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The Best Paint Colors for Large Great Rooms

Michelle Radcliff

A good color scheme in a great room makes the space feel unified while helping to define separate areas and enhance the overall atmosphere.

The size of a great room is only part of the equation when choosing the best paint colors for walls. Consider the atmosphere you’d like to create in the room and look for features or focal points worth emphasizing. The lighting and surrounding furnishings also affect the color of the walls.

Bring Ceilings Down to Size

With so much empty space in the upper half of the room, the high ceiling of a large great room can make the room feel imposing and unbalanced. Painting the ceiling a deep, rich color makes the ceiling seem not so far away and helps to balance the look of a large, open space.

Decorators consider the ceiling a fifth wall and often treat it with color. A warm chocolate brown on a great room ceiling gives the room an intimate, cozy feel. Try a deeper shade of the wall color in an eggshell or pearl sheen to limit light reflection, such as a navy blue ceiling paired with walls painted light blue-gray, or a deep ocher ceiling with sand-colored walls.

Create Color Flow

Great rooms combine living spaces, often consolidating living room, dining room, and family room or kitchen -- all in one big room. For a pleasing flow of color that unifies the space while also creating depth and dimension, use a monochromatic color scheme. Transitioning between light, medium and dark shades of the same color, such as an orange-based terra cotta, for example, helps define each area while keeping a cohesive feeling throughout the room.

Alternatively, go with one neutral shade on the majority of walls, such as beige or greige, a mix of gray and beige, and use bolder accent colors to define separate areas. Paint a toasty nutmeg on the fireplace wall in the living room and charcoal gray on a feature wall in the dining room.

Look for architectural features that can make the transition in color look more natural and less choppy. A corner where two walls meet, a staircase, a fireplace or kitchen cabinetry -- all provide a good place to change wall colors. Paint the trim the same color for continuity.

Enhance the Atmosphere

Dark or warm colors appear to absorb light, making the room feel smaller. To create a more personal, comforting and cozy atmosphere in a great room, warm the walls with rusty red, burnt orange, terra cotta, ocher, mustard or golden yellow paint colors. These muted earth tones read more as neutrals on walls, making them easier to work with than brighter, fully saturated colors.

For a room that feels modern and fresh, go with stately shades of gray. Create a dramatic effect with a bold accent wall in black or bright fiery crimson or sunny sunflower yellow.

White walls feel timeless and elegant, enhancing the feeling of openness in a large contemporary space. Keep the room from feeling sterile or empty by hanging large, oversized paintings in brilliant colors and using darker colors on furniture or fabrics such as curtains and upholstery.

Choosing the Best Paint Color

Pull color inspiration from wall art or fabric patterns when veering away from neutrals or when choosing accent wall colors. Whites and grays change dramatically under different lighting conditions and with the colors that surround them.

Paint sample boards of your top four to five paint color choices. Use painter’s tape to mask off a ½-inch border around the edge of the board so the paint color you’re viewing has a white background instead of being right next to the previous wall color. When sampling deep colors such as burnt orange or navy blue, apply a gray primer to the sample board first to get a true read on the color.


Sample paint pots and sample boards are typically available wherever paint is sold.

Allow the paint to cure for 24 hours. Then move the boards around the great room, viewing the colors under the changing light conditions throughout the day and evening. Place the boards next to furnishings and accessories to see how the surrounding colors affect the undertones of the paint. Live with these colors for two or three days, and the best ones will make themselves known.