How to Use Color to Change a Room - dummies

By Katharine Kaye McMillan, Patricia Hart McMillan

Color can change a room by creating a mood, disguise flaws, and create illusions. Knowing how to use color in a room reinforces your design ideas.

  • To make a room look bigger, use light, cool colors to create an atmospheric look. Paint all surfaces the same color and match the upholstery to the flooring. Add interest with contrasting textures.

  • To make a room seem cozier, use medium-toned, warm neutrals. Decorative wall features like wainscoting or paneling also add warmth. Use contrasting paint for paneling, and either match or contrast the molding.

  • To make a ceiling look higher, use white paint or at least a shade lighter than the walls. Keep floors relatively light.

  • To make a lofty ceiling seem lower, bring the ceiling color down a foot or so into the wall. It sounds strange, but when you are looking up at a 10 or 12 foot ceiling, you won’t see the line; it will just look like the ceiling is only 8 or 9 feet tall.

  • To shorten a long, rectangular room, paint or paper the long narrow walls in light, cool colors to make them recede. Make the short walls advance by using a dark, warm color.

  • To narrow a wide room, use deeper, warm neutrals on long walls, and lighter cool tints on shorter walls.

  • To darken a high ugly ceiling, use black, dark gray, midnight blue, or even the same dark, intense color (such as hunter green or chocolate brown) you may be using on a wall.

  • If the room has varying ceiling heights, don’t hesitate to paint them different colors. Paint a raised ceiling white or a light contrasting color.

  • To distract attention from dropped acoustical tile ceilings, paint them the same color as the wall. The acoustical tile ceiling will seem to disappear. Hooray!