Jan 04, 2024

Decorating with yellow

One of the most uplifting colors, decorating with yellow is sure to lift your spirits and it is perhaps not surprising that this joyful option is experiencing a renaissance in interiors.

From pretty primrose, soft buttermilk and golden yoke, to zesty lemons and sunflower or mustard hues, yellow brings warmth and sunshine to every surface it touches. Along with its mood-enhancing qualities, yellow is a highly versatile color that can be paired with many other shades.

Hugely diverse decorating with yellow can be used to create spaces that are stimulating and energizing, fun or formal, to cozy and welcoming.

With an array of shades to choose from and many beautiful yellow rooms, there is no end to the potential that yellow can offer in decorating.

‘Sunny yellow brings in a touch of warmth and optimism to a room, perfect for bringing a sense of positivity into the home,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown. ‘The color creates a sense of calm with a feeling of restfulness and well-being.’

Find expert advice on some of the best ways to use yellow around the home.


Yellow-painted walls are the perfect choice for creating an all-year-round living room scheme. You can achieve a seasonal balance by ensuring the living room colors for contrasting upholstery, soft furnishings and flooring work for the two halves of the year.

Include natural textured flooring along with fabrics in summery neutrals and stripes with weaves in warmer ochres, burgundy and olive hues. Finally, choose a practical matt eggshell finish for decorating with yellow panelled walls.

Tones of yellow vary hugely from buttercup yellows to zingy citrus shades, and which you choose can have a real impact on the look and feel of the space so it's important to choose wisely. When decorating with yellow, ‘the secret to success is in the tone tint or shade as primary yellow is just too insistent to use in large amounts,’ explains Simon Temperell, interior design manager at Neptune.

‘Yellow with a green undertone is best kept to bright, south-facing rooms as it will turn slightly bilious in a shadowy corner and because of that it is important to recognise how it registers at all times of the day before you commit. Softer, buttery yellows are more calming and easier on the eye.’

It's important to note that the more red you add to yellow the warmer and more adaptable it becomes, he adds. ‘Mustard, ochre and sienna carry more importance and can be paired beautifully with blues, greens or even pink, if it is sufficiently subdued. And if you want to create drama with yellow, try pairing it with black, navy or emerald.’

‘Yellow is a color that evokes happiness and provides a sense of positivity. It is perfect for areas of the home where there is much activity and socialising, such as the kitchen and dining room, where it adds energy and vitality,’ says Andy Greenall, head of design, Paint & Paper Library.

Yellow dining room with golden shades used over all four walls are guaranteed to create wow-factor and spark joy at gatherings and family meal times, alternatively, bring a zesty pop to a kitchen by limiting the shade to the cabinets which can easily be repainted if tastes change.

Yellows that contain red undertones will bring warmth and coziness, making them ideal living room color. These warmer yellows will pair beautifully with natural materials, earthy neutrals and botanical shades like olive green, but can also work well with pastel pink for a playful twist.

For those less confident with color, using yellow in larger rooms and busy spaces can sometimes be overpowering, in this case consider using it in rooms used less often such as hallways and bathrooms or over small areas suggests says Nicola Harding, founder of Nicola Harding & Co.

‘This is an energising color that works best in a room that you don't use all the time or as an accent color. I have bright yellow tiles in a shower room at home, teamed with a playful Svenskt Tenn wallpaper. It lifts my spirits every morning!’

In this yellow hallway, Nicola has teamed walls in Farrow & Ball's Babouche with woodwork in Inchrya Blue for a fun and welcoming space.

Design studio Frank & Faber ensured that the upstairs landing at the boutique hotel Number One Bruton in Somerset was joyful by using a rich yellow, an ideal to greet guests in the mornings.

An earthy tobacco shade, the Trumpington color by Edward Bulmer Natural Paint brings a fun color pop to the historic space while also bringing warmth.

‘Sometimes you need a deeper golden colour with more clout as some yellows can be too grey, too flat or just too primary. Earthy tobacco shades will work in any room you want to feel warm and intriguing; it is a serious colour, elegant and sophisticated, which creates a fabulous backdrop to artwork and antiques and works in a variety of spaces,' says Edward Bulmer.

