How to Make a Small Room Look Bigger Using Paint Colors

by WordCustard

Many of us have small rooms in our homes. Fortunately it's easy to make a room look bigger and brighter using a little decorating know-how. We start with paint and color.

Painting with Color and Light to Make a Room Seem Larger

Tricks and tips to make small rooms look bigger and lighter

If you have one or more small rooms in your home or office that you wish were larger or brighter you are not alone. In many countries of the world space is now at a premium and the large and spacious rooms of the past are harder to find. City apartments often condense our living space into as small an area as possible, and even in the suburbs and beyond we have been forced to make do with less. Or maybe a new addition to the family has meant finding an extra room. Whatever the reason, it's useful to know how to make a small room look both bigger and brighter.

The first in this series of articles exploring ways to visually enlarge your room begins with using paint to create an illusion of light and space.

Article copyright ©WordCustard, June 2011, all rights reserved. 

More in the Home Decor for Small Spaces Series

When you have a small room that you want to make appear bigger, it is a good idea to consider clever storage solutions. These can create a feeling of space. Third in the series.
The second in a series to help you make a room look brighter and larger. Mirrors add light to a room, while clever posters and artworks can create an illusion of a larger room.

Paint Colors for Small Rooms

Let's start with the easiest change for most of us. Painting a small room to look bigger is one of the easiest tricks of all and will cost you only your time and a few cans of paint. 

I bet you already know that a light color will create a bright and airy feeling in a room, and that a dark one will make it feel more enclosed. This is because lighter colors reflect more light, literally making your room brighter, while darker ones absorb more.

White reflects the most light but pure white can be a difficult color to get right in home decor. Too much white with no variation can make an environment seem clinical or harsh. In my own experience, painting a small room white made it look cheap and uncared for, as if I'd just moved into a hastily redecorated rental property.

Changing the paint shade to an ivory instantly made the room more elegant. This isn't to say that white is to be avoided in all homes. However, if you do go for stark white walls, accessorize your decor carefully. Light neutrals will help to make it feel like a home and not a hospital. Add warmth and interest with shades such as ivory, cream, pale gold, ecru, bleached-out blues and greens (think of seaside colors), and soft browns.

Which Scheme do You Prefer for Brightening a Room?

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Pretty pastels and sherbet shades
perms on 01/19/2012

Pastels are nice and relaxing

perms on 11/28/2011

I hung some pastel blue sheers over my white faux wood blinds and it seemed to bring warmth and more depth to my small 1 bedroom apartment.

sheilamarie on 09/07/2011

I've just finished painting my kitchen a light blue. I had hoped to use a deeper color blue, but I'm pleased with how it turned out, I agree that lighter colors reflect more light, which becomes especially important in the darker winter months.

ohcaroline on 07/20/2011

I think very soft pastels would do a great long as you curb the color's intensity. Not too much.

White doesn't have to be your only paint choice. You can choose from a whole spectrum of pastel colors. Technically, pastels are tints, being colours that have been mixed with white, so they are still excellent choices for adding more light to a room.

Pastels are soft and soothing. They can make a room feminine and romantic, but don't make the mistake of thinking that decorating with pastels means going crazy with pink.

Soft blues and greens are modern and suit beachside and country cottage decors. You can team them with off-white to create that rustic charm, or with darker tones and woods for a contemporary look. Shades of lavender and lilac can be lovely for a bedroom, and lemon is a wonderful fresh color for a kitchen. Pale aqua is perfect for bathrooms and can look great in a modern kitchen too.

You can even create a two-tone scheme, ensuring that your palest color is on the darkest wall and reserving an accent color for naturally brighter areas of the room.

These days you can even buy special light-reflecting paint that has been enhanced to make a room even brighter. It contains tiny glass balls that bounce light back around the room.


More Ideas for Painting a Room to Look Bigger

Decorating with White from Country Living
Stylish interiors based on white. The images show how soft neutrals have been introduced to stop the rooms from looking stark and cold.

Getting White Right from
Advice from the experts on making white look good in your home decor.

Decorating with Pastels from My Home Ideas
Gorgeous pastel color schemes from sugar pink to soft blue and lovely lemon.

Inspiration for Decorating with Paint

The White Home: Creating Rooms You Lo...
Aurum Press
$10.6  $0.44
Pale & Interesting: Decorating with W...
Ryland Peters & Small
Only $25.87
Romantic Prairie Style
Ryland Peters & Small
$29.08  $4.73
Image Credits

Flickr images shared under Creative Commons licence -- mouseover images for credits. Article preview image courtesy morgueFile.


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Updated: 10/21/2011, WordCustard
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Share Your Ideas on Home Decorating Themes

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cmoneyspinner on 11/06/2013

Pretty! Don't have any ideas to share other than if from the bedroom window, I could get a clear view of the turquoise waters of The Bahamas and the white sandy beach - best decorating tip I know of! :)

Tolovaj on 06/03/2012

Bright colors can really open space and there are many ways to enliven the room if we are afraid if it will look too boring in plain white or very bright shades of other colors. I have all white furniture for couple of years now and place (it can't be too big, right) really looks much bigger than before.
Thanks for some useful tips!

Jimmie on 12/11/2011

What a visually soothing article! Lovely. I agree that light shades do open things up, but I always fear how easily things can appear stained and dingy. Bolder and darker colors seem to hide wear and tear a bit better.

sheilamarie on 09/07/2011

There's nothing like a freshened up paint job to make things sparkle!

WordCustard on 09/05/2011

Oh I like your colour theme suggestions, frugalvers. When I was thinking about small rooms I didn't think of motorhomes but can see they present similar challenges.

Guest on 09/01/2011

Wish I had read this before renovating our motorhome! Talk about small space...What we did, to create the illusion of 30 foot of motorhome looking bigger, was to make each segment a different color. Light blues and grays in the bedroom, a funky, multi-colored kitchen/dining area with matching, homemade curtains (even painted the cabinets 4 different colors) and a calming brick/chocolate brown in the living room. It does make a difference! When we bought the motorhome, it was all one color of wallpaper, curtain, carpet...tore it all out and now it feels like there are three separate rooms. Will follow your articles...great ideas!

Ramkitten on 07/20/2011

Good suggestions. I tend to like earthy colors rather than pastels, myself, but I use lighter shades of them in smaller rooms.

Raintree on 06/15/2011

Very good tips here. We are choosing paint colours for two of our bedrooms at the mo and we prefer the softer lighter colours. Thank you for sharing :)

Guest on 06/13/2011

it's so true about using the right paint colors in a room. I bought a house with all dark wall colors and had to paint them all lighter to lighten my mood!
Good advice.:-)

Jewelsofawe on 06/06/2011

Love the art here!

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