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Four Clever Ways to Use Paint to Make Any Small Space Look Bigger

Getting savvy with colors can help you open up tiny rooms.

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Maybe some days you see your small space as "cozy" or "intimate"—other days, however, you wish it was simply bigger. Either way, if you've found yourself dreaming of a wide open room but aren't quite ready to break down any walls, we've got an alternative: paint them. Sure, you could do some serious DIY renovating to expand a small space, but who doesn't love a quicker, more affordable, and stylish solution? By choosing certain shades over others, you can instantly create the illusion of a larger room, higher ceilings, and even more natural light. To that end, we asked the experts for their best tips on how to use paint to transform any small space into a design dream come true.

 

RELATED: Our Complete Guide to Painting Your Ceilings

 

Choose the Right Ceiling Color

When it comes to tricking the eye into seeing a room as bigger than it really is, Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball says, "Choose a ceiling color that is in the same range of hues to the color of the walls. This way, you are less aware of where the walls end and the ceiling begins." Another trick? Use the same color to paint your woodwork (like cabinets, trims, and crown molding) as you used on the walls—this can make your walls appear taller. If you're feeling especially crafty, Nivara Xaykao, a color specialist at Benjamin Moore, suggests a coloring technique that, though challenging, can help heighten a room with a rather low ceiling. "Try extending the color of your wall up a few inches onto the ceiling to create the illusion of a taller tray ceiling," says Xaykao. "Then, paint the remaining inside of the ceiling white." 

 

Contrast Your Colors

While some basic color rules apply in optimizing small spaces (like avoiding light paints in light-starved rooms), that doesn't mean you can't play around with fun palettes. In fact, Xaykao says that a combination of neutral yet high-contrasting colors can easily help expand a narrow room. "Think of the way black-and-white stripes can accentuate different parts of a body," she explains. "To create the illusion of a wider space, you can also combine high-contrast colors like black and white. A favorite combination of ours is Chantilly Lace OC-65 with Flint AF-560."

 

Don't Fear Dark

If your small space doesn't get much natural light, you might think opting for a lighter color may be your best bet—however, Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr, says that darker colors push the boundaries of the wall out and actually create a more spacious feel. You can go for that bolder hue if you're craving a pop of color, but just remember to test-run how it looks under your light (you can do this by springing for a few sample sizes of your favorite paints and painting a small swatch on your wall). "In small spaces, it's likely you're reliant on artificial lighting so it's especially important to see how the lighting impacts the colors and reflections," says Woelfel. "Darker shades like Behr's Battleship Gray and Graphic Charcoal can actually open up a space as long as it's paired with clean white trim." 

 

If you have a decent amount of natural light and would like to find a way to maximize those rays in your room, Cosby recommends considering colors with warmer tones, like Farrow & Ball's Joa's White or Brinjal. "To create as much light as possible, look at colors like Pale Powder or Teresa's Green which will really come alive in sunlight," she says. 

 

Showcase with Sheen

Choosing the right finish to your paint color is another simple way to trick the eye into seeing a larger room. To optimize a room's little natural light, Xaykao says, "Deploy a higher gloss on surfaces that will catch the light and scatter it throughout the room." If you're trying to open up a tiny bathroom or kitchen, choosing a high-gloss sheen will also be your best choice as it's one of the more moisture-resistant sheens and can also withstand scrubbing should spills and splatters arise.