White paint in a paint roller pan, photo courtesy of FLeosynsapse
This article was updated on 07/13/20.
Creating a room that appears spacious and bright requires some simple decorating strategies. Painting the room is the easiest way to quickly create illusions that appear to enlarge the space without actually changing the rooms dimensions. Paint freshens up the walls and helps a homeowner create a beautiful, bright room that appears taller and bigger than it actually is.
Flat sheen white ceilings have long been the hallmark of home ceilings and for good reason. White ceilings make any room appear bigger by making the brighter walls seem taller. A professional trick for elongating the walls is to paint a border of the wall color along the edge of the ceiling.
Some decorators use only a six-inch border, while others opt for a ten to 12-inch color border along the ceiling. To create this effect, measure from the seam where the top of the wall meets the ceiling, marking a light line six inches in along the ceiling. Continue measuring around the room and then fill in the space with the wall color. Or, attach an inexpensive laser level in a corner (set for distance, not necessarily for level), and let the beam be the cut-in guide. This technique draws the eye up and makes the walls appear to be much taller than they actually are.
Light and Bright
The easiest way to create an illusion of a larger room is to paint the walls light colors. Whites, tans, creams and beiges are the hallmark colors for making rooms appear lighter and brighter. These colors reflect light and make the room appear bigger. If super-pale is not the look desired for the room, consider a soft grey or blue. The trick with using those colors is to accent them with baseboards and crown molding painted white.
The white pops while the walls seem to shrink back slightly. This enlarges the look of the room by creating an optical illusion. Also keep in mind that warm colors or those with red undertones draw a space in and make it appear smaller, while cool colors with blue undertones seem to push the walls out and make the space appear larger.
Low Contrast Walls & Trim
The secret to making rooms appear larger is to minimize the contrast in the room and keep the walls light. Instead of painting the walls a cool cream color and the molding a dark brown, choose to paint the molding white. This minimizes the color contrast and keeps there from being a clear separation of wall, trim and ceiling or floor.
The colors flow smoothly into one another, blending to create a light, airy look. Wainscoting or a chair rail can be added to the wall if desired, but again, it should be in a light, complimentary color or painted to match the trim.
Using paint illusions that enlarge a room is actually rather simple. Paint is the most inexpensive way to quickly alter the look of an entire room. If you are having trouble deciding on a color, purchase paint sample tubes that allow you to paint swatches of color on the wall before committing to painting the entire wall. Stick with light, airy colors with cool undertones to create a room that instantly looks bigger.
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