By Hebe Hatton
The best colors for small bedrooms can take a cramped, tiny space and make it feel loftier and larger, or cozy and cocooning, depending on the vibe you are going for. While no color can physically expand your square footage, the right shade can allude to a bigger room. Of course, white is the hue that's known for its space-expanding properties, but it's not the only color that's perfect for smaller space, so we asked color experts and interior designers for their favorite colors and tips for decorating a small bedroom.
1. Go monochrome
Let's start off with a classic color for small bedrooms – white. White ranges from crisp brilliant whites to creamy off whites, so make sure you order plenty of samples to see what tones work in your space before committing.
'Keep it light & bright!' says Patrick O’Donnell of Farrow & Ball. 'If your bedroom is small but has the advantage of being drenched in light, keep it simple & fresh. Choose a just off-white like School House White and for walls & ceiling and pair with our softest white Wimborne White for a discreet contrast for all your woodwork.'
'And go for one Colour. A great method to give the illusion of more space is to create less contrast, for example, painting fitted wardrobes in the eggshell finish of your wall color will 'extend' the sense of wall space and you can take the color over the ceiling too so you are less aware of where the wall stops & ceiling starts. French Gray is a perfect choice here, with its green tones, it is ultimately relaxing so perfect for a restful & timeless scheme!'
2. Pick soft pink shades
Pink bedrooms are always such lovely, soft, and inviting spaces and it's a color that can work really well in a small space. As Lick Home Interior Expert, Natasha Bradley says; 'When it comes to small bedroom colors a lovely soft alternative to a neutral are pinks. Pink 01 / 04 are great for small spaces as they make the room feel warm and welcoming but also help to reflect the light. And paint your walls, ceiling, and skirting all in the same color, as your eye does not get drawn to the corners of the room creating the feeling of space.'
3. Switch it up with darker hues
Dark bedrooms are hardly synonymous with small bedrooms, but they can work just as well ay making a bedroom feel bigger as lighter colors can.
'Most people go for a lighter shade in smaller spaces, but the room can actually feel bigger with a dark color - especially when you include the ceiling too.' says COAT Paints Co-Founders Rob Abrahams and Rob Green 'Dark colors absorb light, and blurring the hard edges of the space effectively softens them, so the room feels less enclosed. Darker shades of Navy like ‘2AM’, and even Off-blacks like ‘David Rose’ work amazingly, creating a cocoon-like bedroom which can help with a restful night's sleep.'
'It’s probably best to avoid bright or vivid shades in small bedrooms, like Sun-yellows or Hot-pinks. They’ll overpower the space, and send your mind into overdrive by stimulating the eyes - not something anyone wants at bedtime.'
'Paler colors are the go-to for most people in smaller spaces, as they can create a more open and airy vibe. But be careful of tone - warmer neutral shades like ‘Sunday Soul’ and ‘Good Intentions’ with beige-brown undertones work well, but Pure White or Grey shades can look dingy rather than spacious. Think about the finish too, and using a Soft Sheen or Gloss paint to bounce light around the space, especially where natural light is limited.'
4. Pick a light reflecting metallics
Silver tones are a nice alternative to grey as a small bedroom color idea. It might sound flashy but can in fact create a very elegant bedroom color scheme that feels fresh and contemporary.
As Nina Tarnowski, Founder and Designer for Woodchip & Magnoliaadvises, 'For a more muted and relaxing space consider the paint color you choose. Light walls are more reflective and will bounce natural light across the room, making space appear larger and more open. For maximum effect, opt for off-white tones like magnolia or soft pinks.'
And you don't just have to bring in colors with paint, a wallpaper with a metallic sheen can have just the same effect and bring in pattern and texture.
5. Choose warm earthy shades for a small bedroom
If you like a neutral bedroom, but after something softer than plain white on all four walls, instead opt for a deep warm beige or even a muted pale terracotta tone.
