How to use colour to make a room feel bigger or cosier

Picking your favourite colour from a paint swatch is easy, but making it work in a real interior to accentuate the features of the room is far more difficult, as colours do not work in isolation. The room's proportions, existing furniture and the degree of natural light can all have a dramatic impact on how a colour looks. Read our advice on how you can use this to your advantage - by using colour to make a room feel larger or cosier.

How to use colour to make a room feel bigger or cosier

How to use colour. Image by Dulux.

Top tricks with colour

  • Read how to make a small room feel bigger for more decorating advice, including design tips on wallpaper, flooring and space-saving storage.
  • If you are dying to try a daring shade but worried it will go out of fashion use it on a feature wall to save you repainting the whole room.
  • Make an awkward alcove into a design feature by painting it in an accent colours, papering it with a bold design or decorating it with wall stickers or stencils.
  • Give a white room more depth by using different tones of cream and layering up tactile soft furnishings like lace and wool.
  • Finally, read our article on how to make a large room feel cosier.

Use neutral colours to create space
In a small cramped room that you want to feel more spacious, opt for white, neutrals or cool blues and greens. If the ceiling is low you can give it a natural lift by painting it brilliant white or a lighter tone of the same colour used on the walls. For more design inspiration, take a look at our neutral living room design ideas and neutral bedroom design ideas.

Just as clothes with vertical stripes can make you look skinnier, the same trick makes a room look taller. If you don't like the idea of a candy-striped room, wallpaper with a repeated vertical component such as a delicate vine or creeper can create a similar effect, although it will probably work best when restricted to one wall to create a feature wall. Our striped wallpaper gallery includes vertical and horizontal design ideas.

If you decide to decorate with patterned wallpaper, choose a light wallpaper with a fine motif rather than anything too overbearing.

Use a darker tone for the flooring and to avoid a small space feeling cluttered, paint mismatched furniture in one colour and large pieces in the same shade as the walls. Do the same with window frames and skirting boards and choose an eggshell finish to create a seamless effect. In some circumstances howver, and depending on the room's function, you might even want to exaggerate cosiness by using a darker colour, for example, if it is used as a TV room, games room or a comfy reading area with scatter cushions and beanbags

Use colour to create warmth
You can make a large and drafty space feel more homely by choosing a warmer palette of yellows, oranges or reds. A raspberry shade is easier on the eye than a pillar box red, while oranges could be earthy, terracotta tones rather than anything too acidic.

If the room feels too tall try painting the ceiling in a warmer tone or using horizontal stripes on the walls. You can make a long thin corridor-like room feel more square by painting the two short walls in a slightly darker tone. It can be tricky choosing two shades that are similar, read our article on choosing a complementary colours to make sure you get it right.

When using bold or deep colours you can still bring light into a room by using plenty of reflective or metallic surfaces. Introduce mirrors, chandeliers, lacquered furniture and spotlights to balance the dark shades of the walls. Also use lots of rugs, cushions and throws to make a room cosy even when you are using strong colours. If these design ideas appeal to you, take a look at our metallic art deco living room and eclectic country living room design ideas.

Use colour and light to make a large room cosier
South and west facing rooms that have warmer natural light can take cooler colours without feeling icy, while north and east facing rooms get less light and can use a boost from a warmer palette. The only fail-safe way to test a colour in different lights is to paint a large square in the room and see how it looks throughout the day as the sun passes overhead.

In open-plan living areas you may want to use colour to demarcate distinct zones such as a dining area, living area and kitchen. Use colours adjacent to one another on the colour wheel to create a harmonising effect or different tones of the same colour for a monochrome look. Choose complementary colours which sit opposite one another on the wheel for a dramatic scheme, such as purple and yellow for example.

The same principles apply to adjoining rooms as your home will feel much more finished and cohesive if you consider the way colours complement each other from one room to the next. If you’ve never heard of a colour wheel, watch our video on how to choose a colour scheme presented by interior designer Kathryn Rayward. She explains what a colour wheel is and how you can use it to choose which colours complement each other.