How to Use Colour to Make a Room Feel Bigger or Smaller
Do you have a living room that is so big it feels impersonal? Or maybe you have a bathroom that is so small your knees touch the vanity when you’re sittin’ on the loo.
Whatever size room you have, there are ways you can change the visual perception of it WITHOUT demolishing or building walls (which really means I’m taking ALL the fun out of things…)
However, there’s some serious explaining to do as we’re talking about 2 different groups with 2 different elements…
Let’s start with…
Light, Cool Colours: How to Make a Room Look Bigger
Light colours help small spaces feel more alive, bright and airy. Light colours visually ‘open up’ spaces that might otherwise feel cramped or a wee bit too cozy by helping to reflect artificial and natural light. Why? Because light colours have higher LRV’s, which means they reflect more light than dark colours.
Benjamin Moore White Dove in this ensuite bathroom enhances the big, bright look of this space as it’s low contrast with a high LRV.
Cool colours are receding colours and help a space look larger by visually pushing your walls farther away.
Soooo, 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.
But (and it’s Kardashian sized), the more genuine or saturated a colour is (colourful) the less it will recede. Adding a bit of gray and dulling it a bit will get it back to where you want it – receding.
Now to sum all of that mumbo-jumbo up…
To make a small room appear bigger – Paint it a LIGHT, COOL toned paint colour with just a touch of gray or brown in it
Shown here: BM Gray Cashmere
Dark, Warm Paint Colours: How to Make a Room Appear Smaller or More Intimate
Medium and Dark Colours
Generally speaking (oh there are ALWAYS exceptions), dark colours make a room look smaller. Why? Because dark colours advance, making the walls seem closer than they actually are. In this dining room below, there was SO much natural light flooding in. Adding a medium toned feature wall (2 of them actually) helped to make the space feel more intimate, without closing it in. (See more here).
Shown here: BM Steel Wool
HOWEVER, sometimes it’s all in the eye of the viewer. Dark colours don’t always make a room look smaller as they are also known to ‘blur corners’, so it’s hard to really see where the room starts and ends. This can make a room feel deeper and larger. The smaller part comes in to play as some people just FEEL weighed down and closed in by darker colours, without realizing that dark colours can enhance a room if chosen well.
Dark colours also have low LRV’s, which means wont’ reflect AS MUCH natural light in comparison to a lighter colour (colours that reflect a lot of light can make rooms look bigger and brighter).
Read more: Choose The Best Paint Colours With LRV
Warm colours are advancing colours and just like dark colours, they will make walls seem closer than they actually are – making your room feel cosier and smaller.
Soooo, when you combine DARK and WARM, you are giving your room a double-whammy of cosiness!
And the summary…
To make a big room appear smaller – Paint it a DARK, WARM paint colour
The above room was big and bright. Painting the end wall a GLORIOUS rust shade, created intimacy and added visual warmth.
Shown here: BM Brown Horse
Now if you want to expand yer noggin’ then read on…(and I will give you brownie points AND you will win the booby prize as well)
You vs. Your Room – the battle rages on!!
As with everything in decorating and design, there is a method to the madness and once you know the method, you can join in the madness! Dark, light, warm, cool – it’s not always about what YOU want, it’s about what your ROOM wants, so what you need to do is…
Completely Ignore Yourself for a Minute
Forget about the colour that you think you want to paint your room. Clear your mind, pour a glass (or 3), step back a moment and look at your room and ask yourself these questions (and it’s okay to talk out loud – I talk to myself all the time).
1. Do I want the room to feel larger and brighter?
2. Do I want the room to feel cozy and comfy?
Figure out the what your room needs and THEN see how it coincides with your personal tastes.
Do your tastes clash with the needs of your room? Then check out these creative combos!
Dark and Cool Paint Colour
Whereas dark and warm can make a room feel cozier, dark and cool can be an interesting blend as the dark makes it feel more intimate, but the cool tone can help to push things out a bit. However, keep in mind that the dark will override the cool to a degree (pun intended).
Shown here: BM Dior Gray
And, many people think that cool colours might make their space feel cold and uninviting, which is not entirely untrue in the lighter versions. However, once a cool colour gets rich enough (ie: medium toned and darker) it gains warmth through the depth of the colour.
Although Hale Navy, shown in the dining room above, is a dark AND cold colour – it looks pretty darned inviting to me AND full of personality!
Light and Warm Paint Colour
Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White is a soft, slightly warm greige that is just the right depth for a slightly warm and bright look with a greige base.
Whereas light and cool can make a space feel bigger, light and warm can work if you want it to feel bright and big, but still warm and inviting!
Sherwin Williams Creamy is another light, bright and warm paint colours (that isn’t obnoxiously yellow).
Just keep in mind that light, warm colours can sometimes turn a bit dingy in a room that is dark (not enough natural or artificial light).
Read more: The Best Light Paint Colours for a Dark Room
Not sure which colour is best for you and your room?
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Kylie M Interiors Affordable Interior Decorating, Interior Design Ideas and E-Decorating / Online Color Consulting in Nanaimo B.C.