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Changing the Size of a Room With Paint

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating 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!

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 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!

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.

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.

Counteract Low Ceilings

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.

How to Use Paint to Make Low Ceilings Look Higher:

  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 a 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.

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.

De-Clutter With Paint

Since you have indicated you don’t want to downsize your personal possessions and furnishings, why not de-clutter 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!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on November 14, 2014:

These are great methods to make a room look larger. Our neighbor across the street lives in a tiny apartment. She painted the walls bright white and used mirrors and plenty of light fixtures to bounce the light around. Now her place doesn´t look so tiny anymore. Thank you for sharing.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 10, 2014:

Majka Wroblewska, I think the photo wall mural is a great idea to add depth as well. Choosing the right wall paint color would be key to heightening the overall effect. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Majka Wroblewska from Luton, UK on October 08, 2014:

Loved the idea of an accent wall, especially the one shown in the photo, deep dark ocean blue looks so stylish to me. I guess another piece of helpful advice would be sticking a full-size photo wallpaper of mountain landscape or a path disappearing into dark woods, in order to give it a feeling of depth. We've got some other ideas for home decorations here http://www.bimago.co.uk/paintings.html

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 10, 2014:

toptenhome, it is amazing what wall color (or the absence of color) will do for a room. Your example definitely proves it. Thanks so much for stopping by for a read. Have a great day! :)

Brandon Hart from Atlanta, Georgia, USA on January 09, 2014:

I used to have some neighbors that had white walls and ours were two toned. I lived in a town home and all of the places were the same size. When I went into their house I was so amazed by how much bigger their place looked. I was shocked. Painting your walls white will make your place look a lit bigger.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 10, 2012:

Thanks brandimae! Glad you enjoyed the Hub. Hopefully you can get your painting project started soon!

Brandi Gregory from Jacksonville, Florida on October 10, 2012:

This is great! Can't wait to paint someday! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 08, 2012:

Thanks, RedElf! Good luck to you in your new apartment. At least you have a big kitchen! I can definitely empathize. I moved from a larger square footage house to a small apartment. My furniture is darker in color as well. I simply pared down furnishings as much as possible, so they wouldn't overwhelm the space. Bad news is, I had to rent a storage unit to house all of the items that wouldn't fit! Like you, the apartment management had the good sense to paint all the rooms a lovely, light tan! :)

RedElf on October 08, 2012:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! This one is certainly a winner - so many great tips. I love your idea of furnishing smaller spaces in light neutrals. I have just moved into an apartment and am juggling dark colored furniture (can't afford to re-upholster), very tall bookcases (fortunately light wood) and a large oak desk (no place else for it) in an awkward and small living room. Fortunately, the landlady has good sense and the whole place is painted the same neutral cream. Nice big kitchen though - yay! Wish me luck.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 06, 2012:

Thanks, DeviousOne! Stay tuned for more decorating tips! :)

DeviousOne from Sydney, Australia on October 06, 2012:

Awesome hub!!! Great work. It's always good to freshen things up and these tips are useful. Hope to see more of them.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

Thanks DzyMsLizzy! Sounds like you are already using many of the tips from this Hub. Way to go! I have to agree, landlord white is the worst! But I have noticed that many rentals are trying to entice renters by including custom paint colors or accent walls -- quite a nice change from stark white! I appreciate the votes and your comment! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

ptosis, that is proof positive that changing the size of a room with paint doesn't have to be a massive project. Your whitewashing idea is an easy and inexpensive way to go! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

So happy you liked the tips from this Hub, glassyvisage! Accent walls are easy to do and create a lot of visual impact. They're a great spatial fix for homeowners and apartment dwellers alike!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

Paint with a metallic effect or sheen works especially well in a dining room. The soft glow from candles and the reflective quality of the ceiling paint makes the room and your guests look simply beautiful. Happy you stopped by for a read! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

prasonline, accent walls are a great way to add visual interest and change the perceived shape of a room. Have fun painting! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 05, 2012:

simplysmartmom, glad you enjoyed the Hub and found some inspiration along the way! Thanks for your feedback and the share! :)

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on October 04, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD!! Excellent points!

We have low ceilings in our 1950s home; so we painted the ceilings all a high-gloss ultra-pure white in the kitchen, for best light reflection, as well as making the room appear taller.

It is just an illusion, though--I can still reach the ceiling on tiptoe... ;-)

We did a pale yellow in the kitchen...and a bright yellow in the office...a place I definitely want to feel cheered up after paying bills! LOL

I've lived in enough rentals in my life that I can't stand just plain white everywhere..to me, it is just so...boring, blah, lifeless. I call it, "landlord white."

