‘Never choose this!’ ‘Worst’ living room colours to avoid – ‘makes room look dated’


Of course there are no set rules when designing living rooms, however certain colours can have a negative impact on not only the room but the rest of the house too. To find out what paint colours should be avoided for living rooms Express.co.uk has turned to the help of a few interior designers. Plus, in an effort to save households from the turmoil of sifting through endless swatches of paint samples, they’re also sharing alternative colours to try instead.

Given that living rooms are associated with relaxing and feeling at ease, experts have warned that some colours can disrupt this. 

Interiors expert, James Mellan-Matulewicz of Bobbi Beck, told Express.co.uk: “Paint is incredibly versatile and any colour or shade can look great if used in the right context. In the wrong context, however, the choice of colour can completely unsettle and contradict the vibe of that particular room. A living room is a comfortable and cosy space, and calls for decor that can match that mood.”

Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director, Juliettes Interiors shared that white should be avoided at all costs, especially if the room already welcomes a lot of light. She said: “The colour of your living room will depend on how you use it. If it’s often used as a social space in the home, then look to the natural light that the room offers. If you have plenty of light to work with, avoid an all-white or very neutral colour scheme as this can make the room feel cold and unwelcoming.”

Sylvia James at HomeHow.co.uk also agreed that households should avoid white. She said: “Brilliant white walls in a living room can make it too stark and clinical for relaxing in.” For those who favour white the expert advised opting for “off-white” instead.

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For those opting for a magnolia shade of white, the expert warned against this. She said: “Avoid magnolia as it will make the room look dated. And in some light, magnolia gives off an unappealing yellowy hue.”

One expert even went as far as saying that white should even be avoided for living room ceilings as well as the walls. Emma Bestley Co-founder & Creative Director of YesColours, the UK’s first eco paint sold in a recyclable pouch, said: “The ceiling should always be considered in the colour scheme. Known as the fifth wall, make sure this gets as much attention as the other walls – if left white you’ll run the risk of it feeling forgotten.

“For maximum impact, opt for full drench, meaning the same colour continued from the wall up to the ceiling. Alternatively, pick out a complementary colour, whether that’s a much paler version or an accent colour to add contrast.

“If you have a small space, consider a muted, calm colour like a warm neutral, pale pink or sage green. If you’re hoping to achieve a cocooning and cosy feeling, don’t be afraid to use darker hues. That added depth can be really inviting in a space, especially in a living room or bedroom.”

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Aside from white, interior experts also advised households to avoid bright colours such as yellow, oranges and reds. Rudolph Diesel, a top London interior designer with a relentless passion for design, said: “Orange is for fruit, not your living room walls. Guests walking into a bright orange living room will most likely think you’re slightly unhinged – you want to soothe, not overwhelm. Bright colours like orange are bursting with energy and excitement, and may be suitable for a children’s playroom, but not for a living room where you’re looking to unwind and relax.”

Shanade McAllister-Fisher, an award-winning interior designer based in West London, noted: “Most shades of yellow are simply too distracting – they take away from the rest of the room. It may be a ‘happy shade’, but bright yellow is too overwhelming of a colour for an entire living room.”

Graham & Brown’s Head Stylist, Paula Taylor agreed: “I would avoid citric yellow as it has a tendency to look very fluorescent green in the cold blue northern light that we have in the UK. Any colours that can make the room look cold is a big no no!”

Sylvia told Express.co.uk how these bright colours disturb the ambience associated with living rooms. She said: “Bright colours including bright yellow and orange can dazzle your eyes and eliminate any attempts at creating a relaxing ambience. If you like warm, bright colours, use them in small quantities when you’re decorating the lounge.”

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When it comes to the worst colour anyone could choose for a living room, Shanade said that red takes the top spot. She said: “Your living room is supposed to evoke a sense of calm – not panic. Any bright shades of red are the worst choices for your living room walls. 

“Here’s a pro tip for you – never choose this colour that is commonly associated with blood or anger. Red living rooms are overwhelming and intense, and you’ll never make a guest feel welcome if they’re staring at your angry walls.”

Emma agreed with red being the worst living room colour. She said: “Red should be carefully considered when used in any area of the home, but especially the living room. It’s a colour we associate with warning and alertness and when the colour is used in large quantities it can spark an agitated feeling. Instead of primary red, look for a deeper plum or a muted terracotta for a soothing scheme.”

It’s not just bright colours that should be avoided, some dark hues should be added to the list. Shanade said: “Beige is okay, but once you start venturing into brown territory, it’s time to turn back. Brown walls make your living room look dingy and drab. Darker brown shades might be okay as accent colours, but you should never choose brown as the primary colour of your living room.”

Similarly to brown, Rudolph advised steering clear of an all-black living room. He noted that the shade is best in small doses. The interior designer said: “When used correctly, black can be an excellent living room colour – if you’re using it for an accent wall, for instance. But an all-black living room is downright scary. 

“If you want to create a calming effect in your living room, use the colour black sparingly, because too much of it will suck the light and life out of the room and leave your guests feeling depressed.”

When choosing your living room colours, Emma explained that it’s important to think of the optimum time households will be using their living room and work backwards from that. She said: “If you only use it at night, sample colours you will predominantly see at night with artificial light. The darker they are, the more they will darken as the night draws in. 

“Deep jewel tones of blue, terracotta, green and teal are ideal for a cosy, intimate space at night. On the other hand, if your living room is used mostly during the day and you want to create a fresh and airy feel, opt for softer hues of peach, green and pink with a muted undertone to achieve a more serene environment.”


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