5 worst colors to paint a small office

Avoid the worst colors to paint a small office for maximum productivity

Home office with wooden bookshelves and white desk chair
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Avoiding the worst colors to paint a small office is essential to your productivity at home. You don’t need a large space to WFH, you just need to learn how to work with what you have. One factor is choosing the right color scheme for the room.

Whether you're painting the entire room or just an accent wall, paint can make a major design impact. It's crucial to choose a color that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but also makes you feel motivated.  

The step in making the right choice is understanding what color not to paint the room. Once you’ve eliminated the worst colors, you can get hunting for the right one. These are the worst paint colors for a small home office according to experts.

The worst colors to paint a small office

But before you get to painting, it’s important to choose furniture and style your office. Check out these tips so you can feel motivated in a small office. You'll be a WFH pro in no time.

1. Bright red

Home office with dark red walls, desk with industrial pin legs, and a metal chair with no cushioning

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bright red is one of the boldest colors you can paint any room. If you’ve always wanted to paint a wall bright red — do it, just not in your home office. The colour can increase stress levels, especially if you have deadlines or tend to feel anxious about work in general. 

Plus, you can start to feel overwhelmed by small office clutter if you're already stressed out. However, that doesn't mean you should eliminate this color entirely. Instead, go with a more refined hue. 

Interior designer, Audrey Scheck suggests something darker like burgundy or maroon, like this maroon paint color from Lick. “Rich tones like this provide a warm vibe without being too expected,” says Scheck.

Audrey Scheck
Audrey Scheck

Audrey Scheck is an interior designer based in Austin, Texas. 

2. Bold blue

Dark blue home office with wooden desk, brown leather chair and three clocks on the wall in the background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While bright blue might feel like an ideal color for home offices — after all, it’s the color of water and scientifically proven to be soothing — an office space isn’t the right spot for it.

Skip any blues that look like they came from a pack of crayons. Instead, Audrey suggests going subtle with your office space and opting for royal, dusty, or denim blue (such as this slate blue paint color from Lick).

Express your love for blue in a budget-friendly way with cheap wall art in a variety of designs. Alternatively, a blue desk chair, like this velvet office chair from Amazon, is an excellent way to add a pop of color to a more muted space.

3. Yellow

Small office with yellow walls

(Image credit: Beyzaa Yurtkuran/Pexels)

Bright yellow is an obvious choice to skip as it's one of the worst paint colors for small spaces in general. Unless you want to lean into maximalism, yellow can be too bright and distracting while you're working or stuck in a big meeting.

Instead, try a softer hue of yellow or a rich, deeper shade like this warm yellow paint color from Lick.

4. Gray

Dark gray home office with wooden desk chair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Grey has been an incredibly popular paint color in recent years for a neutral small office.

While it’s a fantastic choice for many spaces, it’s best to go with something different for your home office. “While grey might feel like a safe choice, some people say that being surrounded by it all day makes them feel depressed,” says Audrey. 

The designer recommends using green instead, like this sage green with grey undertones from Lick. “Research shows that most people feel more productive and confident when they are surrounded by green. It’s easy on the eyes, and it’s reminiscent of the outdoors which is instantly calming," she adds.

If you love gray, perhaps consider buying an upholstered desk chair in that hue instead, like this velvet desk chair from Amazon. This will also complement the green paint.

5. White

White home office with green desk chair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While white feels like an obvious choice to paint any small room, it’s actually one of the worst colors for a small office, according to the creative director of Little Greene, Ruth Mottershead. 

“Many use white in small rooms with the aim of making the room appear larger," Ruth explains. "However, light neutrals used in a tonal scheme will have the same effect whilst not appearing too stark.” 

If there is a lot of natural light in a small room then using warm, light, tones will make the room feel more spacious. Ruth tells Real Homes it's best to use shades from the same color family for a coordinated, cohesive scheme.

Ruth Mottershead headshot
Ruth Mottershead

Ruth Mottershead is the Creative Director of Little Greene paint company. and a renowned expert on color theory, where to use color and how. 


Can I never use these colors in a small office?

There are still many ways you can make these colors work in a small office. Simply changing the hue or going for a darker tone can look a lot better than a bright yellow or a stark white color in a small office.

Are dark colors good paint colors for small offices?

Yes, contrary to popular belief, dark paint colors are a fantastic choice for a small office. They add depth and interest to small spaces. 

If you like a bright, whimsical look in the rest of your home, it’s probably better to choose a different color scheme for your home office. “The colors you surround yourself with can impact your mood and productivity, particularly in a home office,” explains Audrey. 

Bold color palettes can be overstimulating, especially if you already feel stressed out about work. Audrey recommends choosing a more muted shade instead. “This can help create a more calming, productive environment.”

So, go with a muted color for your walls and perhaps paint your desk a bright color instead to incorporate your personality or small space color trends into the space. 

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!