7 Paint Tricks that Make Small Spaces Look Larger, According to Designers

updated Jan 21, 2020
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A little bit of paint can make all the difference in a small space. Whether you’re working with a cramped powder room or a tiny kitchen, the right intensity, finish, and placement of a color can really downplay a small footprint or low ceiling while still adding atmosphere. And guess what? White paint isn’t the only answer. To prove this point, we asked a few of our favorite designers how to use paint to enhance even the smallest of rooms. From embracing the dark side to trying out chalkboard paint, here’s what they had to say.

Create Continuity for Awkward Surfaces

“When you’re faced with awkward angles, sloping ceilings, or ill-placed soffits, treat everything below the highest point of the room as a wall surface and paint them as such,” says Kevin Isbell of Kevin Isbell Interiors. In other words: Do not paint the underside of a soffit or a sloping wall surface the same color as the ceiling, because it will draw the eye down and make the room feel smaller and the ceilings lower.  

Try a Bold Jewel Tone 

Contrary to popular belief, white paint isn’t the only finish that works well in small spaces. “Using a deep, jewel-toned color is a great way to embrace the coziness of a small room and can even make it feel bigger,” says Dolores Suarez of Dekar Design. “We also think incorporating a fun tile with the paint color can do a lot to pull any space together.” 

Make a Mural

As if you needed more convincing to paint a fun mural all over your walls—but turns out a decorative treatment can fool the eye when it comes to room size. “Increase the depth of a small living room by painting a mural on one of the walls,” says Sara Barney of BANDD Design. “This allows for more color and visual interest in a space, which will instantly make it feel bigger.”

Credit: Julie Soefer

Paint Everything

 “Don’t be afraid to paint the entire room—ceiling, walls, molding and baseboards—the same hue to create more depth in a small space,” says Marie Flanigan of Marie Flanigan Interiors. “The walls will appear to recede, enlarging the space, and flaws will fade away.”

Credit: Julia Lynn

Go Somewhat Darker to Fake Light 

“If you have a room that is suffering from a lack of natural light, you can paint the transition spaces leading into that room in a darker color,” Isbell says. “The act of walking through a darker color will make the adjacent room appear lighter by contrast.” Isbell actually learned this trick from Frank Lloyd Wright, who would lower ceilings in vestibules to make the next room feel brighter and more voluminous when entering. Genius!

Apply Chalkboard Paint

Who says you have to use regular interior paint? “For a small galley kitchen, paint a wall with black chalkboard paint,” says Mara Miller of Carrier and Company. “The dark walls create an expansive look. Plus, chalkboard paint is helpful for note-taking.” 

Credit: Molly Culver

Deep Thinking

“I think the best way to make a small room look larger is to paint every inch of it a dark color,” says Mary Patton of Mary Patton Design. “Dark colors can trick the eye into making a space seem larger. Just add light accessories to balance out the space.”