How To Make a Small Room Look Big and Sexy

How to make a small room look big and sexy! 4 tips from interior designer Lesley Myrick.

There’s a lot of misconception out there about how to make a small room look big, and people usually default to this idea that white paint cures all. “White paint! White paint! Everything looks bigger and brighter with white!”

You can probably figure out where I’m going with this. (Spoiler alert: white might not be your friend.) Here are four tips to actually make a room look larger:

Can’t view the embedded video above? Click here. Prefer to read? Edited transcript is below.

Lesley Myrick here – your interior design partner-in-crime to help you bust out of boring. Welcome to Episode 7 of our weekly Facebook live video series: How to Make a Small Room Look Big and Sexy. I’m so glad you’re here! This is going to be a really fun topic.

White walls can certainly work to make a room feel big and bright and lovely,

but it only works if the room is big and bright and lovely already on its own.

Trying to paint a small, dark room white in the hopes of bringing life and energy and brightness to it is a big thumbs down. It’s really important to understand what’s giving a room its character to start with and learn how to work with that to its best advantage to make your room big and sexy and awesome and beautiful and allllll those things.

I’ve got four things I want to suggest to you today about how to make a small room look larger.

The first one is most likely not using a white paint color, but a dark paint color. This one really throws people off. “Well, a dark paint color’s gonna feel like a cave and it’s going to be all dark and closed in…”

Here’s what actually happens with light and dark colors.

Light colors advance. So if you see something light, bright, white, it seems closer to you. Dark colors recede. They go away, fade into the background, and that is how dark paint can actually help fool the eye into thinking a space is bigger than it is.

When you have a small room and it’s dark with not a lot of light, you start painting those walls white and you see every shadow. You see that the corners are dark and dull. You see that there aren’t many areas of bright, beautiful white. And your eye immediately sees everything contract, and sees all the light and shadow.

Take that same room, and paint it a beautiful rich, dark color like navy or charcoal or teal (‘cuz you know I’m all about that!) and suddenly the walls recede. They fade back. You can’t see the corners as distinctly – they just melt away into the background. It is so counter-intuitive to what we think we know about paint colors but I promise you will be pleasantly surprised if you have a small room, especially if it’s not that well-lit with natural light, how effective a dark paint color can actually be to expand the space.

I can’t wait to show you pictures of my master bedroom when it’s all done. You’ve probably heard me talk before about the Sherwin-Williams paint color Dark Night. I love it! It’s this beautiful peacock blue, kinda navy, kinda teal. We did our whole bedroom in this color and I absolutely love it. The room is a million times better and bigger looking than it was when it was white. And so, I’m living proof that this actually really works and I can’t wait to show you more examples of that in the future.

Tip number two –

– and this one’s a little more common, but it really works – is mirrors. If you can position a mirror in a way that is taking advantage of the light you already have in the room it’s total “winner winner chicken dinner”. You can reflect sunlight coming in and it doubles it! You can reflect a beautiful view, you can reflect a beautiful lamp – all those things are going to bring more light to the room and make it look larger.

When a mirror sucks is when it’s reflecting something ugly or dark – that’s when I’d avoid it. However, I think mirrors are often overlooked when decorating and seen as more utilitarian, like in a bathroom or above a dresser. But think about using them elsewhere – like in a long hallway when you’re trying to bounce some light into the end of a dark hall. Mirrors also work great in living rooms – you can see one in my living room right there, and I love it! We’ve got great windows in both rooms that reflect that mirror and it helps that wall look even bigger and make the space look larger.

The third way to make a small room look larger is with lighting.

I know, this kind of counteracts the first point about darker colors and dark spaces, but if you have lighter colored walls more light on them is going to make the room feel bigger. In general, good lighting is essential. You might have can lights in your ceiling, but they’re not my favorite. They shouldn’t be your only source of light. You need to mix general lighting (like can lights) with some ambient lighting (like table lamps), and task lighting (direct lighting, like a desk lamp). Layering lighting is awesomesauce!

I’m kind of a lighting whore – I admit to that.

I love lamp.

If a room is feeling a little lackluster, a little dingy, a little dull or small, a lamp is a great choice to liven it up and make it feel bigger.

And finally, the last tip I have for making a small room look larger is by reducing contrast.

Contrast is when things look different – white and black. Very high contrast. So when your eye is scanning a room and it’s stopping on things that are light and dark and light and dark, it interrupts the visual flow, makes everything feel smaller, and messes with your big sexy room mojo!

One way to really help a room seem larger is by reducing contrast. If you have light, neutral walls, think about light, neutral furniture. Include a couple of bright, fun focal points but overall keep things consistent.

You can do the same with dark – if you have dark walls, maybe with a brown or black leather sofa, that works too. The lower the contrast is between colors and items in the room the bigger it’s going to look because your eyes are just like, “Hey, what’s up, I’m going all the way from beginning to end with no interruptions!” instead of getting broken up along the way and getting distracted by shiny things!

There you have it – four quick tips to make a small room look big and sexy:

paint it a dark color, hang some beautiful mirrors, bring in some new lighting, and take a look at your color palette and get rid of high-contrast pieces in favor of things that are lower contrast and are going to help the eye move around the room.

Thank you once again for tuning in to Bust Out Of Boring.

I’m so happy that we’ve been doing this for seven weeks, and I’ll continue to be here every Wednesday at noon.