Voted up, interesting and useful.

ptosis from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Recently touched up white walls at the bottom of the walls where scuff marks and such. I call it whitewashing. Room look so much better - like new when moved in.

glassvisage from Northern California on October 04, 2012:

These are truly helpful tips. This Hub was really easy to read and follow, and I feel like I learned a lot! I love the idea of the accent wall. I just like how a room feels when there are lighters colors anyway!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on October 04, 2012:

I like the idea of painting the ceiling with a color that has sheen and the idea of adding glimmer with metallic paint is absolutely the best I have ever heard. Lots of great information here.

Prasanna Marlin from Sri lanka on October 04, 2012:

Very useful and interesting. Paint can really make rooms good look. I am goin to try the accent wall in my office room

simplysmartmom from North Carolina on October 04, 2012:

Love this hub and all the pictures!! I really need to try some new paint in my downstairs bathroom; your article has given me some really great ideas!

Sharing!!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

You are so welcome, LadyFiddler! Calming and relaxing is good. I hope you find just the right color to make your large room feel more intimate.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Cathy, thanks for your lovely comment! Painting an accent wall is a great way to start experimenting with color and how it impacts the size of a room. Good luck with your project!

Joanna Chandler from On Planet Earth on October 04, 2012:

i love the first picture in your hub , very soon i want to re-paint my room. I have a big room but the colour is blah lol so got to change it into something calms and relaxing.

Thanks for sharing

Ms. Immortal from NJ on October 04, 2012:

Love your ideas and the photos. I am goint to try the accent wall in my family room, thanks.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Thanks, ComfortB! I'm so glad you enjoyed the ideas from this Hub. Take care!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

jpcmc -- you don't need to be an artist to give these tips a try. Anyone can do it. Thanks for reading and commenting -- good luck with your future painting projects! :)

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 04, 2012:

Lots of great decorating tips you got here. Especially, the painting the furniture to match the room color, great idea!

Congrats on the HOTD award.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on October 04, 2012:

I'm not much of an artist but it's worth a try.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

RTalloni, thanks for reading! I really enjoyed writing this Hub. It is always fun to share designer tricks of the trade -- especially when they can make such a huge difference in a room!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Thanks Jaye!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

prasetio30, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I also appreciate your positive feedback and vote! :)

RTalloni on October 04, 2012:

Thanks for this look at using color paint color to change the look of the size of a room. You've put these tips together very nicely! Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for an interesting and helpful post!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on October 04, 2012:

Very good hub. Voted Up++

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 04, 2012:

I love interior design and I found something great here. Good presentation. I also enjoy the pictures and the video as well. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Prasetio

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

divacratus, I love that look as well. It makes a room look simply elegant and spacious! Thanks for your best wishes, read and thoughtful comment! Have a great day! :)

Kalpana Iyer from India on October 04, 2012:

Congrats on getting Hub of the day! I like the plain white room tip. I am a die hard fan of white painted rooms with less furniture. I saw it recently in a YouTube video where the person had painted ALL the rooms in her house plain white with white furniture, grey and multicolored throw pillows etc. Fell completely in love with it! It does add a lot of space. Thanks for the other tips as well. Very useful.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Claudia, I am flattered! Thank you very much for reading and commenting on my Hub. Greatly appreciated! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Sunshine, enjoy your next painting project! Sounds like you've got the painting tricks of the trade covered. Happy I was able to shed some light on a few additional tips. Take care! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

CrisSp, I enjoy experimenting with color too! Maybe this Hub will help people get over their fear of color -- I've found that is one of the major obstacles people encounter when decorating. Thanks for stopping by for a read!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Thank you so much, TToombso8! Thanks for the comment, vote and share! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

pstraubie48 -- you are so welcome! I love that a simple can of paint can visually change the perception of size of a room. It's almost like magic! I'm so glad you enjoyed these tips! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

TatooKitty -- yes it does. I agree wholeheartedly! Paint is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make a dramatic change in a room. Thanks for the read and comment!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Anne, hope these tips come in handy for future painting projects. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

Claudia Tello from Mexico on October 04, 2012:

I liked your Hub, very well presented, beautiful format, and great visual support. It certainly deserves to be Hub of the Day, congratulations!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 04, 2012:

I used some of these tips when I painted my house, which reminds me I need to paint again soon. Thanks for the additional tips! Congrats on the HOTD Linda! :)

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on October 04, 2012:

Awesome! I love playing with colors and I found good tips from this hub. I enjoyed reading this. Up and sharing!

And, congratulations for getting the HOTD!

