How to make your room look bigger with colour

Looking for decorating ideas to make your compact rooms look larger? We’ve asked interior designers and industry experts for their top tips on using colour to make your space appear bigger.

Say goodbye to crisp white walls – it’s time to embrace colour, even if you’re stuck for space. You can make your room seem more spacious with help from soft pastels and even more daring shades, such as rich red or ocean blue.

To help you add a dash of colour to your kitchen, bedroom or bathroom while creating the illusion of space, interior designers and industry experts share their best tips and ideas. Let’s begin…

Let’s start with the kitchen

From light blues and soft greens to muted yellows, earthy shades are ideal for opening up your scheme.

Amy Stoddart, interior designer and founder at Amy Rebecca Interiors, says that when looking to make your space look bigger, light wall shades are the clever choice. “They help to bounce light from any windows you have around the room,” she says.

For a pared-back scheme with a modern-rustic feel, choose pastel tones for your walls and ceiling paint. Go for light-coloured flooring and decorate with tactile materials, such as faux fur and grainy wood, to complete the look.

Neutral bedroom paint ideas with Aga range cooker
Go for warm tones for a relaxing scheme. Peignoir, £54.50 for 2.5 litres of estate emulsion, Farrow & Ball.
Neutral Shaker-style kitchen with patterned flooring and open shelving
Into cool tones? Opt for soft grey shades for your cabinetry and add interest with flooring featuring geometric patterns. Suffolk kitchen painted in Fog, Neptune.

However, if you are colour confident, there are clever ways to make your favourite bold hues work in any space – no matter its size. Pick a vibrant shade for the wall paint, but don’t forget about the decorative features, such as the skirting board, to make them seamlessly blend in.

“No interruptions for skirting boards, architraves or doors, means the room is a continuous space, which seems much more expansive,” says Cathy Dean, founder and chief executive officer at Studio Dean.

Cathy also recommends choosing your cabinetry in the same colour as the walls. “The illusion that the cabinetry is all part of the walls makes them disappear and the room seems larger,” she says.

But why not go one step further and paint your ceiling in the same deep shade for a cocooning feeling?

Blue kitchen cabinets with white ceiling and patterned tiles on the floor
Project by Studio Dean.

Bedroom paint ideas

The type of emulsion you choose plays an important role in the way your bedroom paint colours look. Amy advises thinking about the sheen level of the paint. In a compact room, it’s best to avoid the glossy finish and instead, opt for a matt emulsion.

“For example, an estate emulsion from brands such as Farrow & Ball has a 2% sheen level. This means it has a very chalky and matt finish, which leaves walls with minimal imperfections. This, in turn, scatters light around the room and maximises the depth of your chosen colour,” she says.

Sage green bedroom paint ideas with neutral bed, checked linen and wooden bedside table
Bedroom paint ideas: Seagull and Nellie, £54 for 2.5 litres each, Earthborn.

Now, let’s talk colour palettes. Nature-inspired shades are a great choice when decorating your sleep space as they ooze a tranquil feeling. This means they are perfect for creating a soothing bedroom scheme.

Rex Isap, chief executive officer at Happy Beds, recommends opting for earthy colours, such as sage green. Why? Well their undertone allows natural light to bounce around the room, thus making it appear bigger.

“Due to the mossy green undertones, the colour can also feel like an extension of your window by bringing the outdoors in – especially when it’s paired with other greens throughout the room,” says Rex.

Neutral bedroom paint ideas with upholstered bed and metallic side table
Bedroom paint ideas: Achieve two-tone walls with help from Soft-Fern 2144 40 and Blue Danube 2062 30. The door is painted in Decorator’s White OC 149, with a touch of Coral Gables 2010 40, all from Benjamin Moore.
Neutral bedroom paint ideas with green shades, house plants and wooden flooring
Bedroom paint ideas: Dulux Colour of the Year 2023 Wild Wonder – Lush palette.

But if you are more of a maximalist, fear not – muted colours are not the only option. Emma Bestley, co-founder and creative director at YesColours, explains that black creates an immersive feeling and has a grounding effect, which aids sleep.

Don’t shy away from this colour, it can make the smallest of rooms feel bigger when used across the whole space.

