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How to select paint colours to make small rooms feel bigger

Choosing a paint colour to make a small room look bigger is an interior design challenge. There are no hard and fast rules. The aim is to trick the eye so that the square footage seems to be expanded. There are several ways to achieve this illusion.

Lighter colours and neutrals are the obvious choices for making a space seem larger. They are in many ways the natural ones to choose as they reflect the light. This does not have to mean that all colour is abandoned. A strong, saturated colour can still work. Try this with a feature wall, but keep the furnishings and accessories in softer tones. The overall balance should still be of lightness, cleverly offset by the bold definition.

Whites are classic for making walls “retreat”.

There are many variations on the theme. Whites can be tinged with pink, blue or green and this takes the edge off any starkness or cold. White in its purest form can be very airy and light.

Painting ceilings white is certainly a necessity, as it adds height. It is always bright and fresh and will coordinate with whatever you put on the walls. Eggshell or satin finishes are good for light reflection. On the subject of height, and if ceilings are also low, it is always best to paint all walls and trim the same colour. If you leave a margin above the moulding or picture rail, it creates a break. This gives the illusion that the walls are six inches shorter. Lines of differently coloured trim “chop up” a room and divide it into segments. When space is limited, you need to aim for a flowing, all-round effect.

Another trick with trims and mouldings is to select a paler shade than the walls. This fools the eye into perceiving the walls as being further back.

The amount of natural light flowing into the room is a key thing to think about. The less natural light that enters the room, the lighter the paint colour has to be to make up for it. Brightness is also a factor. Paint shades with a light reflecting value of above 50 will not absorb light, they will bounce it back. A room that appears brighter, will also appear bigger!

Cool blues and greys can be used to make a room appear larger. By using a blended palette, and picking out the key colours in say paintings or rugs, you can create a boundary-less space. This should include the carpet or floor covering.

“Dissolving” the edges of a room is a clever trick that relies on dark tones. It is a brave choice, as it involves selecting a deep colour in gloss. The room is then highlighted by white or light furnishings. The idea is that painting the room a dark colour disguises the fact that it is small. Deep tones then add depth. Making it darker can make a room feel more like a cosy cave.

Whether you choose to stay light or go dark, mirrors and lighting will also play a big part in creating an impression of the room’s size.

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