While yellow might not be the first color that comes to mind when you’re selecting a palette for that long-awaited living room refresh, the bright shade's popularity is very much on the rise. Case and point: Pantone’s 2021 Color of the Year. A vibrant yellow hue entitled, "Illuminating," the color is “aspirational and gives us hope,” according to Pantone. It was selected specifically for its brightness—a metaphor for finding the light in every day. Universally, yellow is a zesty, energetic, and happy color choice. By using it to decorate, you’re infusing a zing of boldness and warmth into your space, reminiscent of the sun streaming in from outside.
However, the variety the comes from tons of different yellow tones can make it tricky to decorate with in a way that feels cheerful and cozy without being overwhelming. From mellow marigold and golden mustard to striking lemon, the shade of yellow—and how you use it—can make a huge impact on the vibe of the room.
For a little inspiration on how to use this statement-making color in your living room, we tapped interior designers. These yellow living room ideas will have you feeling like you’re walking on sunshine all year long.
Embrace the Boldness
Designer Annie Elliott fully embraces the vividness of yellow with this egg-yolk color that she painted on all four walls of her living room. True white baseboards and accents (such as a fireplace, lamp, coffee table, and rug) juxtapose the electric tone of the walls, while colorful furniture completes the funky vibe.
Try an Accent Wall
"There's nothing like yellow to give a room a beautiful warm glow," says Elliott. Here, she uses a classic yellow on a board and batten accent wall across from the open-concept kitchen and living room area to give the industrial space a more colorful, contemporary feel.
Select a Sunset Palette
You don't have to use yellow paint to give your living room a dose of cheerful sunshine. This white room sets the stage for a warm sunset-inspired palette of rust, red, and gold that compliment—rather than compete with—one another. The golden accent pillows complete the cohesive color scheme.
Play with Paint
Not ready to take the plunge and paint an entire wall yellow? Try using it as an accent color to give your walls more depth. Here, Dazey Den uses a buttercup color to carve out this cozy reading nook—strategical including monochromatic yellow decor pieces to let the color really shine, instead of distracting from it.
Make it Pop
If pop art were a living room, it would look something like this. A warm, canary yellow with orange undertones packs a serious punch on one accent wall while black accents ground the rest of the room. Orange drapes make the space feel warm and inviting.
To find the ideal yellow paint color, Elliot suggests painting a sample on a large piece of poster board and placing the board on different walls throughout the day to make sure the right undertones are surfacing, since yellow can look completely different at different times of day.
Opt for a Yellow Ceiling
One creative way to warm up a basic white room is to experiment with ceiling paint colors. Here, a light buttermilk yellow contrasts nicely with a warm-toned white paint and is further complemented by pops of yellow in the soft goods (like the throw pillows, blankets, and rug) spread throughout the space.
Go for Gold
A dreamy goldenrod color like this is the epitome of cozy living. Enveloping the room, it instantly creates an inviting, lived-in vibe that's not distracting to the eye. Keep the rest of the room bright and airy so there's nothing to compete with the standout color of the walls.
Add Dark Wood Accents
In large living rooms, a citrusy yellow tone may come off as claustrophobic. Instead, select a creamier, sandy yellow tone that shows off the size of the space but still brings in plenty of warmth. Dark wood accents ground the grandness of the space.
Keep it Subtle
"If you’re looking for that cheery pop of yellow, opt to incorporate it in small furniture and decor such as an accent chair, art, and pillows/throws," suggests Alessandra Wood, VP of Style, at Modsy. This is a great way to incorporate yellow with styles such as mid-century modern and transitional.
Swap Out Neutral Furniture
Say goodbye to gray, beige, and brown couches and instead opt for a plush yellow one. Just be sure to select the right shade for your room. "For instance, a pale buttery yellow is a great alternative to white for walls, whereas a mustard or deep yellow makes for a better accent color via furniture or decor," says Billie Tharaldson of Julian Design.
Select a Soft Shade
To keep your room from looking too electric, try a buttery shade of light yellow. According to Elliott, "Yellow is tricky because it can go green in certain light. It's safest to stick with a light yellow that's creamy, rather than lemony—especially in upscale rooms like a formal living room."
Use Accent Pillows
Gray, blue, and light yellow are a color palette match made in heaven and, since gray was another one of Pantone's 2021 Colors of the Year, we love the idea of using the two together. Soft yellow accent pillows instantly transform this cool color scheme and draw the eye in.
Select Striking Artwork
Incorporating yellow into your living room is easy with the help of some strategic artwork. Offset an otherwise neutral, natural palette with some bold daffodil prints and colorfully patterned curtains to add character.
Keep it Cozy
"We love yellow for its versatility," says Rebecca Johnston of R.Johnston Interiors. "It also helps anchor your color palette in a way that will make defining the rest of the space that much easier." Try a warm, pale yellow on the walls with cream-colored furniture and heavy, deep blue drapes for a space that's both cozy and timeless.
Use Complementary Colors
Interior designer Kalah Talancy of KTII Design Group's biggest tip for decorating with yellow is to use the color wheel. "Yellow pairs beautifully with purple, blue, and green, and is a great counter to softer colors," she says.
Create Visual Interest
Yellow decor can instantly add visual interest to an otherwise neutral room. Grab some fluffy yellow throw pillows and a rug to instantly elevate your living space.
Highlight Unexpected Areas
Think of bright yellow paint like a life-sized highlighter; because of its vibrance, the eye is instantly drawn to it. Amp up a window frame or built-in bookcase by opting to strategically paint them an eye-catching yellow.
Select Luxe Finishes
Certain yellows have a richness to them, so it only makes sense to complement that richness with luxe finishes. Gold, velvet, and, white lacquer create a glam aesthetic when matched against yellow-biege paint.
Choose a Creamy Tone
Not all yellow has to be in your face. For a more natural, earth-toned living space, go for a creamy off-white with tinges of yellow. Then, use accents of deep amber and marigold to create depth.
Add Flickers of Gold
Yellow doesn't have to be the main focus of a room to have an impact. Try looking for a rug with subtle peeks of warm yellow. Then, bring out those hues with glimmering gold accents.