The Best Paint Colors for a Den

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Green is a relaxing den wall color.
Green is a relaxing den wall color. (Image: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images)

The den shouldn't be the decor orphan in your design scheme. That room is likely to get a major amount of traffic, and the colors you use on the wall will affect how the space affects you. So explore how to expand a too-small den, integrate the inside den with its outdoor patio counterpart, and evoke a mood that will make it one of the most inviting rooms in your house.

Catchall Colors

Work with your small den proportions by painting the walls to expand the space. Lighter, cooler colors make walls recede, and pale neutrals let you pile in random furnishings that don't quite make it to the more formal rooms in the house. Try bisque walls to contain the brown leather love seat, braided rug, barn-red farm cupboard repurposed as a media cabinet, and blond Scandinavian coffee table. White or slightly off-white ceiling and trim bounce a little extra light around a basement den. The eclectic decor seems intentional when it's not clashing with the background colors in the room.

Why Green Is Great

When the den opens to the patio, the compact room includes the great outdoors if you coordinate the wall color with the landscape. Paint the walls a light green, the color of new asparagus or fresh dill weed. Green is the color of renewal, a reassuring shade to relax in during dismal stretches of winter and an extension of the lawn and garden in spring and summer. Green will hold its color in changing light, unlike some neutrals and pastels such as lilac or light gray. And it's very adaptable -- decorate the room in plaids or ginghams, florals or chintzes, or various wood and fiber shades of beige and brown.

Sophisticated and Subdued

Putty is a chameleon color on walls; it works with formal and informal decor to accommodate your approach to furnishing the den. Paint the fireplace wall putty in a small den, all the walls putty in a generous one. Keep the trim and ceiling white for maximum light and leave any exposed old brick visible to add character to the space. Mirror a slab of rustic pine used for the mantel with a reclaimed pine table in the center of the sectional. Highlight the conversation area in front of the hearth with a flat-weave, neutral-colored, geometric-patterned dhurrie rug that takes the chill off wide plank or tile floors. If your den gets a lot of natural light year-round, you can go darker on the walls -- to mushroom or greige -- without feeling hemmed in. Add seasonal color to the room by changing the drapes -- sunny yellow or coral in warm months, marsala or forest green for spruced-up holiday decor.

The Color of Laughter

Your family den is all about the glee -- the flat screen is usually displaying a comedy; the pingpong table hosts hilarious hit-or-miss matches. The mood is upbeat and happy, and so is your paint color. In a den that is bursting with too much life, paint one wall forsythia-yellow and the others a rich, sunny cream. If you've got enough room for expansive belly laughs, paint all walls sunflower-yellow and lean toward warm-colored decor. A peach denim couch is inviting enough to flop on, even as it hides a multitude of small spills and sneaker marks. Turquoise, white and coral curtains capitalize on color wheel complements for high-energy that doesn't clash. You're safe with white, cream or linen ceiling and trim. But make the trim high gloss so inevitable fingerprints wipe right off.

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