The 7 best colors to paint a small living room to make it brighter

Our guide on which colors to paint a small living room will deliver bang for your buck and revive tired spaces

Two color ideas to paint a small living room. Pastel pink living room on left with moss green door, white living room on right with rustic doors and arm chair set on round cream rug
(Image credit: Francesca's Paints, The White Company)

Finding colors to paint a small living room to make it brighter can be a challenge. It's a common question when faced with a room that's low on space. Do you go light or dark? Muted or bright hues?

We asked our color theory and paint experts for their advice on the best colors to paint a small living room and why their suggestions work so well. Although white a solid choice, there are six other shades our pros suggest you consider, from warming neutrals to pastels and reds. 

There's more color choice than you might think for small living room ideas, but whatever you go for, it needn't be short on style. In this guide, our creative pros reveal the top shades to transform your living space from pokey to fabulous.

Colors to paint a small living room to make it brighter

Delve into the best colors to bring in the hottest small living room trends, and why our experts love them so much. And don't worry, there's a little something for everyone, whether you love pale shades or dramatic darker tones. 

Prices were correct at the time this article was published.

1. White

White living room with beams, armchair, side table, stairs to the left

(Image credit: The White Company)

It's perhaps the color we often often reach for when tackling a small living room, and for good reason. White is a solid choice, easily lifting and brightening a room whilst helping create the illusion of more space. 

Chrissie Rucker OBE, founder of The White Company, says, “The most expressive decorating tool of all, color can transform the feel of a room instantly. A white scheme brings lightness and serenity to a space and white-painted walls will instantly brighten up a gloomy room. 

"A white scheme also tricks the eye by expanding space visually, so it can effectively make a small space seem bigger. And, of course, it is the perfect plain backdrop fall all our home accessories and statement furniture,"

For a more modern take, opt for a softer toned white instead, such as Lick's White 04 Matt .

image of Chrissie Rucker, owner of The White Company, a blond woman wearing a white sweater
Chrissie Rucker OBE

Chrissie Rucker OBE, started The White Company in 1994, when unable to find well-designed, beautiful quality white bed linen that were affordable. Today, it's one of the UK's fastest-growing multi-channel retailers and trusted lifestyle brand.

2. Blush pink

Blush living room with sage green painted door, retro sideboard, sunflowers, coir rug, blue armchair,

(Image credit: Francesca's Paints)

Blush pink, such as Farrow and Ball's Pink Ground, has been a popular choice over the last year or so and it's easy to see why. It has lovely warming tones making it a good color for small living rooms. 

Francesca Wezel, founder of Francesca's Paints explains, "Pink is one of my favourite colours and is extremely versatile. It is a calming colour associated with love, kindness and femininity and adding a splash of pink to your home will bring a peaceful and serene environment."

Wayfair's Aslin Geometric Rug offers a block design with shades of blush, ideal for lightening up the floor, too.

3. Sky blue

Blue living room with pink floral decoupage, pink couch, artwork

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Sky blue is a color that lifts a space — think how seeing a blue sky makes you feel after days of rain. It has the same positive impact within a space too, as our brains are naturally programmed to find peace and calm from nature's soothing shades of blue. Giving small living room that needs an upgrade a lick of the right blue can be transformative.

Annie Sloan CBE, paint and color expert, explains, "Colours that make spaces feel bigger and lighter must contain blue pigment but needn’t limit you to just blue. Blue pigments are recessive meaning they draw the eyes outward, and reflect light – giving a feeling of limitless horizons.

"Crisp, pure whites contain blue pigment which is why they bounce light around so effectively, and Swedish blue-greens like Duck Egg or my Svenska Blue (the clue’s in the name)  — pictured above — have been developed specifically to maximise light in a country which has so little of it during dark winter months."

expert headshot of Annie Sloan
Annie Sloan CBE

Annie Sloan, CBE, invented her revolutionary furniture paint, Chalk Paintin 1990. She is widely considered one of the world's leading authorities in paint, color and style. 

4. Gray green

Stone gray green walls in living room, cream chair, fireplace

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Neutral small living room ideas are an inviting, warming option and if you pick the right shade, you can transform this compact space.

"A shade such as Hazy Skies OC-48 will ooze comfort in a classy and effortless way," Helen Shaw, color expert and international marketing director at Benjamin Moore. "Elevate this timelessly stylish look with layers of texture such as dark woods, tactile bouclé textiles and sleek stone surfaces such as marble and quartz."

A gray-green will give you the best of both worlds — it's nurturing and elegant, making it a good choice for a small living room. 

A picture of Helen Shaw in a blue shirt
Helen Shaw

Helen Shaw is part of Benjamin Moore's UK division. Colour expert and international marketing director, Helen and her husband Craig are founders of Shaw Paints, acquired by Benjamin Moore in 2020.

5. Go for zest

Small living room with lime walls, bright cushions, lime couch, artwork,

(Image credit: Divine Savages / @danidazey)

If you adore color then embrace it. Bright, zesty colors will be impactful in a small living room.

Jamie Watkins, color pro and co-founder of Divine Savages says, "Beautiful, bright and contrasting colors are thought to spark joy and happiness so this palette of zesty shades immediately caught our eye. We love the verdant greens, pretty pastels and varying textures in this cosy snug which can really uplift the spirit of a home."

And don't rule out painting the ceiling, as that fifth wall can take color too.

Jamie adds, "The calming repeat of a traditional art deco fan, in the palest of pink with a hint of copper, wallpapered on the ceiling really helps to ground the zestier colours of the upholstery and soft furnishings, bringing an unlikely sense of calm to the space."

Walmart's Glidden One Coat Interior Paint and Primer, Whirligig Pink, will certainly lighten up a ceiling whilst adding a hint of color, much like the picture above.

6. Brick red

Red living room, armchair, floor lamp, floorboards, rug, side table,

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Contrary to popular belief, you can go for mid to dark tones. 

"Light colors are not the only option for a small living space. I love to embrace a small room and create a dramatic and intimate interior with intense cocooning colors," says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene.

Balance the look by choosing lighter tones in other areas, this could with bright living room flooring ideas, cute window treatments, and furniture choices.

7. Nearly black

Black living room with large black and white abstract artwork on wall, pale wooden floorboards, cream deep pile rug and industrial furniture

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Sometimes,throwing the rules out of the window is not only fun, but surprisingly effective. Choosing a nearly black shade can create a stunning space, even if your living room is teeny tiny.

Patrick O'Donnell, brand ambassador at Farrow & Ball encourages you to be bold. He says, “Go dark — don’t fight the constrictions of restricted space. Play to the limitations of the room by choosing a mid to dark and painting it all over your walls, ceiling and woodwork. 

"This will blur the boundaries between where all the plains stop and start (e.g. where the wall meets the ceiling, a built-in cupboard or a utilitarian radiator)."

Ruth agrees, adding that expanses of uncluttered color create a sense of space, even in smaller rooms.

expert headshot of Patrick O'Donnell
Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O’Donnell has been bringing his impeccable eye for colour to Farrow & Ball since 2012. Over that time, he has been a showroom manager, global color consultancy manager and now brand ambassador, widely recognised as the face of the brand on social media.

Don't feel restricted if you have a small living room, there are plenty of beautiful shades to choose from, from off-whites to nearly black. The main thing is to choose a color that resonates with you.

Next, explore bright and colorful living room ideas for extra inspiration in your room makeover. 

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for the modern bride.