Space-enhancing wall colours
Choosing the right colours for your home isn’t just about your personal taste; they’re also used as a technical device to help change the perceptions of space and light. Dark, light-absorbing colours should be avoided in large areas if you’re trying to make spaces look and feel bigger. There are also colours that look closer to the eye than they really are – these are referred to as Advancing colours – red, yellow, orange and the hues that have these colours in.
That’s not to say you can’t use dark colours anywhere if you’re trying to make a space feel bigger. One room can be made to feel larger than it really is by using a darker colour in the room before it; a hallway into a sitting room for example. The contrast in light levels between the two will deceive the eye and make the larger room feel more open and bright than it actually is. Also, a dark colour in an otherwise light room can be very effective if you want to play with the perception of the space. If you have a rectangular room then making the end wall darker will bring the wall forward effectively squaring the room up.
Pale colours make rooms look and feel bigger, and in the same way that you can use dark colours to alter the perception of a space, so you can use pale colours. Putting a paler shade on a long wall will widen a narrow room.
Using a colour on the ceiling that is paler than the walls will make it feel higher than it really is. And for skirting boards and architraves, paint them a lighter shade than the walls to create the illusion of space.
Flooring for small rooms
Flooring plays a big part in how rooms appear, so avoid dark carpeting – it’ll highlight the boundaries of the room. Busy patterns are also a no-no. If your preferred flooring has a line through it (in the carpet design, or even the joints in wood or laminate flooring), you can make a long room feel shorter and wider by laying the lines across the space.
There are some exceptions: a very dark floor will work to making a space look bigger providing it has a high gloss finish that will bounce light around and maximise any daylight coming into the room. And if you are painting a floor then choose a colour close to the wall colour as the boundaries become blurred. Using striped runner carpets are a great way to lead the eye from a narrow hallway into a bigger area, either along a hallway or up your stairs.
Light really is the deciding factor when making rooms look and feel bigger – the more you have of it, the better the end result will be. Although there are a myriad of choices within each style, window treatments boil down to two categories: curtains and blinds.
Curtains can help prevent draughts but they won’t make spaces feel bigger. If you are determined to have them make sure they open wider than the window to allow light in, extending your pole or track to allow for this. Blinds are simpler, contained to the window size and you can easily regulate the light levels.
Whichever you use, clever use of fabric designs will help alter the perception of the window space – vertical stripes will make a low window seem taller, horizontal stripes will make it seem wider.
Planning your furniture
Sofas and chairs with open arms and exposed legs will keep the appearance of an open and free space as it allows light to filter under the furniture, making the room appear airier. Don’t block walking walkways with furniture and accessories – it’ll mask a view into a room and it’ll look cramped.
Make sure your furniture has two functions: a chest that can be used as a coffee table, beds with drawers for storage or folding tables for example.
Floor to ceiling built-in shelving goes a long way to making a room feel bigger as it frees up floor space where free standing shelves might have been and draws the eye up – the trick here is to keep them as slim as you can. Using some pieces of furniture (like shelving units) the same colour as the walls will help blend them in and widen out a room.
Other visual tricks
Allow your furniture to breath! If you can, pull sofas and chairs at least 6 inches away from walls – you’ll be amazed with the difference it makes to a room.
Mirrors, or any highly reflective surfaces, are very useful in bouncing light around – a well-placed mirror will help get light into the darkest corners and brighten up the dullest room. If you can create a reflection of the garden or view then so much the better.
Consider your lighting. Use two table lamps in opposite corners of your room – it offers more interest and makes rooms look and feel bigger. Placing light sources out of view around corners (so the light spills into areas you can see) tricks the brain into thinking there is more space there than there is.
Try and maximise the views in rooms to take the eye further – an interesting picture on the back wall of an adjoining room will make a small space seem much larger. A diagonal line across a small room will always be the furthest view, so add points of interest to draw the eye.