Small bright bedroom with curtains to ceiling

Small can be cozy, but sometimes, having more room—be it real or perceived—is essential. Whether you live in an apartment or condo, or a small house or bungalow, you don’t have to feel like you’re enclosed in a smaller space. You can make any room in your home look bigger by creating the illusion of a larger space using color. You just need the right paint and color scheme. Keep reading to find out how.

Use Color to Your Advantage

Paint color is probably the most important factor in giving small spaces a larger appearance, so use it to your advantage. But how do you know which colors will bring you the results you want? Decorators know how color can change a room. Colors can make us feel calm or energized, happy or sad, edgy or relaxed. They can affect the mood of a room as well, making it seem open and airy or small and cozy.

Do what decorators do—choose a word to describe your favorite style, like "seaside", "sunny" or "peaceful," and come up with colors to match.

Visit the paint department of your local store to find Idea Cards with the latest colors and palettes. Experiment with different color combinations—even ones you've never considered—by sticking them on different walls to see how they look at different times of the day.

Warm colors, like red, orange and yellow advance (come forward) so walls feel closer and rooms feel smaller. Darker colors also have this effect. A better choice is to use cool colors, like pastels, whites and neutrals, lighter blues and greens. These colors give the impression of receding or moving away, making rooms seem larger and more open. However, if you have your heart set on a yellow (warm colored) room, select a washed-out, lighter tint. Light and brightly colored walls are more reflective, making a space seem more open, which helps maximize the effect created by natural light. See Step 2.

If you want to use several colors in your room, it will appear larger if you choose hues of the same saturation (intensity), no matter if they're pale or bright. To determine similar intensity, look for colors similarly positioned on their individual color swatch strips. This creates the illusion of space because similar levels of saturation seem to flatten out, with no distracting focal points to spoil the effect.

Another effective space-creating choice is a monochromatic color scheme, which uses different tints and shades of one color family, like light, medium and dark blue. To heighten the effect, paint trim and doors to match the walls and add matching tone-on-tone fabrics and textures to your furnishings.

Small, square rooms look larger if you paint two opposite walls the same color, especially one that's deep and dark. This is because the intensity of color will create depth in the room and visually open up its dimensions.

Helpful Tip

A white ceiling creates the impression of a higher ceiling.

Let Light In

Small apartment office with organized shelves

Use light to enlarge your space. Every room will look larger if it's brightly lit, even if it’s artificial light. Using light with the right paint colors adds to the illusion of a bigger room. Natural light opens up a space. During the day, keep curtains and blinds open to let light in, especially if you have large windows.

Small studio apartment with rope partition to let light in

If you don’t have a lot of natural light, try some creative lighting effects. Lamps can add specific color effects and focus attention on particular walls, corners or accents in the room. Recessed spot lighting is ideal for a small space. Torch lamps and wall sconces are great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and walls and back into the room.

Avoid Clutter

Small, uncluttered kitchen with tidy stools

Cut back on extra furniture, accessories and anything else that unnecessarily takes up space. Keep floor space as clear as possible. You may want a couch when a love seat or chairs work best in the space. Chairs can be placed out of the way in corners or against the wall and then moved in when needed. Be creative. Instead of a coffee table, consider using ottomans that can be moved around or out of the way as needed. Glass end tables and coffee tables can help make the space seem less cluttered. Try using furniture with clean lines and avoid anything that looks overstuffed. Use accessories sparingly. One large piece of artwork is better than many small ones.

Helpful Tip

When choosing artwork, try to match its colors to the new paint colors on your walls so that you have a coherent color scheme. This allows the art to blend in and be less obtrusive.

Use Focal Points and Mirrors

Use a focal point in the room to draw the eye when you walk into the room, such as a fireplace in a living room, a dining table in the dining room or a bed in a bedroom. You can use a complementary paint color on your fireplace that goes with your room’s color scheme but makes it stand out. In dining rooms, use unobtrusive accessories or colorful place settings, on your table. In bedrooms, choose colorful bed linens or other accessories that make your bed stand out. Paint an accent wall to go with the focal point for an enhanced effect. A focal point makes a room feel focused and cohesive and draws attention away from any clutter, making the room feel like it has more space.

Small studio apartment with glass partition and accent wall

Living room with fireplace and artwork focal points

Adding strategically placed mirrors can also make a room feel larger. Hang mirrors opposite your focal point (or whatever works in your particular room) to give the illusion of depth. Mirrors also reflect light in the room making it feel brighter whether it’s during the day or night.

Don’t Forget the Floors

Bright, small kid's bedroom

Remember that your floors also play a role in the perceived size of your rooms. Keep floors or floor coverings light in color to add to the illusion of more space. Lightly colored wood or light, neutral carpet colors make a room appear brighter and more open. Remove any over-sized rugs. They can make a room look smaller than it actually is.

Living room with mustard yellow couch and rug

Great work! Your small space has just been magnified. Enjoy!