'The color on the walls can determine how the room feels. Many people think that small spaces require white walls, however contrary to belief, warm muted tones or deep sultry hues work well in smaller bedrooms as they cocoon the room to make it feel cozy.' advice Jen & Mar, founders of Interior Fox.
'And don't ignore the ceiling, it's is the important fifth wall in a room, but often forgotten. When introducing paint, choose a color that complements your overall scheme and doesn’t clash with the walls, trim work, and existing furniture. If the room has a neutral palette, consider injecting a pop of color to the ceiling for added drama, it creates a real wow factor to the smallest of spaces.'
6. Pair dark shades with vivid brights
'Some fear that adding a deep or bright color to a small room will make it appear claustrophobic, opting instead for light neutrals to keep the space open. However, when working with a small area, dark colors cleverly absorb the light of a space, making the division between walls appear blurred.' says Helen Shaw, Director of Benjamin Moore.
'This ‘blurred edges’ effect adds depth and dimension to a room, making it appear larger. In addition, incorporating a rich or bright paint color into a small space is a fool-proof way to create an instant character, taking a room from sterile to stylish. Smaller areas are actually a great place to experiment with colors that are bolder than those you would normally use, as this will have a less dramatic effect than opting for a statement hue in a large room.'
7. Use cool shades to make a small bedroom feel bigger
Cooler tones tend to work well in smaller bedrooms as they create a very calming space, plus they can have the same effect as paler shades and bounce light around the space. See the pale sage in this green bedroom, it feels almost like a neutral, especially paired with the crisps white and darker shades.
'Greys can create simple harmonies in your bedroom and provide a versatile backdrop to any interior; light grey shades can work really well for a smaller room. Light greens s can enrich a room with a hint of color without taking it over– greens are nature’s neutral so can work really well for a calming bedroom and can offset other colors beautifully.' advises Dominic Myland, CEO of Mylands. 'Do try limiting the palette in a smaller room too – introducing too many different colors can make it appear bitty and harder on the eye.'
How do you paint a small room to look bigger?
The key to making a small room look bigger with paint is not to break up the space too much. Avoid feature walls that will make the boundaries of the room really clear and instead go all over with one color, include the woodwork, and if you want to make a statement go up onto the ceiling too.
If you want to add height to a small room definitely avoid leaving the ceiling brilliant white while the rest of the walls are in color as this is only going to make the ceilings feel lower. Instead either paint the ceiling or try the dado rail trick where you just paint a proportion of the wall to make the ceilings appear higher. Stick to a darker shade on the bottom and choose a neutral for the rest of the wall and the ceiling.
What colors brighten up a small room?
When it comes to the best color for brightening up a small room, you can't go wrong with white. It's always going to make a room feel lighter and more open, but not all white shades were made equal and you have to pick the right one for your space.
COAT Paints Co-Founders Rob Abrahams and Rob Green, recommend that you look at 'what direction does the room face? Get the compass out on your phone and check. In all cases, North-facing rooms have a cooler and less intense light, and South-facing rooms are naturally brighter and warmer. So if you’ve got a North-facing room to choose a white with yellow or brown undertones - a bit creamier or earthier, like ‘Pampas’ - to help neutralize the cooler Northern light. If you’re blessed with a sun-filler South-facing room then you can go bright white if you like, or choose something that’s very slightly grey like ‘Sweatpants’ to knock-out the yellow light and create a more balanced white.'
'The second question to ask is how you want to feel in the space. Bright white like ‘Screenshot’ is naturally quite stark unless you soften it with furnishings, whereas creamier whites are warmer but not quite as crisp. A nice mid-point could be a very pale Greige like ‘Mindful’ which has greyish-brown notes that add an earthiness to the white without it feeling magnolia.'
What colors make a small bedroom look cozy?
Sometimes the best thing to do in a small bedroom is just lean into the small dimensions and choose a color that's going to make the space enveloping and cozy. Try deep navy blues, dark greens, and charcoal greys all work well if you take the overall four walls and then give the room a softness by layering up plenty of neutral bedding and bringing in some natural materials like rattan and wood for texture.
Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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