Tips on How to Choose Living Room Colors

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The color or color scheme you choose for your living room is not only a reflection of how you want the room to feel, it is a reflection of you. Before you settle on a basic shade of white, take a step back to think: Is this color right for me? What are my objectives for my living room? Do I want a family-friendly space or an artistic representation? Am I willing to invest in new furniture, or is it best for me to work with what I already have? How much am I willing to spend to decorate my living room? Your design objectives and budget are two factors that you need to consider when planning your color choices.

Selection Tips

A basic concept used in interior design for color selection is the rule of 60-30-10, which translates to: 60 percent of a dominant color, 30 percent of a secondary color and 10 percent of an accent color. Accent colors are typically bold or vivid colors that are used for emphasis, or to create a bit of contrast in the room.

If you are having trouble deciding on what colors you would like to use in your living room, try looking through your closet. The colors most commonly used in your wardrobe are a good starting point for inspiration. Other places to find color ideas are interior design pictures of living rooms, model homes, living rooms seen on some of your favorite television shows or even the living rooms of your friends and family.

No matter what you decide, make sure that you apply your color scheme to everything from your flooring to your walls, carpets, couches, pillows and other décor. Minimizing the loose ends in your living room will help you streamline your space.

Modern Colors

Modern design utilizes a minimalist style with the absence of clutter from accessories and decorative materials. Modern furniture typically features clean, straight lines, polished surfaces and geometric patterns and shapes. Colors often associated with modern design are neutral colors like black, white and grey. If those colors aren't enough for your living room, then you can infuse vibrant, accent colors from a wall, a piece of furniture or a bold work of art. It is quite common to isolate these accent colors for stark contrast, or to bring attention to a certain area of the living room. Imagine a bright, red lounge chair in a room using black and white as its dominant and secondary colors.

Modern Living Room Color - Grey Modern Living Room Color - White

Traditional Colors

Traditional design is another living room theme, utilizing furnishings styles from the 18th and 19th centuries. This design style is a classic motif for homeowners who wish to express elegance and grandeur, with the furniture being used as a focal point for the room. Colors most commonly used for traditional living rooms are generally mid-tone, nothing too vibrant or eye-popping, and should incorporate color schemes and patterns of the furnishings you choose. White and other neutral colors are typically used for walls, while rich shades of red, blue or brown can be incorporated through floral and plaid patterns found in traditional style furnishings.

Contemporary Colors

Another common style for interiors is contemporary design, which mainly focuses on solid, natural colors like light shades of brown and soft shades of gray. The objective of a contemporary style living room is to create a comforting atmosphere, streamlined and clean with smooth curves, void of any unnecessary color patterns or complex shapes. Contemporary living rooms should be subtle and simplistic, so focus on muted-colors to induce a calm atmosphere that is not overly stimulating to the senses.

Contemporary Living Room Color Contemporary Living Room Color

Transitional Colors

Transitional design incorporates themes from traditional and contemporary styles, giving your living room a timeless feel that is both simplistic and elegant. Traditional elements like fabrics with floral or plaid patterns and wood finishes can be combined with furniture featuring the simplistic profiles of contemporary design. Transitional color schemes can incorporate contemporary design's soothing colors of tan, vanilla and beige with rich colors found in traditional design. An example would be a beige couch with maroon throw pillows seated in front of a rich, dark mahogany coffee table. With a transitional living room, you have a broader color palette to work with.

Eclectic Colors

If none of the more common styles are to your liking, or you're having trouble deciding on what style would suit your living room best, why not try a combination of multiple interior design styles? The idea of an eclectic living room is to use different aspects of various styles and tie them together with a certain design element like a color scheme, pattern or type of furniture. With eclectic design style, it doesn't matter what colors you choose as long as they are fluid with the rest of the room. Think of an elegant, Victorian sofa that has been reupholstered with teal-dyed fabric, resting on top of a zebra-print rug, in the middle of a living room with the walls painted in a black and white color scheme.

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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