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Using Paint To Make A Room Appear Larger

I'm getting ready to paint some rooms inside my home. I'd like to use light and color to trick the eye into thinking the rooms are actually larger.


I've done some reading on this subject and can't come to terms with it. I just don't understand. From what I've read, if you want a wall to advance toward you, you paint it darker than the other walls in the room. For example, if you want to make a rectangular room appear square, you paint the shorter walls a shade darker than the longer walls.

Why does it work that way? When a woman applies her makeup, if she wants something to go "in" she makes it darker. For example, on the eyelids the darker shade goes in the crease and the highlighter goes on or under the brow line to make it come toward you. I think we're creating lights and shadows to reconstruct the shapes that make up the face.

Why are the two methods reversed when it comes to painting the rooms in a house?

Carol from Wyoming, PA


Using Paint To Making A Room Appear Larger


I'm not sure about the optical illusion reasoning, especially the one about making a rectangle room look square. To me, a rectangle room will always be a rectangle no matter how it's painted.

I do know, however, that painting horizontal stripes in graduating sizes and colors with white breaks in it will make a room appear taller. For instance, paint from the bottom to about chair rail height a dark gray, then a 2 inch strip of white, then up about 2 feet or so a medium gray, followed by a 2 inch strip of white again and then top with a about a 1 foot strip of the lightest gray on top. I did this with yellows in my bathroom and it really does make the room seem larger. Each chunk of color graduates in size and shade as it leads up the wall.

Also, if you have any windows in the room, hang your curtains from a rod at ceiling level. This also gives the illusion of a larger window and ceilings.


Good luck. I hope someone has an answer as to why these things work this way. (03/27/2008)

By Michele

Using Paint To Making A Room Appear Larger

This is not an answer to your question, but besides using the lighter colors to make a rooms seem more airy and larger, putting up mirrors really gives the illusion of being larger.

Rainbowrider (03/27/2008)

By G J Amber

Using Paint To Making A Room Appear Larger

This isn't an answer to your question either, but yellow is the most enlarging color. Curtains and drapes make a room look smaller, use blinds or shutters or shades. And the idea about the mirrors is good, too. (03/27/2008)

By joan pecsek

Using Paint To Making A Room Appear Larger

Generally, strong, warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows tend to close a space. These colors are known as advancing colors, because they jump out and meet the eye. Conversely, receding colors like blue, green, and violet tend to make a room look larger because they "stand back" visually.


However, the darkest values of the receding colors, like navy blue or hunter green, also tend to have a diminishing effect on a room's size. Small rooms are best made to appear larger by painting them white or a light neutral color.

When it comes to the makeup idea, we are dealing with convex and concave surfaces. Different surface, different rules.

By Barb

Using Paint To Making A Room Appear Larger

I was thinking about my dilemma yesterday and came to the same conclusion as TheMuffler in his/her response. I think this has something to do with convex and concave surfaces.

My reasoning was that belts are worn on the outside of the body. Belts make waists look larger than they actually are. It's a horizontal line around the middle of the body.

But I get confused, because a line either painted half way up the wall or chair rail molding around the middle of the room, also makes the room look larger around. This one is on the "inside" of the object.


I think I'm going to need to talk to my son who is good at physics. Maybe he can come up with something that will satisfy my curiosity. I have asked him to ask the artists who work with him in fabric design. Maybe an artist can answer my question.

Thanks to all who have tried to help me. I'm open to more suggestions. (03/30/2008)

By Carol in PA

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