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22 Apartment Paint Ideas to Liven Up Your Space

By: Susan Finch
October 5, 2020

An all-white apartment may offer a blank canvas for your decor. However, it doesn't necessarily maximize your space.

Instead, a carefully chosen color palette will make your space feel more open, spacious, and inviting without upgrading to a new apartment.

Before you get started, remember that there are no hard and fast rules for painting your apartment — besides your landlord's, of course! Make sure to check your lease terms before undertaking any painting projects. First, get the okay from your landlord or property management.

Ready to start painting? Here’s how to select the perfect paint ideas to maximize your space in your apartment.

1. Consider Natural Lighting in Your Color Selection

The natural light in your apartment can dramatically impact the color of the paint you choose. Colors have the ability to either "warm up" or "cool down" a room depending on the overall light in your space.

Expect neutral colors to give off a warm feeling. On the other hand, colors like black or gray offer a cool aesthetic.

Balance out your natural lighting with warm or cool selections. For example, apartments with windows facing the south or west are considered "warm." So, use cooler colors like a dark gray.

Apartments with little sunlight benefit from warmer tones like beige or antique white. Swapping out window treatments for light and airy options can also help maximize your natural light.

2. Try to Stick to One Central Color Scheme

Strategically mixing and matching paint colors can work well in some apartment layouts. However, you still need an overall central color scheme to pull together your look. Otherwise, you could end up with a hodgepodge of colors that don’t flow together.

A central color scheme creates a fluid, cohesive apartment that feels like the color flows from room to room. If you are looking for a pop of color, try an accent wall or paint a small space like a bathroom that could benefit from some personality and charm.

3. Select Bright Colors

Vibrant paint coating your walls wins out over dull, drab colors every time. Bright purple is trending again as one of the best apartment wall colors and is known for positively affecting your mood and creating an air of calm tranquility. You can use it anywhere in your apartment, including a small bathroom or laundry area.

Bright colors also add dimension to your space where your walls appear to push back away from the viewer. By contrast, dark colors draw the walls in towards the viewer.

Pick and choose specific rooms for bright colors with dark accents to create a dramatic ambiance for your apartment.

4. Consider the "Mood" You Want for Each Room

Pick and choose colors based on the mood you want for each room. A darker color like gray or a deep red creates a cozy atmosphere for your bedroom.

Or, select a bright white color to complement your white kitchen countertops or appliances. That’ll create a crisp feel.

Remember your spaces, like laundry, can also benefit from a moody color. Go big and bold to spice up laundry day without making the color commitment to the rest of your apartment.

Or, paint a small nook to create an office space with a bold, blue color to keep you feeling alert and productive.

5. Maximize Your Space with a Focal Wall

A focal wall creates the illusion that your apartment is larger than life. Pick your favorite bright, bold color, or go for monochromatic matte black to give your apartment more depth and dimension. Add white trim to make your color selection pop and arrange your furniture to bring more focus.

Once you choose your focal wall's paint color, remember to add accessories to tie together your look. A black wall may benefit from white frames and black silhouette inspired artwork.

You can also accessorize a yellow wall with yellow-toned artwork or painted shelving. That’ll show off your favorite keepsakes.

6. Create Unexpected Accents

Adding color to the unexpected accents around your apartment brings a creative touch to your living space. Ask your landlord in advance about painting your radiator your favorite accent color like hunter green.

You can also jazz up crown moldings or continue your accent wall's color from floor to ceiling. Once your transformation is complete, swap out wall plates and light switch covers to complement your color scheme.

7. Don't Be Afraid of Darker, Bold Accents

Dark, bold colors bring depth to your apartment and. You can use them liberally throughout your space.

Adding darker hues to your accents helps bring dimension and clarity to other colors in your space. It's also a fun way to bring more life to your apartment without the commitment.

Add dramatic trim, window treatments, rugs, and lamp colors against a neutral base to clarify the other colors in your space.

8. Limit Pops of Color to the Entryway

Your entryway is a welcoming place to experiment with color. Instead of coating your entire apartment in lavender for a tranquil touch or warm orange to add warmth, try it in your entryway first.

Once your walls are complete, add a complementing colored rug or painted bench to create a small seating area. That can double as storage for shoes, jackets, and your workout gear.

