The color you pick for your floor is an important design element of any room that can impact the perception of space. But when it comes to selecting a floor color for a small space, it's more important to get it right. Even if you've selected the perfect wall color, tripping up with a jarring floor color could lead to a room that feels cramped and gloomy. 'Generally, darker colors tend to make spaces look smaller, while lighter colors create a sense of openness and airiness,' says Asli Uluaydin, a project director in AvroKO's New York studio.
Additionally, incorporating lighter elements in the room, such as furniture, wall colors, or accessories can help balance the visual impact of a darker floor color and prevent the space from feeling too confined. For some designers, instead of color, it's pattern that's the big factor in creating an illusion of space. 'I actually think the style of flooring is far more important,' says designer Emily Henderson. 'Research what is common so it looks natural and then you can play from there. Is it a herringbone pattern, with wide long wood planks? Go look for inspo you love!' To get to the bottom of the optimum floor colors for making your small living room, bedroom or kitchen feel bigger, we speak to the color experts and interior designers in the know.
1. Light wooden tones
Light wood is a go-to material that has a natural color that makes a room feel bright and spacious. In this bright and airy kitchen designed by Madeleine Design Group, the room is a little on the tight side considering the dominance of the large kitchen island, but the soft kitchen color scheme makes it feel open and roomy, perfect for entertaining guests. A big part of the scheme is the white oak flooring.
'At Madeleine Design Group, many of our projects are inspired by our coastal surroundings,' explains Madeleine. 'To achieve the perfect balance of modern coastal with a bright and spacious feel, we regularly choose a light or natural finished white oak, blending to the natural surrounds outside, and reflecting the light to help your space feel more open and airy. A lighter color floor will always help a space feel more expansive.'
'Oak is a classic natural hardwood material that has been used in residential interiors for many years. Now more than ever white oak is having a 'moment' in terms of current design trends,' agrees Reena Sotropa of Reena Sotropa In House Design Group.
If hardwood is out of your price range and a bit too labor-intensive, opting for something like this white oak vinyl plank from Wayfair might be a good alternative, with a realistic effect that works in the same way to create a light and expensive-feeling space.
2. Pale pink
Pale pink is another reliable color for flooring that helps cheer up a room, bringing color to the scheme and using the shade's inherent qualities to help reflect and bounce light around. You might want to paint your floor a light pink or opt for a vinyl floor covering, but a pink rug makes the most sense from an aesthetic standpoint, and that element of texture adds to the room's coziness.
In this living room, the rug's light pink shade is a key element to the wider design. The pink complements the neutral color scheme, reflecting the colors around the space, and feeling warm and cozy underfoot.
'Soft furnishings are incredibly important, not just from the obvious practical standpoint, but because they bring texture, color, and scale to a space,' says Ali Budd who designed the space.
Picking light colors like pale grey or beige is also a reliable option for floors in small living rooms, and works best as a carpet choice or again as a rug. Grey is a neutral and elegant choice that will continue to work for any trend updates you make to the space. Light greys and beiges work with light by both reflecting and absorbing the light, making it one of the most reliable solutions for small space flooring.
This office by Chango & Co is the perfect example, with a wooden floor covered in a greige-colored rug. 'The office had large windows on three of the four walls. When you walk into the space, you are flooded with light,' explains Susana Simonpietri, creative director of Chango & Co. 'A light-filled room can create an opportunity for going darker because you have so much natural light, but we didn’t want to fight against this and instead decided to work with that light. We used it as a color tonal direction.'
It's widely presumed that going dark with your flooring will only make a room look and feel smaller, but there are ways around this, it just needs to be approached with caution. 'Dark floors aren't always bad,' says Artem Kropovinsky, founder of New York-based Arsight, 'but you just need to mix them with light walls and good lighting.'
What's more, it might be wise to go for a paint with a little lacquer. Lacquer paint is having a resurgence, and floors that have a subtle shine can bounce light around, making rooms look bigger.
In this example by Atelier Cho Thompson, the black cork flooring provides a dark floor with a bit of a sheen. The abundance of natural light pouring in from the dining room windows creates a well-lit space that doesn't feel small and cramped.
If you like the idea of introducing color, a light blue can also work in rug form. One paint trick that never fails is to have the floor, ceiling, trim, and doors in the same color for a monochromatic color scheme that gives a spacious feel.
'In rooms with a little bit of natural light, going monochromatic with a deep navy floor can create an impression of depth and make a space feel dramatic and stately,' says designer, Julia Dempster.
'When painting your floors in a blue color, it also helps to keep large furniture like sofas in the same hue to blur the lines between the edges of the room and make it feel larger,' says Julia. 'The monochromatic styling works equally well, no matter what color you're dealing with.'
3 flooring options to help a room feel bigger
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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