Emma Bestley, co-founder and creative director at YesColours

“To soften the space, use warm metallic accessories and natural textiles,” she says.

Dark bedroom with dark wall paint and parquet flooring
Millie high bedstead, from £865, Arighi Bianchi.

Or you can also use a more saturated colour to create the feeling of space. Emma recommends choosing a darker shade on the bedroom walls, then opting for a paler tone on the ceiling to give the illusion of height.

Dark blue room with wooden chest of drawers, parquet flooring and decor
Loving Green and Loving Neutral paint, £21 for 1 litre of emulsion each, Yescolours.

Another good idea is to mix and match rich bedroom paint colours to achieve a mood-boosting scheme. Paula Taylor, interior expert at Graham & Brown, explains that contrasting shades can actually help you cleverly zone your room.

Split the wall up with contrasting paint colours, such as a deep blue and vibrant yellow, to create the illusion of separate spaces, without the need to use furniture.

Paula Taylor, interior expert at Graham & Brown

But remember to also have fun when choosing your furnishings – decorate your bedroom with plenty of colourful cushions, vibrant accessories, and modern storage solutions.

So, do you dare to go bold with colour in your bedroom?

Bedroom paint ideas with orange and navy shades, open shelving and a variety of cushions on the floor
Colour blocking: Burnt Saffron (muted mustard) and Majestic (navy blue), from £46 for 2.5 litres each, Graham & Brown.

What about the bathroom?

I like to think about small bathrooms and cloakrooms as blank canvases. You can really go all-out and make a statement. Paint, tiles, furniture, and sanitaryware are great tools for injecting colour into your space.

Annie Sloan, colour and paint expert, suggests that blue is the best colour for making a compact room feel bigger. “It’s recessive, which means it draws the eye outwards, blurs horizon lines and gives a sense of never-ending space,” she says.

“It’s a calming, meditative colour which encourages us to breath-in-and-out, creating a psychological and spiritual sense of space as well as the physical illusion.

Annie Sloan, colour and paint expert
Ombre walls with blue painted bath and house plants
Wall paint in Aubusson Blue, and bath in Provence, £26.95 for 1 litre of Chalk Paint each, Annie Sloan.

In colour psychology, blue tones promote relaxation, making them perfect for bathrooms. You can achieve a sanctuary-like space by painting your walls in a mix of ocean hues – which are very popular at the moment – and thus, also enhancing the visual experience.

Decorating with an ombré effect is a great way to make your rooms appear taller through the use of colour.

James Mellan-Matulewicz, chief executive officer and creative designer at Bobbi Beck

Into dark schemes? We’ve got great news – you can still achieve a moody design even if you’re working with a crammed space.

Naomi Astley Clarke, British celebrity interior designer, loves painting small rooms in deep shades – especially the textured walls, such as wall panelling, to add plenty of depth. What’s more, she also recommends painting the ceiling in the same dark colour as the walls to make your compact room feel larger.

Pair these inky hues with brassware in metallic colours, marble surfaces, and luxurious bathroom solutions for a glamorous aesthetic.

Black bathroom with marble countertops, brass radiator and brass mixer
Sloane Square Pied-A-Terre project by Naomi Astley Clarke. Photography: Paul Massey.

Trend alert: Colour drenching

Ever heard of colour drenching? Ellen McEvoy, head of marketing and digital at paint brand Colourtrend, says it is one of the key trends for 2023. But what is it exactly, I hear you ask?

“It involves using the same colour in different forms throughout your space. This can include your walls, ceiling, woodwork, and furnishings all being the same shade,” says Ellen. “As well as creating maximum impact, this is an easy way to make a room look more spacious.”

To nail this look, she recommends painting a room in a deep, moody shade. Then, match your tiles, flooring and even the interior of your door to the same hue for a cohesive design. This trick will help you create the illusion of depth, while also making a statement.

Red bathroom design with wall-mounted basin, brass mirror and metro tiles
Prince of Wales Drive project by Naomi Astley Clarke, Photography: Jonathan Bond.

In conclusion, there are plenty of clever ways to make your smaller rooms look bigger using colour – be it through pretty paint or fun furnishings.

Planning a project? Check out these interior design secrets from women in the industry

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