9. Don't Forget the Ceiling

Your ceiling could also use a pop of color to keep your aesthetic going. You can enhance a cozy grey bedroom when you add color across the ceiling down to your floorboards. Decorate the rest of your bedroom in bright white to offset the gray for a cozy, romantic feel.

The color combination also translates from summer to winter. That’ll keep your room cozy and stylish all year long.

10. Use More Mirrors

Mirrors help reflect your paint color and your favorite style. Hang a mirror across from a bright red accent wall to capture the color of your refreshed living room.

Tie together your look by painting your mirror's frame in the same shade of your accent wall. You can also arrange a series of mirrors like a gallery wall to create an aesthetic based around your favorite color.

11. Try Unexpected Colors

Do something unexpected and try colors that don't seem like they go together at first glance, but beautifully complement the other. Try an accent wall in coral with teal molding and touches that make both colors stand out.

Another fun combination is seafoam green and gold. Paint a room in the elegant green and add gold sconces and mirrors to make your colors stand out.

12. Add Color to Your Outdoor Space

Your outdoor space also deserves some fresh paint. Check with your landlord in advance before covering an old door or its frame in lime green to play with the hues in nature.

The windowsills or old balcony rails are also ideal places to add more color. Some vibrant lime patio or balcony furniture brings your space to life for your next outdoor gathering.

13. Enhance Your Paint Color with Wall Decals

Peel-on wall decals aren't just for kids' rooms anymore. Add a fresh coat of canary blue and select white willow tree wall decals to create a landscape.

Create themes in every room with a combination of your favorite paints and decals to showcase inspirational quotes and imagery.

14. Make Your Colors Flow

Think of your color as a variety of hues and play with color for a continuous, flowing aesthetic. Paint a wall in a rich coffee color and add vertical stripes in lighter browns to create the feeling the color moves along with the room.

Try it in any room in your apartment that needs a boost of color and fluidity.

15. Spruce Up Your Floors

Your landlord may be agreeable to the idea of a paint refresh on your old wood floors. It's almost always cheaper than replacing the floors outright. It brings new life to your apartment.

Coat the floorboards fresh white for a rustic chic feel right in your apartment. Or, mimic the feeling of a checkered tile floor by alternating wood slats with white and grey or black.

16. Create Separation

Small apartments, like studios, often lack dimension and separation. Use paint colors to break up your space and create a work area, dining room, and bedroom without the need for screen dividers and walls. As you rearrange your apartment, you can also repaint to follow the new floorplan of your apartment.

17. Add Color to Your Your Cabinets

Kitchen upgrades are almost always expensive and time-consuming, from appliances to cabinets and drawers. Instead of swapping out old cabinets, grab a paintbrush.

Dark grey or crisp white dresses up your kitchen. It gives the feeling of an expensive upgrade. Rethinking your kitchen cabinet pulls and hardware gives your mini upgrade an extra touch of elegance.

18. Add Color to Your Closets

Painting your closets helps keep them smelling fresh. So, why not add some color while you're at it?

Go big and bold with your favorite colors that you don't feel confident trying elsewhere. Try fuchsia and white or burnt orange and navy for a winning combination that makes getting dressed for work fun again.

19. Create Your Own Artwork

Adding paint to your walls is the perfect opportunity to create your own artwork. If you're not creatively inspired, tap a local artist to step in and paint a mural or winning color combination with border accents and whimsical details.

Make sure to snap a photo before moving onto your next apartment. That way, you can keep the inspiration going.

20. Paint Your Mantle

Apartment mantles are often colorless or worn from years of indifference from stacks of books and clutter. Clear everything off and paint them a shabby white chic or canary yellow to adorn your fireplace with color.

Finish off the look with complementing candles and potted plants to create a focal point for your living room.

21. Refresh Your Exposed Brick

Many renters covet exposed brick walls and details in their apartment. However, they may quickly find they look dingy and old.

Instead of ignoring the details, paint over the brick with white or black paint for a quick refresh. You'll end up with a chic accent wall that brings more depth and dimension to your apartment.

22. Experiment with Colors Before You Fully Commit

Whatever colors you choose, experiment with your favorite aesthetic before you fully commit. Try a peel-on wallpaper in solid colors to soak up the effect. Once you settle on the perfect color combinations, invest in quality paint for a long-term commitment.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the right paint colors can maximize your space without the investment. However, if you’re ready for an upgrade to a bigger apartment, use Apartment List’s apartment finder to find the perfect space for you.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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