Paint tricks for small rooms – 7 designers and color curators discuss the benefits of a 'powerful palette'

Being imaginative with color, a specialist finish or decorative effect is the perfect way to give to visually expand a small room. Here's how designers get it right

Paint tricks for small rooms
(Image credit: Future)

Increasing the sense of space in rooms that are small in stature is a design issue everyone wants to solve, but if a full remodel or redesign isn't on your decorating agenda, you might want to consider an inexpensive and simple color change instead. 

Small room ideas may be limited in size but they can be big in style. We have curated our favorite ways to make a small room look bigger using color– with design-savvy paint tricks and paint ideas to help turn that awkward, tiny room into something handsome and functional, whatever its shape and proportions. 

Paint tricks for small rooms

In a small space, color choices are key. However, it is just not just about choosing the right colors, but also about how you use those colors to visually expand your room.

So whether you're working with a small living room, small kitchen, or a small bedroom in a family home, you can make the space work best for you.

Luxury comes in all shapes and sizes – here, H&G shows you how to use paint tricks for small rooms to make modest spaces feel chic and spacious.

1. Color drench a small room

Blue living room with painted built in storage and window frames

(Image credit: David Butler)

Color drenching is the process of choosing one color and painting it across multiple surfaces in one space. The result is unashamedly bold and thoroughly modern, though its appeal extends beyond its fearless aesthetic. 

When a single color is used on both walls and woodwork, a room suddenly feels bigger because having no contrast means that you are less aware of the confines of the space,' says Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). 'The eye does not stop to register a second color and glides straight out of the window to the view, blending the backyard and small room together.’ 

2. Take a bold approach in a narrow space 

Blue hallway with blue wallpaper and mirror wall

(Image credit: Studio Indigo)

Don’t be frightened of using the color on the entire wall, ceiling, or flooring; pale blue is a wonderful choice if you wish you make a small room look bigger.

However, despite a love of a powerful color palette, Mike Fisher, creative director and founder, of Studio Indigo (opens in new tab) suggests introducing more than one space-enhancing feature.

'Small spaces can be treated in a grand way – “be bold” is my advice,' says Mike. 'Large details can open up the space, such as using double doors but making them as tall as possible. A pair of facing mirrors helps create the illusion of more space and adds a bit of glamor. Painting the space a light color will not make it feel bigger. Use strong colors to make a statement and give personality. 

'Lastly, we are great fans of polished plaster in an entrance – it’s practical, tough, and has a wonderful reflective quality that makes the space shimmer.’ 

3. Go for color contrast

Colorful kitchen with blue and orange painted cabinetry

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Paint tricks for small rooms aren't just about increasing the sense of space; sometimes it pays to take a flexible approach that suits your mood. 

‘A tiny kitchen usually has lots of colorful elements in it,' says Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder, of Edward Bulmer Natural Paint (opens in new tab). 'I would go with quite neutral colors for the walls and some bright colors on the cupboards. 

'Try mixing it up with contrasting colors: as long as they work tonally you cannot go wrong. You can play it safe with colors that sit alongside one another on the color wheel, or for striking impact, go for those on opposite sides i.e. greens to complement reds, blues to complement oranges, and purples to complement yellows.’ 

4. Paint the ceiling the same color as the wall 

Blue bedroom with padded headboard and fitted wardrobe painted blue

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

Because cool tones aren’t overpowering – in fact, decorating with blue will often make a room feel like it is receding – blue can make a bijou room appear to have more space, which can make them a great choice also for guest rooms, bathrooms, and narrow hallways

‘For me, rule one in a tiny bedroom is to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls,' says Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). 'Who wants to lie in bed looking at a white ceiling? It’s much better to create a space that feels as if it’s cocooning you, and of course, this will make even the tiniest space feel bigger because you can’t tell where the walls end and the ceiling begins. Cupboards should also be painted the same color as the walls, to avoid them being too prominent.’ 

5. Use colors on the opposite end of the color wheel

Small kitchen with yellow walls and blue paint u-shaped cabinets

(Image credit: Little Greene)

‘As well as the walls, consider your kitchen cabinets and storage: highlighting these essential elements within a kitchen is a fantastic way to deliver design impact,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene (opens in new tab). 'Are there architectural features or areas of interest to draw attention to? Color is a fantastic way to highlight a favorite feature. If you don’t want to use a bold color all over, highlight the back of your shelving in a contrasting color or opt for a dynamic two-tone kitchen color scheme by adding one color to the lower cabinets and contrasting colors for walls and upper cabinets.’ 

6. Go for an earth-toned color to create depth 

Small room idea with dark color palette

(Image credit: Martin Morrell)

‘We would usually lean towards quieter palette combinations, but darker shades can work really well within smaller spaces,' says James Thurstan Waterworth, founder, of Thurstan (opens in new tab). 'They create a perception of depth and lend a cozy, cocoon-like feel – welcome in every bedroom. For the walls, we suggest a deep midnight blue or a petrol green, then lift this by layering careful accents of color, perhaps a burnt orange or a similar earth-toned hue – ochre, terracotta, or a softer peach.’ 

7. Double up to make a room look bigger

Bedroom with two-tone pink painted wall and ceiling

(Image credit: Paint & Paper Library)

If you’re looking to experiment with bedroom paint, the choice of color is as important as the finished effect. Among Irene Gunter’s (opens in new tab) current favorites are blush shades, to create an incredibly soothing atmosphere. Irene heads her own design practice and for bedrooms, she recommends these warm, cozy colors that don’t distract or stimulate the mind. 

‘In the main bedroom of this Notting Hill home, we used Paint & Paper Library’s Rouge II on the bottom part of the wall, and the same color with 50 percent white mixed in to create a lighter shade for the top. This painting technique not only adds interest but also blurs the edges of the room, making the ceiling look higher and the room look bigger.'

Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.