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How to Change the Size of a Room With Paint

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Bright white can make even the tiniest room look expansive!

Bright white can make even the tiniest room look expansive!

How to Elongate a Room With Paint

If you live in a home or apartment with small rooms and can’t budget for a major renovation, don’t lose hope. First of all, get rid of all of your unnecessary furniture and clutter. That will instantly make your spaces seem larger.

If you can’t part with your belongings, think about changing your paint color scheme. Yep, paint is a simple way to create the illusion of space without having to spring for an addition or demo a single wall!

Make It Bright White

There’s truth in the old interior design trick that white makes a room look larger. Bring space to cramped quarters by painting the entire room in bright white. White surfaces are reflective; hence, they bounce light all around a room. White can make even the smallest rooms feel open and spacious! The psychology behind the trick: white fools the eye into thinking walls are farther away.

Use light colors to open up a space.

Use light colors to open up a space.

Introduce Light Colors

If that much white isn’t your thing, consider alternative neutral colors such as light gray, taupe, beige or even pale yellow. These light colors reflect light in a similar manner to white—without the need to wear your sunglasses indoors!

Utilize Complementary Light Colors in Furnishings and Upholstery

To maximize the impact of light-colored walls, use complementary light colors to furnish the room. When light-colored walls blend with similarly hued upholstery, it enhances the sense of openness. A monochromatic light palette also adds an air of sophistication to a room.

Use a Chair Rail

If you have already committed to dark furniture, use a chair rail to achieve the same effect. Paint the lower part of the wall a darker shade that picks up the tones of your furniture, and then use the lighter paint shade above the chair rail. This technique will create an illusion of space while accommodating existing furnishings.

This ceiling features gold paint and brings the color down onto the wall with crown molding to visually increase the ceiling height.

This ceiling features gold paint and brings the color down onto the wall with crown molding to visually increase the ceiling height.

How to Make Ceilings Look Higher

Often, with small rooms come low ceilings, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a loft apartment. Low ceilings make a small room feel even more claustrophobic.

Counteract Low Ceilings With Paint

  1. Use a satin, semi-gloss or gloss paint on the ceiling. Any paint with a sheen reflects light and makes the ceiling seem taller. The shimmer of metallic paint achieves the same effect—and looks lovely by candlelight!
  2. Give your low ceiling a lift by extending your ceiling down the wall. Mark a line around the perimeter of the room four to six inches down from the ceiling. Fill in that area with your light ceiling paint color. You’ve just increased the height of your ceiling with this handy paint trick! Get the same effect by using deep crown molding painted the same color as your ceiling.
  3. Paint vertical stripes in shades of the same color to give your walls an exaggerated sense of height. For the best results, use a flat base color as one stripe, then tape off alternating stripes and paint them in a satin version of the base coat color. Vertical stripes on a wall make a ceiling look higher in the same way striped clothes elongate the body!

If you are intimidated about measuring, taping and painting vertical wall stripes, think about purchasing striped wallpaper to achieve the same effect.

Vertical stripes make walls look taller—just like a striped dress elongates the body!

Vertical stripes make walls look taller—just like a striped dress elongates the body!

Lengthen a Short Room

Say you’ve got a short rectangular room you would like to visually lengthen. This can easily be achieved by painting one of the shorter end walls with a light color. Choose a shade several degrees darker and use it on the remaining three walls.

Conversely, painting an end wall a darker accent color will give a short room the illusion of length. Paint the other walls a complementary lighter color.

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Paint Horizontal Stripes

Another slight of eye involves stripes—this time horizontal: paint two or three wide horizontal stripes around the room to make your room appear longer. Use a light base coat and darker stripes for optimum results.

An accent wall will add visual length to a short room.

An accent wall will add visual length to a short room.

Declutter With Paint

Since you have indicated you don’t want to downsize your personal possessions and furnishings, why not declutter your small room with paint? If your room has built-in shelves, bookcases or radiators, neutralize them with the same paint color as your walls.

These items will then blend in and literally recede into the background. This will make your room look much less cluttered, which translates into more visual space. You can also use the same technique on woodwork and paneling.

The same thing applies to furniture pieces. Now, I’m not saying you should paint your brand new solid mahogany dining room set. However, if you own some furniture pieces that are a bit worn, paint will help them blend in, give them new life and brighten up your room!

In a dark finish, these bookcases would make a small room feel closed in.

In a dark finish, these bookcases would make a small room feel closed in.

Too Much Space?

If you have a cavernous room, paint can also cozy it up. Choose warm wall colors to bring the walls and ceiling in. This will make the space feel smaller and more intimate. Just consult a color wheel and concentrate on the half that represents warm colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows. You can even move toward the red side of the purples for additional warm color choices. Some browns and tans also read warm and are appropriate for this purpose.

The color wheel represents warm and cool colors.

The color wheel represents warm and cool colors.

How Colors Can Change Room Size

Color TypeColorsCharacteristics

Cool

Blues, greens, purples

These colors will stabilize and cool a room or color scheme. They will also appear to recede, or move away from the observer.

Cool neutrals

Whites, grays, taupes, beiges

Cool colors give a room the illusion of more space.

Warm

Reds, oranges, yellows, magentas

They bring warmth, comfort, and vibrancy to a room and color palette.

Warm neutrals

Browns, tans

Warm colors appear to move toward the observer, or advance, making an expansive room feel smaller.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can we reduce the vertical scale of a room ?

Answer: Painting the ceiling a dark color will visually reduce the height of the walls. It gives the illusion of a lower ceiling, creating a cozier feel in a space with soaring walls.

Question: How can I increase the width of my living room?

Answer: You can use a light paint color that will visually expand the room's dimensions

Question: Will painting a room three colors make the room feel smaller?

Answer: It depends on the colors you choose. Neutrals will make the room feel larger. A triad of bright or intense colors will make it look even smaller.

Question: Painting the longer wall in a rectangular room will make it larger?

Answer: The color on a long wall is even gorgeous how it affects the way it is larger space. Color can alter the perception of a rectangle room's size and shape. Try to determine how long the wall to paint a room.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Eliza on March 14, 2019:

This is horrible advice to bring your ceiling lower with ceiling color trim to create the illusion of height. That brings the ceiling lower. So in fact the opposite is true. If you paint the crown molding in the wall color the wall will appear to get taller lifting the ceiling. Looking at dozens of rooms with crown molding with the wall color always gives the impression of a taller room.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 08, 2018:

Thank you, alfred sawe!

alfred sawe on August 07, 2018:

ilove the knowledge behind the interior decor

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on November 14, 2014:

Hi vespawoolf! So glad you liked these tips. Your neighbor is a smart one! White paint, mirrors and plenty of illumination will certainly give the illusion of space even in the smallest apartment. Good to hear from you!