How Choosing A Simple Color Scheme Can Help Your Space Feel Bigger

Maybe it's the New Year. Maybe it's the winter weather. Or perhaps it's just time for a change. But, right about now, a lot of people become interested in changing up the look of their interiors. No matter what the timetable or the budget may be, one of the most effective, inexpensive ways to update a living space is with paint. Even better, a new paint job not only will enhance and freshen the look of any room, but with the right colors, you can also trick your brain into thinking it looks bigger.

The elements of using a palette to make a room appear larger depend on natural and artificial light, the color and complementary shades, the intensity of the hue, and the finish of the paint. Color is easily the most exciting and biggest decision to make — and we have a helpful list describing which colors make your room look bigger. Explore Wall Décor also has some great colors that are recommended for visually gaining space inside.

Tone on tone

One of the hottest looks for interiors right now, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, is tone on tone. All this means is that choosing a base color you love and using it in different shades, intensities, and textures. Designers caution that this look works best by using neutrals, such as off-white, beige, or gray, rather than bold colors, like red or yellow.

For instance, if you start with gray as a base, paint samples show everything from a dark slate to an airy near-white. The idea is to mix and match these tones and textures, so the walls are the lightest shade of gray, while the floor has a nubby charcoal area rug. Or, choose a medium gray for an accent wall and use silver-toned frames next to a light linen curtain. A monochromatic palette has a calming effect and makes a room look bigger.

Variations on a theme

Carpet One offers several ideas on how best to achieve a monochromatic look. The base color can help you explore coordinating elements, such as wallpaper, tile, and fabric in curtains or carpets. And if gray doesn't offer enough inspiration, consider a palette of cool blues or greens, or warmer tones like gold and terra cotta. Your finish matters on all these items as well, so be sure to mix and match walls or furniture that have a matte or flat finish with items that have a burnished glow. Or, place a shaggy throw on a chair with high gloss paint. These textures and finishes will keep a room interesting, even though most items have the same color value.

For a truly cohesive look, according to CertaPro Painters, if an adjoining area is easily visible from the main room, continue that visual into the smaller spaces by extending the colors into these rooms. If the dining room is next to the living room, a slightly darker paint or even patterned wallpaper in the same tones will maintain the visual unity. When your eyes sweep the room and those beyond, it registers one basic color without a break, making the area seem more spacious.

A big deal over tiny spaces

We have mentioned rooms several times, but almost every living space has the odd dormer, alcove, or other small space that just seems cramped. Paint can help here as well. Benjamin Moore has several suggestions about making the most of dark corners, such as using noticeably light paint around a recessed window or in a windowless bath or laundry room. Pastels, like light pink or yellow, bring some life into the area, and a bolder accent color for shelves brings in some energy as well. A bright room feels bigger than a dim one.

To infuse light into a smaller space, use paint with a high-gloss finish. Often, walls are painted with flat, matte, or semi-gloss paint, finishes which throw off none, some, and a little bit of light, respectively. But for a small area, like a tiny half-bath, Ecos Paints says to apply a high-gloss finish on the walls, which provides a mirror effect. This brings a dramatic and dazzling elegance to a small room and enhances the perception of its size.

More possibilities

Painting interior doors and trim the same color as your walls is another way to make rooms look bigger. Sherwin Williams has tips on achieving this aesthetic, which is a good way to handle a transition between rooms, color-wise. If the main room's base is gray, leveraging a blue-gray design for a door leading to the next room with a base color of blue works on so many levels. You can also use the same colored paint but in different finishes; matte for the wall and semi-gloss for the doors and trim to create a welcoming and spacious entrance.

Before some well-meaning friend calls all of this out as too matchy-matchy, remember — it's your house, your rules. Recently, we asked people which color they would never paint their walls, and the answers probably won't surprise you. But going back to our list of fantastic colors to use in a tone-on-tone palette, some of these shunned colors show up as intriguing possibilities for walls, floors, and more. When decorating, do what you love, although some of this may take a bit of experimenting.

Finally, furniture

One more way to make a space look larger is to match the walls to the biggest pieces of furniture. This approach takes a bit of balance. Indeed, a black leather sofa against a black matte wall could look cool, but an all-black room filled with black furniture? Well, most would find that a little creepy. However, an off-white couch with brown undertones up against a light nutmeg wall, surrounded by wood-toned furniture and cinnamon or light brown pillows, might work as a family refuge, especially if there's plenty of natural light in the room.

Bringing together colors in the same family is a design trend that's gaining traction. The British paint company Farrow & Ball has some good advice for making furniture "disappear," thereby making the interior seem larger. Lantern Lane Designs also has some tips for matching tones for walls and furniture. And the blog Our Fifth House offers creative ways to paint furniture to match the walls and vice versa. With strong tones or muted hues, you can use paint to enlarge any room.