This Super Simple Painting Hack Makes a Small Room Feel Way Bigger

updated Jun 14, 2021
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Credit: Rikki Snyder

The Small/Cool Experience is a shoppable online home design showcase and social event full of decorating tips and tricks from your favorite designers. Check out the whole virtual experience online and at @apartmenttherapy on Instagram from June 11-13. Thank you to our sponsors BEHR® Paint, Genesis G70, LUMAS, Overstock, Tuft & Needle, Chasing Paper, and Interior Define for making this experience possible.

It can be overwhelming to pick a new paint color when you’re refreshing your space — and the task can seem even more daunting if your room is tiny. There are so many shades of white and gray paint on the market, and they all support the longstanding belief that painting a room white is the fastest way to make it feel bigger and brighter.

But according to interior designers Jaclyn Journey and Amanda Jacobs, who designed the “Moody Musings” room at Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool Experience, it’s time to challenge that notion with a vibrant color and an easy hack: Go big by painting everything in the room the same color.

“There’s an old wives’ tale that it makes a space feel smaller,” Jacobs said of painting a small room a darker color. “I really don’t feel that way. We’ve never taken it to heart.”

That is evident in the room they dreamed up for Small/Cool: a 10-foot by 12-foot space they covered in BEHR’s Cherry Cola, a rusty, statement-making red. Yet rather than painting the baseboards a contrasting shade, as interior designer Noz Nozawa did in “Classic Redux,” the team behind Journey + Jacobs Design Studio recommend painting the baseboards and ceilings, as well as any trim, the same color. If you have cords that are stapled to the wall, go ahead and paint them, too!

Credit: Rikki Snyder

The result is a cohesive look and a clean line that doesn’t overpower the space — and it’s also a trick that will save you money on paint cans, as you won’t need to stock up on multiple colors for one project. What’s more, by finding artwork from Minted that plays with the reds and browns of the paint without matching them exactly, as well as complementing the deep shade with couch cushions and a moody blush floor lamp from Frontgate, Journey and Jacobs leaned into the room’s red hue without fear.

They’re not the only design experts who love painting rooms darker colors. “Sometimes instinct tells you to paint a dark room white to make it look brighter. THAT INSTINCT IS WRONG!!!” HGTV star Orlando Soria recently wrote on Instagram. “Painting a dark, sexy space white makes it look dingy and depressing. LEAN IN and paint it a sultry, saturated color. This will give your space an intentionally romantic vibe.” 

Check out the video below to hear more from Journey and Jacobs — and then check out the rest of our Small/Cool Experience coverage here.