Good design is all about the art of illusion—and when it comes to teeny, tiny rooms specifically, there’s no better time to put your visual trickery to the test. While living clutter-free, opting for slimmer furniture, and adding floating shelves are a few simple ways to maximize your space, the color of your walls can totally transform the look and feel of a room.
If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, “What paint color will make my room seem larger?” then we’re guessing you’re likely operating under the standard assumption that darker hues—or anything that’s not white—can make a space feel significantly smaller. Well, we’re here to tell you that that’s not always the case.
Because picking a paint color is so personal, we asked a few of our favorite interior designers to share the room-opening colors they swear by. Although their answers spanned the color spectrum, the four tried-and-true hues below were the clear winners.
A Soothing White
The most reliable pick? “I hate to say it, but white!” says San Francisco-based designer, Susan Work. The reigning queen of whitewashed spaces, Leanne Ford, and artist-turned-desert dweller Lindsay Hollinger couldn’t agree more. Though painting a room white might seem like a straightforward undertaking at first, mastering the look is actually harder than you’d think. With so many brands and shades out there, there are a slew of factors—from sheen to undertones—to consider before picking the right white for your space.
While some designers prefer pure, flat whites like Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, other pros tend to go for swatches with understated hints of gray and yellow. “I enjoy White Tie by Farrow & Ball,” Whitney Leigh Morris, the creative behind The Tiny Canal Cottage, tells Domino. “It can brighten and enlarge a room while making it feel warm and welcoming.”
For all things white paint, check out our comprehensive guide to the top nine shades on the market right now.
A Warm Gray
Much like white, softer grays can introduce a sense of ease and openness to a less-than-spacious dwelling. “I’m on team gray paint,” notes small-space living expert and Cali-based blogger Katrina Blair Sullivan. “My favorite gray paint color is Designer Grey—it’s the perfect shade.”
When offset by a subtle colorful palette—say one comprised of dusty pinks and seaside blues—a gray room can feel timeless, elegant, and decidedly modern. Katrina Hernandez—one part of the design duo behind NYC-based studio Hernandez Greene—swears by Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath for its lilac undertones and earthy appeal. Other pros, however, are all about greige (a forgiving gray-beige combo).
“We had our room painted Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray for three years. It was moody and cozy, but we needed a breath of fresh air,” explains Julia Marcum of the award-winning reno blog Chris Loves Julia. “We repainted it Benjamin Moore Olympic Mountains: A light, warm greige (okay, it’s probably just beige), and it’s fantastic. Our room feels like it can breathe now.”
A Cool Blue
“I always love any shade of blue. Cool colors expand the eye,” notes Ashlina Kaposta of The Decorista. Contrary to popular belief, darker, saturated hues can add instant depth to a room—that is, when used correctly. By filling your space with furniture and accessories that match or pick up on the overall tonal attitude of your walls, it effectively creates the illusion of added square footage.
However, if the idea of washing your walls in a seriously bold shade still freaks you out, consider drawing the eye up instead. “We love to paint the ceiling in a dark, rich color, which gives it a depth like the deep sea or the night sky,” says Atlanta-based interior designer Stephanie Andrews.
Statement walls are cool, but a statement ceiling? Yes, please!
A Delicate Lavender
Want to sneak a happy hue into your teeny abode? Go all in on lavender—one of spring’s trendiest colors. Bold enough to imply a statement, yet quiet enough to not overwhelm a room, the pale purple is an idyllic choice for those who can’t live without color.
“One paint color that straightaway makes a room bigger is Lavender Secret by Benjamin Moore,” dishes Domino’s 2017 Best New Design Blog award winner, Anita Yokota. “A light, pale purple color visually brightens the room and provides a subtle contrasting depth for the walls and backdrop. In this case, the gray undertones makes it much more sophisticated—versus a pastel look—and it’s easy to add accent colors such as brass metal, pops of teal, yellow, or black.”
No matter which room-changing color you go with in the end, it’s all about what you do after that really counts.
“I think any color can make a room feel bigger, honestly,” says Shavonda Gardner, self-professed boheme and blogger behind SG Style. “It’s all about how you use it and what you do with space planning.”
Want more paint ideas?
Learn to love your inbox again by signing up for Domino’s daily email.