There’s no need to resort to wand waving when attempting to make a small space look bigger, nor is there a need to push out walls to create a room with a bigger footprint. There are various tricks and tips you can take on board to accomplish this aim.
Paint colour is certainly one of the easiest and most cost-effective solutions for expanding your space visually, making it appear to be larger than it really is.
However, it is important to recognise that light colours behave differently than dark colours, just as warm colours behave differently to cool colours.
In the same vein, different colour choices will do different things for ceilings, walls and floors as all these factors can completely transform and open up a small space – almost like magic, but without the wand.
Generally speaking – and, yes, there are certainly exceptions – dark colours tend to make a room look smaller. This is because some dark colours visually advance, making the walls seem closer than they actually are.
For the safest solution to make a small room appear bigger, try painting it a light paint colour that has cool undertones.
Resene Colour Expert Carolyn Atkinson recommends Resene Black White, Resene Quarter White Pointer, Resene Half Rice Cake and Resene Wan White as popular options, but encourages looking to colours beyond basic whites.
Colours like blues or blue/greens are some of the best choices, she says – particularly paler to mid-toned varieties. These hues work especially well because of the way they recede from your vision, making spaces appear further away and therefore much bigger. Look to Resene Remember Me, Resene Slipstream, Resene Half Dusted Blue, Resene Breathless, Resene Breeze or Resene Eskimo for some of the most approachable options.
Adding stripes is another trick suggested by Mount Maunganui painter John Murphy. He recommends adding horizontal stripes on your walls to help visually expand your space.
"Pick one - maybe two walls – to give the striped look and they’ll look elongated. Use contrasting colours to create the illusion of depth," he says.
Light colours versus dark colours
Light colours have higher Light Reflectance Values (LRV’s), which means they reflect more light than dark colours. Light colours, therefore, help small spaces feel more alive, bright and airy. Light colours visually ‘open up’ spaces that might otherwise feel cramped by helping to reflect artificial and natural light.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but some colour experts suggest that while cool and light colours are popular, a dark feature wall – even a black one – can actually make a space feel larger.
While the main purpose of a fresh coat of white or light paint in a small room may be to make the room appear larger, but the fact is that a dark colour can do the same thing — although in a different way. By absorbing the light, the walls of the room are less clearly marked and can give an illusion of more space. Help is at hand at Resene ColorShops if you need convincing!
Cool colours versus warm colours
Cool colours are receding colours and help a space look larger by visually pushing walls farther away.
So, when you combine light and cool, you are getting the best of both worlds as both of these things can help a small room feel bigger.
Warm colours advance and cool colours recede, affecting the perception of depth. The science behind this is that the eye adjusts when focusing on colours of different wavelengths. Red light waves have a longer wavelength than blue ones, for example.
In the world of paint colours, the general idea is that warm colours are red, orange and yellow; and the cool colours are green, blue and magenta. However, it’s a smart idea to talk to a Resene Colour Expert as there are warm and cool greens, blues, red, yellows, earth colours, blacks and whites. The can show you options in any hue that can help you to visually expand your space.
Ceilings and trims
If all your walls/ceilings and trims are painted the same pale white or off-white neutral colour, there is nothing in the way of definite colour that arrests the eye. This strategy can make the space seem much bigger. But, opting to paint your ceiling a lighter colour than the rest of your space and suddenly it will seem like you have extra-high ceilings.
Look to Resene Black White, Resene Sea Fog or Resene Merino for the most popular off-whites.
Flesh out your floors
Painting the floors (along with your walls, trim, and details) in different shades from the same colour family – such as pale grey or light blue – will make your whole space look larger. With a monochromatic space, you can go as neutral or as out-there as you want. It’s committing to the look that seals it.
The rest of the room
Interior Designer Gael Garrett acknowledges paint is a key component but not the sole one. She offers up the following suggestions for making a small room like larger:
- Use bright white colours and deep dark colours to create contrast – medium-value shades can make a room appear smaller
- Use a few table lamps to spread light evenly instead of relying on overhead lighting
- Use a rug to define a space
- Choose a large statement piece of furniture instead of small pieces of furniture. For example, have one large sofa and one accent chair or have a king size bed in a bedroom instead of a queen
- Place a large mirror on a dark wall to bounce light from windows
- Have curtains that hang from the ceiling and are colour matched to the walls – this makes the ceiling look higher
- Display a large piece of art. If you want to hang a gallery wall just limit it to one wall only
- Declutter, declutter, declutter. The less ‘things’ you have in a room, the more space that will be left for you to enjoy it.
For more tips and advice for your projects, see the habitat by Resene website, or visit your Resene ColorShop.
This article was created for Resene