When you can see from the living room into the dining room, you have to treat both spaces as one canvas. Chocolate living room walls and a forest-green dining room will be double-dreary side by side, not sophisticated. Take some time to evaluate your givens -- a massive leather couch or a cherry-wood dining set, for example -- and plan a paint scheme that brings out the best in both rooms and lets them, and you, live in harmony.
1. Visual Flow
Take a global view of the paint selection for your living and dining rooms. Stand in each room and note which walls are visible through arches and doorways. This will determine your color flow, an important consideration if you don't want a chopped-up, chaotic patchwork of shades from room to room. Choosing related or dynamic color combinations, in a limited palette of wall and trim colors, keeps the decor balanced. A putty dining room with cream trim opens to a graceful living room with cream walls and trim, tobacco upholstery and putty carpet. Flame-orange shades on the dining room windows echo the color of ceramic lamp bases beside the couch. Each room has a distinct personality and purpose but color creates a seamless flow from one to the other.
2. Color Wheel Complements
Raise energy and interest levels by playing with the color wheel and choosing opposites for your adjacent rooms. Complementary colors -- red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet -- contrast but don't clash. Moderate the intensities for livable combinations. Pale straw in the living room next to lilac walls in the dining room, offset by bursts of banana yellow on chair cushions or a centerpiece, graduates to cheery yellow touches in a mostly white or off-white kitchen. A pumpkin dining room is flanked by a dramatic midnight-blue living room and powder-blue hallway. Iced-mint living room walls, enclosing a garden of rose-and-cream-patterned upholstery, segue to an enameled ruby accent wall in a dining room with mostly cream walls and apple-green trim.
3. Paint Chip Picks
Adjacent rooms look serene and elegant when you select a basic color, pull the paint chip strip that matches it, and choose tints that are next to each other on the strip for the different rooms. A charcoal living room that opens to a medium-gray dining room is easy on the eye. Add cloud-gray in the hallway for a soothing common area. Rose pink with white trim in the parlor next to a cherry-red dining room emphasizes the warm palette and can handle the distractions of violet and spring-green accents and plenty of wood furniture. Paint chips give you a dark-to-light spectrum of one hue -- the shades and intensities are all coordinated so your choices look deliberate, not haphazard. Use paint chips as a guide so you don't end up placing a blue with red undertones next to a blue with green undertones, a potentially jarring rather than agreeable juxtaposition.
4. Chair Rail Color Challenge
If your dining room has a chair rail, you'll need to decide how to handle the upper and lower walls. But a chair rail can actually simplify a color-flow dilemma by providing a natural break for mix-and-match. Paint the lower wall and the ceiling a very light intensity of the predominant color in the living room. The upper wall -- the middle area -- gets a more intense hue. Antique-white living room paint on the lower wall and ceiling of the dining room frames a deeper parchment on the upper wall. Rag the parchment for a faux finish to add texture. The rail itself should be the original stained and finished wood, or painted to match the trim in the room.