.

For a refined small living room, go for a softer shade and work to layer darker decor around.

Keely adds, “For small living rooms, I usually recommend lighter, neutral shades, as these won't overpower the space. A paint color I've had success with is Moonshine by Benjamin Moore, which is a crisp light gray I use to make white trim stand out.”

Shades like this will allow light to bounce around and make walls feel farther away.

4. Instead of yellow, try creams

A small living area with gray walls with wall art, a yellow couch, and glass table

(Image credit: Desenio)

Unlike the Coldplay song, it does not need to be yellow when it comes to lightening up your small living room.

“This is because yellow is too bold for a small space, making it look even smaller, chaotic, and overwhelming,” says Jonathan. It also reflects a lot of light, which feels harsh on the eyes and creates glare.”

You can still bring sunshine into your space — just use softer shades of yellow such as creamy or buttery tones, as these will make your small space more inviting.

5. No to red, yes to coral

A white living room with a coral couch, a water wall art painting, and a wooden coffee table

(Image credit: Loaf)

We know maximalism has been a huge small space interior design trend and we love bold colors. But seeing completely red doesn’t create a chilled-out atmosphere.

“Red overpowers small spaces, making them feel cramped and suffocating,” Jonathan says. It also stimulates energy and creates a distracting factor in a room where you want to relax.”

Jonathan recommends using warmer shades of pink or coral for a pop of color without overwhelming the space. Whether you love Barbiecore or boldness, this is a brilliant solution.


If you’ve read this, glanced at your walls, and are happy with how they look, don’t feel like you have to ditch your vibe. You know your home best, and if a color listed here actually looks stylish in your place, keep it.

For those who are renting and can’t change their walls, there are other clever ways you can make your small living room look bigger besides using color.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.