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How to make small spaces look bigger than they are

From the Resene decorating blog

There’s no need to resort to wand waving when attempting to make a small space look bigger, nor is there a need to push out walls to create a room with a bigger footprint.

Eye catching stripes in this bedroom

The stripes in Resene Thunder Road and Resene Quarter Spanish White make an eye-catching statement that visually expands the width of this child’s bedroom. The look is further set off by the grassy green drawers in Resene Away We Go. Anchoring the whole look and preventing it from becoming too overwhelming, is the floor in Resene Triple Duck Egg Blue – a great example of a neutral colour that allows other bolder shades to sing while still adding warmth and interest. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Bryce Carleton.

There are various tricks and tips you can take on board to accomplish this aim. Paint colour is certainly one of the easiest and most cost-effective solutions for expanding your space visually, making it appear to be larger than it really is.

However, it is important to recognise that light colours behave differently than dark colours, just as warm colours behave differently to cool colours. In the same vein, different colour choices will do different things for ceilings, walls and floors as all these factors can completely transform and open up a small space – almost like magic, but without the wand.

Generally speaking – and, yes, there are certainly exceptions – dark colours tend to make a room look smaller. This is because some dark colours visually advance, making the walls seem closer than they actually are. For the safest solution to make a small room appear bigger, try painting it a light paint colour that has cool undertones.

Resene Colour Expert Carolyn Atkinson recommends Resene Black White, Resene Quarter White Pointer, Resene Half Rice Cake and Resene Wan White as popular options, but encourages looking to colours beyond basic whites. Colours like blues or blue/greens are some of the best choices, she says – particularly paler to mid-toned varieties. These hues work especially well because of the way they recede from your vision, making spaces appear further away and therefore much bigger. Look to Resene Remember Me, Resene Slipstream, Resene Half Dusted Blue, Resene Breathless, Resene Breeze or Resene Eskimo for some of the most approachable options.

Adding stripes is another trick suggested by Mount Maunganui painter John Murphy. He recommends adding horizontal stripes on your walls to help visually expand your space.

“Pick one – maybe two walls – to give the striped look and they’ll look elongated. Use contrasting colours to create the illusion of depth”, he says.

Light colours versus dark colours

Light colours have higher Light Reflectance Values (LRV’s), which means they reflect more light than dark colours. Light colours, therefore, help small spaces feel more alive, bright and airy. Light colours visually ‘open up’ spaces that might otherwise feel cramped by helping to reflect artificial and natural light.

A light cool-toned blue lounge

Light cool-toned blues like Resene Duck Egg Blue, seen on the walls of this lounge, are a go-to colour for visually expanding a small space. The floor is painted Resene Quarter Duck Egg Blue, coffee table in Resene Unwind, bamboo pot stand in Resene Quarter Tea, pendant, mirror, bowl and vase in Resene Raindance and tea light holder in Resene Slipstream. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but some colour experts suggest that while cool and light colours are popular, a dark feature wall – even a black one – can actually make a space feel larger.

While the main purpose of a fresh coat of white or light paint in a small room may be to make the room appear larger, but the fact is that a dark colour can do the same thing – although in a different way. By absorbing the light, the walls of the room are less clearly marked and can give an illusion of more space. Help is at hand at Resene ColorShops if you need convincing!

Cool colours versus warm colours

Cool colours are receding colours and help a space look larger by visually pushing walls farther away.

Make a space seem larger with dark colours and a cool undertone

Vertical stripes provide visual height

Blue room: Though it may seem counter-intuitive, dark paint colours with a cool undertone such as Resene Bunting can actually make a space feel larger – especially when paired with light floors in Resene Sea Fog. The coat rack is painted Resene Hammerhead, the umbrella stand, pendant lamp, stool and bud vase are in Resene Jalapeno and the house-shaped wall shelves are in Resene Hammerhead, Resene Breathless, Resene Sea Fog and Resene Jalapeno. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.  Neutral room: If you have low ceilings, vertical stripes, such as the ones in Resene Wallpaper Collection 609837, can help to provide visual height to a space. Try it with trims in Resene Rice Cake and add accents, such as a plant pot, in Resene Porter and accessories in a spring green like Resene New Leaf.

So, 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.

Warm colours advance and cool colours recede, affecting the perception of depth. The science behind this is that the eye adjusts when focusing on colours of different wavelengths. Red light waves have a longer wavelength than blue ones, for example.

In the world of paint colours, the general idea is that warm colours are red, orange and yellow; and the cool colours are green, blue and magenta. However, it’s a smart idea to talk to a Resene Colour Expert as there are warm and cool greens, blues, red, yellows, earth colours, blacks and whites. The can show you options in any hue that can help you to visually expand your space.

Ceilings and trims

If all your walls/ceilings and trims are painted the same pale white or off-white neutral colour, there is nothing in the way of definite colour that arrests the eye. This strategy can make the space seem much bigger. But, opting to paint your ceiling a lighter colour than the rest of your space and suddenly it will seem like you have extra-high ceilings.

Look to Resene Black White, Resene Sea Fog or Resene Merino for the most popular off-whites.

Flesh out your floors

Painting the floors (along with your walls, trim, and details) in different shades from the same colour family – such as pale grey or light blue – will make your whole space look larger. With a monochromatic space, you can go as neutral or as out-there as you want. It’s committing to the look that seals it.

The rest of the room

Interior Designer Gael Garrett acknowledges paint is a key component but not the sole one. She offers up the following suggestions for making a small room like larger:

Resene Slipstream

Resene Remember Me

Resene Raindance

Resene Triple Duck Egg Blue

Resene New Leaf

Resene Thunder Road

Resene Away We Go

Resene Porter

September 23, 2019

Visit your local Resene ColorShop for more colour ideas and all the expert advice and products you need for a superb finish on all your decorating projects.

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