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Home Interior Paint - Select Room Wall Colors to Impact Room Size

Feb 14, 2017
In general, lighter and pale colors tend to make a room look larger and darker colors make it look smaller.

Dear James: We are downsizing to a new house. We are trying to determine the best colors to paint the rooms to make it look more spacious. What do you recommend for various rooms? -- Renee K.

Dear Renee: The particular colors you select will impact the sense of spaciousness and overall feeling in a room. In addition to the basic color, you should also consider using combinations of colors and tints to create the decor you desire. Your paint store should have a color wheel to show which colors complement and contrast with each other.

In general, lighter and pale colors tend to make a room look larger and darker colors make it look smaller. Frank Lloyd Wright used this color variation concept in many of his homes (particularly Falling Water) to make a light-colored room appear larger when entering it through a dark, smaller hallway.

Think about how and when your room is used when selecting a color. If the room has few windows or will be used predominantly at night so artificial (incandescent) lighting will be needed, pinks and reds looker deeper and richer. Blue and green colors may look washed out.

In rooms used with artificial lights, warm colors, such as reds and yellows, are called advancing colors because they will give a sense of the walls being drawn toward you. This also creates a comfortable, cozy feeling. These colors would work well in east-facing rooms, basements or rooms heavily shaded by trees.

In bright sunny rooms, selecting cool colors, such as blues and greens, can create a feeling of openness. These are often called receding colors because they seem to draw the walls away from you. Because they are similar to the colors in nature, they also feel airy and relaxing.

Earthtone colors, such as light browns and beiges, are typically neutral on the sense of a room's size. They call for less attention and allow people to focus on the contents of the room instead of the room itself. These colors are often a good fit with colorful furniture which you may want to accentuate.

Using combinations of bold contrasting colors in a room can create a dramatic appearance and feel. When done improperly, it also looks terrible and jumbled. If you are not sure about how several different colors would look, try using various shades of the same basic color. This will not look as dramatic, but it certainly is a lot safer.

High ceilings are popular in today's homes. These can be painted any pale color. If you want to create a cozy feeling in a room with a high ceiling, paint it with an advancing color to make the ceiling feel closer. You can continue to ceiling color down to a molding to give it the impression of being even lower. If the ceilings in your home are low, paint them bright white instead.

For long narrow hallways, as you may find in a ranch-type home, paint the end of the hall a darker or advancing warm color. Paint the side walls with a pale receding color and the ceiling with bright white to make it seem bigger. If you have a long narrow rectangular room, use the same hallway painting scheme to give a more square feel.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit


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