How to make a room look bigger with paint: 9 expert tips for painting small spaces

Leading paint specialists reveal how to make a room look bigger with paint and their clever tricks for enhancing your space

three living rooms displaying examples of how to make a room look bigger with paint with two-tone walls, painted ceilings and painted woodwork
(Image credit: Crown Paint | Future)

Unlocking the secrets of how to make a room look bigger with paint will help you maximise the perception of space in your home, making even the tiniest of rooms feel more sizeable and welcoming. 

Never underestimate the power of paint. More than merely offering a change of colour, how you use the latest interior paint colour trends can be equally as transformative to enhance and improve any room – it's just about knowing how.

From trompe l'oeil two-tone walls to colour-drenching techniques and using alternative shades for ceilings, there are many creative ways you can use the best living room paint to make a small room look and feel bigger.

How to make a room look bigger with paint: 9 expert tricks

Try these simple ways with paint to instantly create a sense of space, with suggestions from industry experts and interior designers who know all the best tricks when decorating for maximum impact...

1. Use colour drenching to create the illusion of depth

Taupe painted living room walls with matching mapinted skirtborads and woodwork to show how to make a room look bigger with paint

(Image credit: Crown Paints)

Colour drenching is the latest interior design trend that involves saturating an entire room in one colour. This includes furniture, as well as painting walls, woodwork, and even ceilings in one cohesive colour palette that 'stretches' the space by making the walls appear endless. 

"Colour drenching uses a single shade or closely related colours across everything from skirting to ceiling: walls, window frames doors, and radiators," explains Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene.

Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown adds, "Not only does colour drenching create a contemporary, monochromatic look, but it is also an easy way of creating the illusion of bigger walls, making the room as a whole appear more spacious."

Think of a stark white skirting board as the equivalent of wearing high white socks that draw the eye down and make your trouser legs look too short in length. This is why many interior designers say painting skirting boards the same colour as the walls is a must.

In the case of walls, the effect can cut the height of the room short and therefore make the space feel smaller. This is incredibly distracting when decorating with dark paint colours, meaning in that instance it's always advisable to paint the woodwork in the same shade – with the right paint finish of course.

2. Make surfaces recede with soft shades

Sage green painted bathroom with white fittings

(Image credit: Dulux)

Light, bright colours are generally favoured to open up small or awkward spaces because they reflect natural light and therefore create a sense of space. But many lighter tones can do the trick, it's not all about the best white paint colours.

"Probably the simplest way you can make a room appear bigger with just a bit of paint is to use pale ‘receding’ colours that make walls look further away than they are," explains Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux. 

"These are soft organic greens and sky blues like Dulux Willow Tree and Dulux Heritage Country Sky. Paint them on all the walls and keep the woodwork in the same colour or a delicate off-white like White Cotton."

"This offers a subtle way to bring colour into the home and open up those small spaces whilst connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly”.

3. Try a two-tone effect to add height

Living room with two tone walls of off-white and pale yellow on the lower third behind the sofa showing how to make a room look bigger with paint effects

(Image credit: Future)

Trick the eyes into thinking the room is bigger than it is by painting a two-tone effect on the walls. This will add height by creating an off-centre divide that creates a taller perspective and will make a room look bigger with paint.

"A band of colour painted around the lower third of the walls teamed with a subtle off-white above and on the ceiling will help to make a room look taller and airier," advises Marianne.

For best results, split the room into thirds and paint the bottom third in a richer shade than the remaining two-thirds above, to anchor the gaze down and in effect extend the space between the floor and the ceiling. 

All you'll need to achieve a crisp line between the two different colours is a roll of masking tape and a spirit level to ensure it's precise.  We recommend Frog Tape Green Multi-Surface Painters Masking Tape, available at Amazon.

4. Paint ceilings in a colour other than white

Pale blue living room with painted ceiling

(Image credit: Dulux)

When it comes to painting ceilings, it's commonplace to reach for white paint. However, experts recommend looking for alternative ceiling paint colours to elevate the appearance of the roof.

"Many of us paint ceilings white out of habit, which can often make a space look smaller, drawing the eye to the shape and scale of the room" explains Ruth from paint brand Little Greene. "Opt for tonal colour instead. By immersing an interior in one colour and incorporating all elements within the space, you can create a truly engaging scheme that will soften architectural detailing to create a cohesive and enveloping space."