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on October 04, 2012:

Congrats on the HOTD. Great tips. Voted up and shared.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 04, 2012:

Congratulations, first of all, on HOTD.

This is a wonderful trick...using paint to increase and decrease the size of a room. You have done such a thorough job of letting us know how to proceed. Thanks for sharing this with us.

TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 04, 2012:

Painting ROCKS!! Thanks for sharing all of the brilliant things paint can do to capture a room's personality. Great hub!

annerivendell from Dublin, Ireland on October 04, 2012:

What a great Hub, and congratulations on being Hub of the Day! These are tips I'm keeping.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 02, 2012:

QudsiaP1, thank you so much. You have left me blushing! :) So happy you enjoyed this Hub and that it provided some inspiration!

QudsiaP1 on September 02, 2012:

Lindacee this is an incredible hub! I am definitely saving this as a favourite and bookmarking it. The ideas are brilliant.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 01, 2012:

Watergeek, seems landlords are becoming more forgiving about a tenant painting the walls. I think the only caveat is the tenant must bring the walls back to their original color before moving out. It's nice to know, because so many of us are renting these days. If you can't paint, fabrics, in the way of curtains and upholstery, accomplishes the same thing. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 31, 2012:

So I went to visit some neighbors in their apartment for the first time and they'd painted a wall red! It looked really good, but I was shocked . . . and jealous. I didn't know apartment owners would let you paint such vivid colors on their walls. I've always brightened mine up with décor. Interesting hub, lindacee.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 28, 2012:

K, I am so pleased to have shared these suggestions with you! The ceiling idea is a fun one isn't it? Just remember, to don't have to take it all on at one time. Just change things as you have the time and find inspiration. Best to you! Thanks for the votes and comment. Take care!

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on August 28, 2012:

I love the ceiling idea - it looks so pretty. I have to stop being such a chicken when it comes to interior decorating. I love the ideas of de-cluttering and making things brighter. When I finally get the gumption to redecorate I will have your great advice! Voted interesting and up -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 27, 2012:

Dolores, color commitment is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people. When I had a curtain and window covering business, I spent hours trying to help clients overcome their color choice phobia.

Hope you find the perfect color/colors for your space! I'm pleased that I have given you pause for thought! Good to hear from you!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 27, 2012:

vibesites, couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 27, 2012:

I want to repaint my living room which is a big confused mess of color. And the faux paint job detracts from the pictures and décor. I also need a light color but am no fan of white. I am attracted to dark brown but that would make the room look like a cave. I am not here for advise, just to complain about my problem with committing to a color, haha.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your tips. You've given me something to think about.

vibesites from United States on August 27, 2012:

Oh, yes, this is true... the color of the room gives the illusion of space. If you live in a condominium or a small apartment, white is probably the best color. Very informative hub. :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Teaches, isn't it amazing what paint can do for a room? It is my favorite design tool! Thank you for the vote and compliments. Have a great Sunday!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Leah, best of luck with your fall painting projects! I love painting. It is kind of a hassle to get things prepped, but once you get started it is so much fun and the end result is very gratifying. Hope this Hub helps when it comes to choosing paint schemes for your rooms. Best, Linda

Dianna Mendez on August 26, 2012:

This hub validates my thinking when we switched our living room from brightest white to a neutral brown. It looks much more cozy and friendly. Great post and well done. Voted up.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 25, 2012:

Wow, lindacee - this hub is fantastic. I had no idea that adding dark paint to one wall would give the illusion of length. It totally makes sense, but I had never thought of it before! I have several painting projects on my list for this fall - I can't wait to get started!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 25, 2012:

Thanks for the compliments, ignugent17! Paint is really one of the best decorating tools ever! Quick and relatively easy way to transform a room. So happy you visited my Hub. Cheers!

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 25, 2012:

Wonderful writings. Paint can really make rooms look big and spacious.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 25, 2012:

Mhatter99, you will have to try one of these color tricks and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great weekend!

ignugent17 on August 25, 2012:

Very useful and interesting. Paint really can do so many things in making the room looks spacious. Liked your pictures too.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on August 24, 2012:

Though I've known and used shadows, I was not aware of colors. Thank you.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 24, 2012:

So nice to hear from you, Jackie! You are so welcome. Glad you liked these paint tips and tricks. The ceiling idea is one of my favorites as well. Super easy and definitely achieves the desired effect. Take care!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on August 24, 2012:

Looks like fun, I use to do all my own painting and it was fun. You have some great tips. I always loved ivory or bone color but your while is really beautiful and color curtains etc. would really bring it alive. Love the lower ceiling idea, may try that soon! Thank you.