This new color trend makes small spaces seem lighter, brighter and bigger. Design experts explain

I spoke to renowned paint experts about this one trick that will reflect light in a dark room, and it’s not about painting it white

Farrow & Ball green Bancha ceiling
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball Bancha No.298)

If you’ve ever wondered how to make a dark room seem brighter you’ve probably thought about painting it white. But picking the perfect white paint is not as easy as it might sound. In a dark room, especially if north facing, a white can appear dull and completely defeat the purpose it was used for. 

So how do you make a small, dark room seem brighter? I spoke to color experts about the latest paint ideas, and they confirmed that there is a new trend which is gaining more and more momentum is a great solution that creates more light. Plus it has the the fantastic added benefit of ramping up the volume on color too. And it's all about looking up.

Look up! The answer lies in how you decorate your ceiling 

twin bedroom with ceiling painted in gloss yellow paint

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore Savannah Green)

The ceiling, or the ‘fifth wall’, as experts call it, is mostly overlooked when decorating a space, and is usually painted in the classic white. However, I’ve noticed more and more designers decorating the ceiling not only in bold, rich colors, but also using a surprising finish: gloss! There's a lot to say about picking the best ceiling color, but when it comes to finish, gloss seems to be having a moment. Note the gloss finish is only for the ceiling, while the walls keep their matt texture. 

Helen Shaw, Director of Marketing for Benjamin Moore Paints, thinks a gloss paint finish is a fantastic way to bring more light to a room, and adds that the ceiling is a great area to experiment with. ‘A high-gloss finish can add another reflective surface, casting light and creating the illusion of volume,’ Helen tells me. 

In terms of aesthetics, a color ceiling in a gloss finish definitely is a glamorous statement in any room, however, it can also work beautifully in a paler tone. ‘This concept has a multi-purpose. At its most practical it can help bounce light around a space, especially at the paler end of the spectrum and create something rather ethereal. Or for a full explosion of glamour, a rich dark color adds a superb talking point, but the latter option is best suited to higher ceilings!’ explains Patrick O’Donnell, Farrow & Ball’s International Brand Ambassador.  

 Why is this trend emerging now?  

dining room with blue walls and gloss blue ceiling

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball De Nimes No.299)

It seems we all want to bring more personality into our spaces, so bolder design choices are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Helen Shaw thinks a gloss ceiling is a great option that will create a strong statement in your space. ‘Opting for a lacquered finish will add a whole other layer of visual interest that goes beyond color alone. It allows light to bounce off the surface which will only enhance the overall brightness of the space,’ she adds. 

Patrick O’Donnell believes there is also a lot to be said about simply wanting to move away from the white or off-whites we’ve been using by default in the past and seek more exciting alternatives.

 Here’s how to implement this trend at home 

living room with grey walls and blue gloss painted ceiling

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball Jitney No.293)

For poorly lit and low-ceilinged spaces, follow Patrick’s advice and look for softer whites or pale pastels that complement your wall color such as Farrow & Ball’s Pointing or Pale Powder. ‘But for a luxurious statement, something like Stone Blue, Bancha or Hague Blue will add a glamorous touch,’ he says. 

‘The shiny finish will add definition to a space and highlight architectural features - the reflectiveness will create a sleek, modern look when used on a ceiling. Do note that a higher sheen is more susceptible to showing imperfections so preparing the surface so it’s smooth is key if you’re planning to try this at home,’ adds Helen Shaw. 

So, should ceilings be glossy or flat? Ultimately personal taste does matter, however, the undeniable advantage is the reflective quality of a gloss paint that will bounce more light around the room. 

Raluca Racasan
News writer

Raluca is Digital News Writer for and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.