If you're cautious about using yellow wall-to-wall, try limiting it to smaller areas – it can be a great way to bring a sense of fun to unexpected places as demonstrated above.

‘Yellow is always a good accent colour and using a mustard shade works well inside cupboards or pantries as an uplifting surprise as you open or enter. It's easier to incorporate this shade into a scheme if you’re slightly put off by bright yellow paint in your home and it is particularly effective in darker, moodier spaces as it creates a feeling of warmth,’ says Sarah Brown, founder of Sarah Brown Interiors.

If you don't want to use yellow all over, highlight woodwork, a door or skirting boards in yellow for a splash of joy suggests Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene.

'A bright yellow such as Mr David or Trumpet can work fantastically well with deep blue or grey tone wallpapers, transforming what might feel like a traditional wallpaper into a more contemporary design statement.’

Here the Loriini wallpaper in Dorian looks fabulous alongside a flash of yellow such as ‘Trumpet’ on woodwork bringing bold color without going overboard.

In this kitchen by Martin Moore, mustard yellow bench cushions bring warmth and softness to the cool, streamlined space plus help to zone the social area of the room. Opting for fabrics with texture or a delicate pattern as opposed to those with a flat tone will help bring extra depth and coziness which is important in rooms like bedrooms and living rooms.

Opting for a bath in yellow is a great way to create a fun focal point in rooms that can easily lack personality like bathrooms, but if you're thinking of yellow bathroom ideas be sure to chose the right shade says Barrie Cutchie, design director at BC Designs.

'The secret to making the color yellow work in your bathroom is to use the right shade of yellow that resonates with you, and while using it in the right proportions. Being surrounded by too much yellow, the wrong yellow for you or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones within the colour scheme can easily create disharmony.'

Here the choice of pale yellow pairs beautifully with white and grey tiles to keep the space feeling relaxing. 'Having white intermixed shows off both the yellow and grey without competing with either,' he adds.

If you like decorating with art and antiques in an array of colors then neutral backdrops can help bring harmony. Alternatively, if your collections are in muted colors or black and white, then a vibrant living room paint idea could be a great way to elevate them as demonstrated in this space.

Here walls in Peter's Ochre by Francesca's Paints brings balance to the striking silhouette of the iconic black mid-century armchair and monochrome artworks with flashes of orange, plus, with underlying warmth, the shade prevents the space feeling too cold.

Yellow bedrooms are incredibly inviting, especially at night when light levels are low; however, it's worth bearing in mind how you might feel about yellow in morning light.

'The zingier the shade, the more energized you’ll feel so consider creamier, knocked-back shades of yellow for bedrooms with punchier palettes in your kitchen and study,' advises style editor, Country Homes & Interiors, Sara Bird.

If you love decorating with yellow but want to create a contemporary look, consider a zingy citrus shade.

'This shade of yellow is best in a west- or south-facing room; in rooms with cooler light, it will take on a tinge of blue, which isn't ideal. In bright spaces, though, it is fresh and modern, and works well used on its own but looks amazing with monochromatic schemes such as black and white,' says Sara Bird.

When decorating with yellow, indeed any color, it's always worth layering the look of your room with more than one tone. However, while layering neutral upon neutral works wonderfully to add interest, it should always be done with caution with any bold color, where it will be overpowering. How to make this work? Combine yellows that match closely in tone, and avoid contrasting yellows, as in the space above.

'Quince is a particularly versatile and adaptable shade, finding natural matches with all manner of contrasting shades. It's also just as happy to exist in harmony with other bold yellow tones, such as Saffron and Olive,' says Rebecca Elderfield, Product and Services Director at Neptune. 'Saffron is our "true" yellow – it's neither pastel-toned nor too bright. Olive, meanwhile, is a traditional green with a yellow undercurrent just perfect for pairing with Quince. Together, these three colors create a joyful sunshine palette.'

'Subtle and quiet, the palest hues of the yellow palette are perfect for adding a touch of color and warmth while enhancing the feeling of space. Above, a buttermilk hue is painted all over on walls and ceilings to make a vaulted room feel lifted to the skies. Deeper and richer shades of yellow are added to the mix to add warmth,' says Sara Bird.

Discover the options for decorating with yellow, the most cheerful color, guaranteed to inject warmth and creativity into any space