How Paint Affects Room Design

Tara Dickinson
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Using Paint Colors To Express A Rooms Feeling


Paint is basically color. Not taking into account the sheen and any textural effects, when using paint in decorating a space, it all comes down to pigment choice. Color is all around us and to a great extent, specific tones and hues are chosen to elicit a response in a target market. From advertising, to politics, to food and clothing, color is used extremely strategically. There is even a branch of color psychology nowadays, which assigns emotions to colors. Here are some universal connotations:

Color Psychology

So when determining what color to paint a room there is much to ponder as well as to use to your advantage and overall final goal.


Dark & Light Moods

Different colors have different effects. Lighter, cooler colors give the illusion of receding, appearing farther away, and opening up a space. Whereas darker, warmer colors create a tighter, smaller closed-in feeling in the chosen space. This trick gives us the power to use shades of paint color to enlarge or reduce the size of a room, effectively changing the shape. The same technique can also be employed to draw attention to focal points in a room or used to hide sections too.

Ceiling Feeling

The ceiling is often an overlooked space when decorating. But painting the ceiling of a room can have a dramatic overall effect on how the space comes off as feeling. A room that is too big, feels cavernous, and has too much space, will transform to a comfortable, cozy place if the ceiling is painted darker than the walls. This provides the illusion that the ceiling is lower, thus reducing the vastness of the space, making it feel more contained.

When the opposite is present, a small tight space, make sure to paint your ceiling a lighter shade thus raising the height of the room. Once again the illusion of more space is achieved just by applying bright and sunnier tones of color.

Creating Space with Light

Continuing this theory, if you’d like a room to appear larger, chose shades on the lighter side of the color palette. And make sure to paint all walls the same color. No accent walls here. If you break up the space with another color paint, the eye will naturally stop there and break up the flow. One color; one continuous feeling of open space.


Darker Equals Smaller

Warmer, darker shades are purposefully chosen to create a sense of coziness, comfort, and safe spaces. Think of a Moroccan style room with burnt oranges, brown leathers, soft lighting. These shades elicit feelings of warmth and relaxation. Or an office space that’s painted in rich shades of brown with mahogany. This creates a space that invites sitting, conversing, and working in quiet contemplation. If you want the room to be as small feeling as possible, paint the trim a lighter shade. If the walls and trim are painted the same color, this will give the space a slightly more expansive feeling.


Shape With Paint

  • Decorative Elements- to highlight attractive features such as a unique ceiling or decorative trim, paint the walls a different color than whatever feature you want to highlight.
  • Eyesores- painting attractive eyesores the same color as the walls allows them to blend in and become less noticeable. This applies to appliances, angles, and other architectural features.
  • Long Halls- a long, narrow space, can be shortened by painting the end walls a shade darker than the other walls.
  • Molding- adding molding to the top and bottom of large, bare walls will break up the space; then painting a complementing but different color than the walls will shorten the feeling of the room.
  • Stripes- the same rule applies here as does with clothing outfits: vertical stripes add length, a feeling of height, while horizontal stripes will make space feel longer, wider.
  • Small Homes- painting connecting rooms the same color keeps the eye moving from room to room. The feeling will come across as one larger space.

Paint Effects

One last thing to think about when decorating with paint is the vast array of effect you can achieve with paint. Fun techniques such as stenciling, color washing, faux finishing, are just a few of the examples. Different tones of the same color on separate walls; or different sheens, such as a flat base with a stenciled design in a glossy paint. The effect is subtle yet elegant.

There are so many ways to use color when painting your home, or any space. Now you know the tips and techniques to accentuate, downplay, or change all the features in your decorating area by harnessing the power of paint color.


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