Make Your Small Bedroom Look Bigger With Nothing But Paint

If you have a small bedroom, you've probably sought out furniture and storage ideas to maximize your space, but aside from demolishing a wall, there aren't many ways to actually make the space bigger. Similarly, even the most efficiently designed small spaces still look (and can subsequently feel) quite cramped. However, it's possible to trick the eye into making a room seem bigger with just some creative painting.

Traditional wisdom states that darker paint colors — particularly on the ceiling — make a room feel smaller while lighter colors make it seem larger, but the situation is actually more complicated than that. There are many different ways to apply and utilize paint to lengthen, shorten, widen, elongate, expand, and shrink the appearance of a room. In addition, there are even more elaborate optical illusions that can make a room look larger than it is by drawing the eye up and expanding the space in your mind.

Use your ceiling as another canvas

There are multiple ways to incorporate paint onto your ceiling as well as your walls to play with perspective and make your room look bigger or smaller. Light walls and a matching ceiling surrounding a dark accent wall shorten a room, whereas taking that accent color and carrying it up onto the ceiling enlarges the appearance of that same space. On the other hand, if you do the reverse and flip those dark colors to the side walls, you'll narrow the room, and painting all the walls and the ceiling the same color closes everything in tightly.

In addition, painting just the ceiling a darker color shortens a room, while only painting the walls dark and leaving the ceiling light expands a space. You can even enhance the paint effects by painting the trim and the moldings, so even if you don't paint the ceiling — or your ceiling is not an easily paintable surface — you can still utilize expanding techniques.

Elongate your back wall with stripes

A geometric pattern like a vertical stripe can draw focus and lead the gaze up the wall of a narrow room to make it seem taller and airier. You can even apply a striped pattern to a single wall if you want to get the effect without making the room feel cramped. To magnify the impact of this trick, use it in conjunction with a wall that's painted the same color as the ceiling.

To execute the look, paint your wall the desired color. Once dried, pencil a vertical center line and then measure your stripe widths out toward each corner. A laser level is recommended, but a traditional bubble level works, too. Use painter's tape to block off the edges of each stripe. The tape comes in several widths, from ¾ inch to 4 inches; so if, for example, you're painting 1-inch navy stripes against 2-inch seafoam stripes, use 2-inch-wide painter's tape to mark off lines spaced 1-inch apart. Run the tape all the way up and down the wall for each stripe to create an easy pull-tab. Use the wall paint again to paint over the tape, sealing it against any of the stripe color bleeding underneath, then paint the stripes. When your second coat is mostly dry, pull the tape off slowly and steadily, and allow the wall to dry the rest of the way. Finally, paint your ceiling to match your base wall color.