The final word on paint color and small rooms

Seems like everyone has a different opinion about the best paint color for a small room. Like I wrote about in this post here, there really is no magic color that will make your small room bigger. However, I was quite amused yesterday when I opened the brand new issue of House Beautiful Magazine. Look what I saw on page 89.

color article from HB

July/August House Beautiful magazine

Look at those two quotes; even the designers disagree! Well I will tell you that I have lived in homes with small rooms. I have painted them light and I have painted them dark. Based on my experience this is what I have learned. It really doesn’t matter what color you paint your small room; light or dark it is still going to be small. You just need to decide based on the usage of the room if it would function and feel best as a small light room or a small dark room. It’s really that simple. A small light room will bounce the light around and feel more airy, while a small dark room will feel more cozy and cocoon like.

I personally like to paint small rooms a lighter color. I have tendencies toward claustrophobia and a small dark room is just not comfortable for me. The one exception is a powder room. I LOVE a dark jewel box like powder room. After all, you are only in it for a few minutes so why not make it feel cozy and/or dramatic.

dramatic black bathroom


Whether you opt for light or dark walls the final word is contrast. The lower the contrast between the wall color, furniture, molding and the ceiling, the less chopped up the room will feel…and hence the bigger the room will feel.

So there you go. Keep the contrast low and your small light room or small dark room will FEEL as spacious as possible.

low contrast small room

Low contrast light room

small dark room with low contrast


Low contrast dark room.

 Hope that helps clear up some confusion. What’s your preference; light or dark small rooms?

16 Responses to The final word on paint color and small rooms
  1. Sherry Daniele Reply

    Great post, Linda – so sensible!

  2. Kristie Barnett, TheDecorologist Reply

    great post – makes great sense!

  3. Julie E. Reply

    I’m a fan of light and airy, but there is some temptation to paint a small room a dramatic color since repainting won’t be too much of an issue.

    We have original wood trim in the room and I’m wondering if painting the window frames white will make the room more airy. It’s a debate I have with myself daily—keep the original wood with its “charm,” which can feel heavy, or go light and airy.

    Thanks for the tips! Low contrast is a good pointer that will get us going in the right direction.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Julie, If the wood trim is original gum wood or beautiful native wood I would probably keep it and work with it. If it is just stained pine or oak I would paint it without a second thought.

  4. Kelly Rogers Reply

    Amen, sister! Embrace the small space. No amount of white paint is going to make a tiny room feel grand. Funny, I remember seeing a similar set of quotes in HB right around this time last year. It does make me chuckle, too. 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly, not sure what HB is trying to accomplish other than to totally confuse everyone.

      • Connie Nikiforoff Designs Reply

        I think HB was trying to show all the readers that in the world of decorating/design, every rule is meant to be broken ;-)Haha! For every so called “rule”, some designer breaks it and makes it look fabulous. I once saw a super huge light fixture over a dining table. At first I thought “Oh it breaks all the rules about size/proportion for that circumstance.” And the more I looked at the picture, the more I liked it. Ya just never know…. 😉

  5. Rhonda Reply

    Common sense reigns! Thank you!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Rhonda for taking the time to both read and comment.

  6. Ann M. Morris Reply

    Thank you for this post. You put in the right perspective!!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Ann.

  7. Kelly Reply

    Makes perfect sense about the contrast of the room is what will make it seem cluttered (smaller) or having low contrast making the room feel larger. Great post Linda!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly!

  8. Connie Nikiforoff Designs Reply

    I laughed when I saw that too in HB magazine 😉 I feel the same way about the ‘right’ color for a small room. You hit the nail on the head when you said it depends on how you want the room to feel. In our former home (and now here in our current home) when I have a small room that I’d like to make feel larger, I will paint all four walls and the ceiling the same light color. It erases any “lines” and helps make the room feel larger. In our former house kitchen I painted the ceiling, walls, cabinets and even the floor the same off-white color. The counter top was a very pale soft green and the appliances were off white so everything blended together. The room looked bright,cheery and larger…just what I wanted. It also allowed me to use any accent color I chose 🙂

  9. Annie Vincent Reply

    You are so right on this! Love the great example pictures too!

  10. KD Fikso Reply


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