Designers' Go-To Living Room Color Palettes

Today’s top interior designers let us in on the secret behind the shades that they turn to again and again to create spaces that will stand the test of the time.
By: Jeanine Hays

©Matthew Patrick Smyth

Photo By: Tyler Parker

©Mariah O'Brien Interiors

©Matthew Patrick Smyth

©Matthew Patrick Smyth

Photo By: Tyler Parker ©Mariah O'Brien Interiors

©Matthew Patrick Smyth

Photo By: Tyler Parker ©Mariah O'Brien Interiors

Stunning Wood Details in Misty Blue Living Room

A monochromatic color palette can be used in living areas to create a room with timeless appeal. Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth has covered the walls, furnishings and accessories in this living room in similar shades of blue. The monochromatic color palette creates a calm and sophisticated living room design, where the wood and brass elements provide a soft pop of color.

Mod Black and White Living Room

For high contrast in the living room, interior designer Danielle Colding likes to stick with the classic palette of black and white. "Nothing illustrates the impact of contrast better than the combination of black and white," says Colding. "In this [space], I decided to pair jet black walls with white picture molding. For those who want the impact without the intensity, the same contrast can work with deep navy or teal."

Mediterranean Living Room in Cocoa and Pastels

Just a little bit of brown can go a long way in a living room’s design. Cocoa brown and soft pastels are pretty accents in this living room that’s grounded by white walls. Designer Mariah O’Brien loves using white as a backdrop for a room with a variety of other elements like rich shades. “The white really makes an impact, as it’s a perfect backdrop for the other design elements we brought into the living experience," O'Brien says. Cocoa chairs and curtains add just a touch of brown to a room filled with pretty pastels.

Airy Purple and Brown Living Room

Shades of brown are an excellent way to accent feminine details in a living room’s design. In this living space designed by Mariah O’Brien, the seating area has soft and organic details, like purple florals, that are grounded by warm tones of light brown and chocolate.

Traditional Living Room in Chocolate Brown and Ruby Red

In a living room with a white backdrop, chocolate brown furnishings and red accessories can make a strong statement. Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth pairs red and brown together as complementary shades. The warm tones in each color can be used to create a cozy living room environment.

Fifty Shades of Gray Living Rooms

Matthew Patrick Smyth loves using soft, warm grays in his interiors. Benjamin Moore’s "Penthouse" is among his favorite shades of the cool hue. The color is the perfect backdrop to rich colors like ruby red and brass.

Eclectic Living Room With a Splash of Coral

Pops of coral stand out in this living room’s black and white color palette. Designer Mariah O’Brien loves to begin with a white base, adding bold hues in the form of accent walls and accessories for a striking palette. Mariah’s secret? “The whites I like to use showcase the colors, upholstery, fabrics and art in the room without competing with the wall color. If and when our clients need a little change, it is much easier to change out the window treatments, pillows and accessories than to have to repaint an entire room,” says O’Brien.

White + Gold: Classic Living Room Luxury

Pair off-white with golden hues to create a luxurious living room design. Interior designer Matthew Patrick Smyth is a fan of the beauty of an off-white color palette in the living room. “Off-whites seem to be at the core of my most of my color selections for living rooms. They take on different shades as the light moves across the room and serve as perfect background colors,” he says. Smyth’s favorite shades of white include Benjamin Moore’s Timid White and Linen White.

Ebony and Ivory

One of the best ways to achieve the classic black and white color palette is by setting ebony furnishings and decor against stark white walls. In this room, Danielle has brought in a modern black sofa to accentuate the room’s classic color palette.

Warm Whites

"The color palette reflected in this Mexican vacation home pays homage to the country’s warm climate by featuring classic, streamlined furniture and traditional elements," remarks Danielle Colding, who designed the Mexican retreat. "Ivory walls, brown venetian plaster niches, and orange and yellow accents combine to give a warm and inviting glow to the overall space."

Gray: The New Neutral

Gray is the new neutral. Designers love using the steely color as a backdrop in the living room.  Gray is a favorite color of Design Star winner Danielle Colding, who puts the shade to work as a neutral tone. "The color palette [in this living room] is centered around various shades of gray. Benjamin Moore's Chelsea Gray is paired with this concrete-esque wallpaper for a warm neutral against which other warm tones, like rich plums and ochre yellow, could pop." Danielle’s tip for using gray: "When adding color to this palette, focus on jewel tones with the same level of depth and intensity."  

Dior and Cognac

Danielle Colding shows her mastery of the gray color palette in this room highlighted by walls in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray. The designer notes that "pairing the cool tones with a classic modern chair in a warm cognac hue gives the space some needed dimension and warmth. Accent pillows in aquas, purples, and yellows further enhance the [gray walls] while the colorful, warm artwork brings in the aforementioned warmth needed to balance the space as a whole.”

A Mediterranean Living Room With Warm White Details

Designer Mariah O’Brien’s tried and true color for living rooms is a nice warm white. “White can be as vivid or soft as any other color as it has a variety of undertones and tints. Finding the right white that works is the key. I have some go-to favorites: Benjamin Moore’s Alabaster White and light beige, as they contain a subtle undertone of pink, which I believe truly flatters the skin and allows for a nice glow.” O’Brien warns against using whites that contain yellow or blue undertones. “They tend to look dingy or too cool.”