Marianne suggests, "Popping the lid off the room and creating a sense of limitless sky by painting the ceiling in a breezy summer blue like Bright Skies. It will immediately make the space appear bigger and less hemmed in and you will wonder why you never added a bit of colour to your ceiling before!"

While the illusion of an open sky works especially well for Marianne's suggestion if blue is not your shade of choice the concept would still work in an equally soft shade such as sage green or pale grey, because the idea is simply to remove the stark white contrast that puts a figurative 'lid' on the room.

5. Disguise storage with paint

grey living room with painted grey bookcase to show how to blend storage in by painting it the same color to make a room look bigger with paint

(Image credit: Future)

One of the most effective ways to organise a small space is by providing plenty of storage. To make a room look bigger with paint, simply painting these storage units and shelving in the same colour as the wall is a great way to make the extra storage blend in with the colour scheme. This will make the room feel more spacious and is one of the best ways to make a small living room look bigger when you can't cut down the amount of 'stuff' needed in the space. 

"Tall storage furniture such as a bookcase or walls filled with shelves can quickly eclipse a room," explains Michael Rolland, Interiors expert, and MD at The Paint Shed. "An easy way of disguising it is to paint it. Try painting this furniture or shelving the same colour as the walls. This will allow them to blend into their surroundings, not making them look too daunting in a small space."

Use paint to create a continuation of colour further by choosing a tone that matches the upholstery of the sofa and other soft furnishings. This will create a seamless wall of colour (like colour drenching mentioned earlier) that will help to prevent the space from feeling overcrowded and enclosed.

6. Soften the colour above the picture rail

Navy blue abthroom with light blue painted above the picture rail to make the room look bigger

(Image credit: Dulux)

If you're lucky enough to have architectural details such as picture rails in your home, use this feature to your advantage by contrasting the colours above and below. 

Choose a softer alternative to stark white if you are decorating with a strong color below the rail, because often the harshness of white can actually draw unwanted attention – and therefore not help to make the gap work to your advantage. This is a common interior design mistake to make.

In the same way that skirting boards in stark white can gain unwanted attention, so can the area above the picture rail and ceilings, so a softer gradual fade of color helps to soften the line. 

Ruth explains, "Many choose to use bright white in smaller spaces assuming white will make the room appear larger, however light neutrals and soft colors used in a tonal scheme will have the same effect whilst not appearing too stark or cold."

7. Opt for pale paint on the floor

White living room with all white furniture and white painted floorboards to show how to make a room look bigger with paint

(Image credit: Getty Images | Moodboard)

Painting original floorboards in a light shade will help to create a sense of space by figuratively pushing the floor away from the ceiling and all four walls. 

It's well known that an all-white color scheme is ideal to make a room look and feel bigger thanks to the airiness and light-reflecting properties, in addition to adding a touch of the 'quiet luxury trend' to any room

Ruth offers her advice on decorating with an all-white scheme: "If you wish to use a white, opt for a well-balanced, warm white rather than a stark, bright blue-tinged white. ‘Silent White’ is a perfectly balanced, neutral-warm white. Use with its lighter and deeper versions on other walls, the ceiling, and trim to add softly-spoken depth to the room."

8. Layer metallic finishes to reflect light

neutral living room with wall architrave

(Image credit: Crown)

The nature of metallic finishes means the surfaces become reflective which can help to welcome light to a smaller space, instantly making it come alive and feel brighter. A metallic finish is an ideal bedroom paint colour to add a luxe touch to the decorating scheme.

"Layering metallic paint alongside a flat matt emulsion will make the color pop and stand out, as well as create depth to a room," says Justyna. 

"Or if you are feeling bold, painting the ceiling is a fun way to add something different to a room. Metallic paint will also work well in smaller rooms such as guest toilets or cloakrooms, to make them feel bigger."


Crafted by Crown Emulsion Interior Paint in Metallic Striking, 1.25L for £24 at Wickes

This Crown colour Metallic Striking subtly gives a lustrous metallic finish to all surfaces.

9. Incorporate doors into the wall colour

Dark painted room with door painted in the same colour to make a room look bigger with paint

(Image credit: Crown Paint)

Painting doors the same colour as walls is an extension of using the colour-drenching idea. 

“Painting doors, like painting other accents including window frames and skirting boards the same colour as the walls is an especially effective way of making a room feel bigger," Justyna. Painting doors helps to make them seamlessly blend into the wall colour to enable them to 'disappear' and, therefore act like a continuation of the wall area – making the space feel bigger.

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 22 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of, she has spent the last 17 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.

A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interior trend forecasting events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.