“Cocooning” Is the New Design Trend That Makes Small Spaces Look Surprisingly Bigger

published Jun 12, 2024
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Quilt mounted above brown leather sofa in blue-green painted living room with globe pendant light and colorful rug on floor.
Credit: Layne Dixon

If you’re ready to branch out from accent walls, one paint trend that’s recently been making a splash is color drenching. This concept refers to painting every inch of a room the exact same color, down to the ceiling, trim, doors, and woodwork. Not only does this allow you to go all in on a favorite hue, but it can also make floating shelves, bookcases, or cabinets look more like custom built-ins. 

Now, though, there’s a newer, even cozier spin on this monochromatic style: “cocooning.” While color drenching primarily alludes to a room’s paint application, I’m seeing cocooning taking this one step further with matching-toned bedding, pillows, window treatments, lighting, and more. 

Credit: Megan McKean

This might sound like color overload, but hear me out. Implementing the same palette throughout an entire bedroom, living room, nursery, or bathroom can almost give off the effect of an all-over neutral — especially if you choose a tranquil, nature-inspired shade. Plus, once you’ve landed on a base hue, it’s relatively easy to curate with similar decor since you’re mainly seeking out furnishings and accessories in one specific color.   

According to New York-based interior designer Jonathan Rosen, this style also creates a strikingly soothing result. “When you’re enveloped in just one tone, your eye isn’t darting around the room looking at multiple colors and patterns; it has an opportunity to relax,” he says. “This technique will work in any type of room but tends to be more effective in a smaller space. So much of one color has a very enveloping feeling and does create a ‘cocooning’ effect.”

A prime example of this trend I’ve been seeing all over social media is a 2019 Brooklyn project by Charlap Hyman & Herrero, pictured below. Here, the design firm “cocooned” a small bedroom in the same shades of blue by coordinating the paint, rug, curtains, bedding, lighting, and even storage bed. The use of different textures throughout the space, like velvet and silk, creates a layered, eye-catching feel, even though the room is largely monochromatic. 

TikTok user Jasmine Dowling (@jasmine_dowling) recently re-created this exact design in her own 1970s-era home, on a reading nook with a built-in bed — proof that cocooning doesn’t have to dominate a full room. After sampling various blue paint colors, Dowling coated the walls, ceiling, shelving, and bed frame with a pretty gray-toned shade. She topped things off with a blue duvet but also retained a few white accents for contrast, like striped pillows, a wall-mounted lamp, and window shades. 

When it comes to picking your cocoon base color, Rosen suggests first thinking about the mood you want to convey. “If you’re looking for a more Zen-like feeling, softer and more pastel-y tones will be your best friends,” he says. “Pale pinks, aquas, grays, [and] blues will all get the job done. If you want drama, paint it all espresso brown (walls and ceiling) or black like I did in a client’s library.”

Depending on the square footage of your space, a moodier monochromatic hue may actually be the way to go. “Contrary to popular belief, a dark color on walls and ceiling actually helps to make a small room [feel] larger,” Rosen explains. “The dark color helps to ‘erase’ the outlines of the rooms, and thereby creates the illusion of a larger space. Counterintuitive, I know, but true.”

Your accessories don’t all have to be a perfect color match, either — have fun playing around with different variations of the same foundational tone for a less matchy-matchy take on the cocooning trend. Author, illustrator, and designer Megan McKean even color drenched two connecting rooms in her Sweden apartment. For her own take on the trend, she actually applied the paint shade from one space to a few furniture and decor pieces in the other (and vice versa) so that both areas flow nicely into each other. Just be mindful “about what you choose to showcase that’s outside of that palette (i.e., art, objects, and other accents), as you will definitely notice those things even more,” Rosen adds.