If today’s real estate market is any indicator, people are downsizing on a greater scale than ever before. However, going smaller doesn’t have to mean that the rooms are cramped or that the space is confined. In fact, knowing what colors make a room look bigger and brighter is key to making the interior design of your home work to your advantage.
Interior design has a solution for every architectural conundrum. If you own a small home, it is likely that you are familiar with some fundamental tricks for maximizing limited space. Some of the basics are minding the furniture size, using custom-made storage options, and strategically placing the furniture around the room.
Yet, people tend to disregard the role that color plays in the interior design of a place. The color scheme that you go for affects how spacious a room feels. So, if you want to make a room look larger than it really is, here are some tips and tricks on how to do it with colors.
A Few Words on the Color White
White might be an obvious choice of color when you want to make a space look bigger. It has all the necessary properties ― it gives a clean and open look, reflects the light, and optically makes any room larger.
Therefore, creating a white backdrop in the room is a smart, albeit a rather safe choice. If you choose white as your wall color, you will allow your furniture to take center stage, which would, in turn, distract from the room’s boundaries. That would lend the room an almost museum-like feel ― and what could be more synonymous with spaciousness than that?
Find the Right Undertone
Feel free to play around with undertones when choosing your perfect shade of white. The right white should complement the fabrics, textures, and any other colors in the room. That way, when the light hits the walls, it would reflect the undertones, and the room would look more connected and airy.
Choosing the perfect shade of white allows other colors and details in the room to shine. For instance, if you have furniture in earthy tones, you may opt for a warm off-white like eggshell, to create a feeling of unity in the room. Alternatively, if your windows overlook a leafy tree or a lush garden, choose a white with green undertones. That would transition the green hues to the interior and optically blur the boundary between the room and the outside.
The right undertone also carries a stylistic message. Creamy colors are perceived as elegant and sophisticated, whereas cool, grayish tones are considered to be urban and contemporary.
The same applies to the finish. Satin finish, for example, adds a luxurious note to the room. The finish can do wonders when it comes to visually expanding the room, too. Pearly and satin finishes are highly reflective and create the illusion of luminosity and vastness.
However, white is not a perfect fit for every setting. A room that doesn’t have enough natural light makes plain white walls seem dull and washed-out, devoid of any character. That is colloquially known as the “white box syndrome.”
Consider the Light
Overall, light and cool colors have a tendency to recede and make the room seem bigger. In contrast, dark and warm colors usually seem to advance toward us, making any space appear more confined. However, if you match the right shade of any color with complementary amounts of light, you can visually enlarge any room.
Light is a key factor in determining how colors would translate on the walls and what effect they would have on the overall appearance of the room, including its size. So, it all depends on how the light hits the color. The amount of natural light that enters the room is determined by the direction that the windows are facing.
If you paint a light-filled room with a dark, light-absorbing color, it is bound to appear smaller. But, north-facing rooms receive less light and naturally appear darker and cooler. Such rooms look amazing when bathed in deep, saturated hues. They give the room a feeling of intimacy and coziness.
It is a misconception that darker colors cannot open up the space. As a matter of fact, bold shades can make the room stand out instead of feeling dull and lifeless. Embracing the darkness that nature has given to a north-facing room by using strong wall paint colors would have a dramatic yet intimate effect.
The way it works is that moody hues give an illusion of endless shady space behind the furniture in a dimly lit room, making it appear limitless. So, make sure to eliminate any details that would accentuate the boundaries of the walls.
For instance, paint any trims or pipes in the same color as the wall. That way, the eye won’t stop on them and notice the edges of the room. It would seem as though the color of the wall continues indefinitely behind the furniture, making the room seem more expansive.
Some colors to consider:
- soft black
- deep navy
- dark emerald
- intense plum
Warmer Undertones in North-Facing Rooms
However, if dark wall paint is not your cup of tea, there are other options. Namely, you can use any color with warm undertones to cancel out the cool feeling a north-facing room comes with.
A pale, warm gray would add the brightness you require. Alternatively, you can tap into your wild side and use a bright color to bring back the light the room lacks. In this case, I suggest going for peachy pink, warm lavender, or sunny yellow. But, remember to paint some features white, such as your moldings or woodwork, as that will help tame the bold color of the wall.
Light colors can do wonders for a south-facing room. South-oriented rooms are showered with rays of warm, natural light throughout the day, allowing you to use that to your advantage. Sunlight reflects and bounces around when it comes into contact with light colors. That way, the room appears even more vast and commodious.
Opt for colors that are off-white or rich in bright undertones for maximum effect. Some foolproof shades are:
- light beige
- sky blue
- light gray
West-facing rooms are endowed with the mesmerizing sunset light that should be exploited to its full potential. Your best bet is to marry the walls with sunset hues. These shades will show their true colors at dusk, bathing the room with warmth and making it appear welcoming and open.
You should think in terms of:
- blush pink
- pastel yellow
- pale apricot
- light orange
The light that enters east-facing rooms often reads as cold and fresh. East-oriented rooms receive plenty of light in the morning but have a moderate amount of natural light for the rest of the day.
With that in mind, the color palette for eastward rooms needs to tap into the crispness of early morning light. If done right, the wall paint in sunrise-facing rooms would accentuate the freshness and contribute to their airiness.
Some colors that would work here are:
- watery blue
- soft gray
- mint green
- pale lavender
Other Details to Keep In Mind
If the floors in a room are dark, not only do they draw the eye downward, but they also absorb the light and visually constrict the room. It is, thus, better to go for light wood floors or light-colored tiles if the rooms in your home are not spacious. In addition, for maximum effect, opt for shiny wood floors and glossy tiles, as reflective surfaces give the appearance of more space.
In case you are unable to change the appearance of your floors, especially if you are renting, you can still add light colors into the equation. Consider getting light-colored, bright furniture, particularly the bulkier pieces in the room. That would shift the focus to the furniture and away from the dark floors. Also, you can add a large, light-colored rug and cover most of the dark floor with it.
Ceilings don’t necessarily have to be white. Although that seems to be the uniform color for a ceiling, there are instances when it simply doesn’t work. If nothing else in the room is white, painting the ceiling white may be illogical and distracting. It will be in stark contrast to the rest of the room and draw the eye upward in an unflattering way.
Instead, choose a complementary color for your ceiling, one that could be found in some of the furniture, curtains, and accessories around the room. There shouldn’t be too much contrast between the ceiling and the rest of the colors. If your room is small, what you want to do is elevate the ceiling to make the space feel roomier.
If the ceiling is painted a different color than the walls ― or if its color has a different undertone ― the boundary becomes apparent, and the room seems confined. On the other hand, if the ceiling color belongs to the same color family as the wall color, the space is more connected, and the boundaries are less obvious. It all makes the room optically bigger.
In fact, you could take it a step further and paint the ceiling the same color as the walls! A unified color around the room blurs the boundary lines and makes the room appear even larger to the eye.
Pro Tip: If you can see into any adjoining rooms, consider painting them in complementary colors, as well. A unified color palette around your home also tricks the eye into believing your place is bigger than it actually is.
All in all, I hope I’ve succeeded in helping you choose the perfect color for your small home. Make sure to consider the amount of natural light your rooms get during the day. Then the only thing that remains for you to do is to pick the right shade!
Last but not least, remember to prep the room for painting so that everything goes on smoothly, and there are no unwanted stains. You may find my tips on painting with a roller and painting over dark walls helpful at that point, so be sure to check them out, as well.