Whether you’re painting your home yourself or hiring somebody else to deal with the tarps, splatters, and annoying rollers, you want to choose the right color. You probably know that there are some paint colors you should avoid if you want to sell your home. However, you also have to choose carefully if you want to make a small room look bigger. You don’t have to stick with white, or even limit yourself to light colors. But some colors should stay far, far away from small spaces.
Whether your entire home is adorably tiny or you’re just dealing with a single room where space is tight, these are the colors that you should never use in small spaces.
Conventional wisdom has it that white is the best color to paint a small room. But The Spruce argues that you should actually never paint a small room white. The reason why? While white can brighten up dark spaces, it can also emphasize the boxiness of a small room, by making the shadows and corners more obvious — the opposite of what you want in a tight space. Similarly, designer Paul Mathieu tells House Beautiful that you shouldn’t assume your walls should be white. Instead, he advises a dark charcoal gray, which, surprisingly, can “really open up the space.”
The Spruce also recommends against painting a small space red. That’s because red can get a little intense for a small room. As the publication explains, “The energy and warmth of red can heat up a small room and leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Red is better left as a color accent for a small space.” A strong color, like red, can end up drawing too much attention to itself in a small space, whether that’s your living room or your bathroom. But we’d especially advise steering clear of red in a small bedroom, where you’ll probably want something a lot more calming.
Bright colors are tricky to use in any home, but especially in small spaces. MyDomaine learned that many designers think you should steer clear of orange when painting a small room. Katherine Carter tells the publication that often, fast food chains use colors like orange in the their marketing. That’s because those colors make people feel hungry. Designer Emily Henderson adds, “Anything that feels too electric or vibrant will instantly make the room feel small and cheap and bounce light around in a bad way.”
Charlie Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball, tells MyDomaine that you shouldn’t use yellow when painting a small space either. A bright yellow can work as an accent on a door. But you should think twice before using it for an entire room. “If used in a room that is slightly too large and more lived-in, it can be overwhelming, drawing one’s attention away from other items like furniture or trim detailing. The same thing can happen if it is overused in a room. We love the vibrant hue, but be wary, this color isn’t for the faint of heart and should be used in moderation.”
5. A color that’s too dark
Good Housekeeping reports that another common mistake in painting a small space is going with a color that’s too dark. Designer Mary McGee tells the publication, “Lighter walls and lighter floors do automatically give the illusion of more space.” If you initially fall in love with a color that looks too dark in the room, you can always try out a lighter shade. That way, you can go with the color you like, without the risk of make the space look tighter than it really is.
6. Dull colors
HGTV reports that one of the worst color mistakes you can make in a small space is going with a dull color. You actually want to choose clear, sharp colors. Mark McCauley, author of Interior Design for Idiots, advises HGTV, “Choose a palette of sharper colors as opposed to duller ones.” McCauley’s talking about not only your paint colors, but also the furniture and accents you put in your home. But the rule makes sense when you choose a paint color, too. Don’t go with a muddy color. Commit to something clear and sharp instead.
7. Colors with weird undertones
If you’ve settled on a neutral color, you might think the work is over. But you’ll actually need to take plenty of paint samples home to test out different shades. That’s because plenty of neutral colors can take on weird undertones in your space. A gray that has an unexpected green or pink undertone will look even more obvious in a small space than a larger one. And those undertones can clash with the furnishings and decor you’ve chosen for a room. The solution? Don’t rely on tiny paint chips. Buy small paint samples and test them on a piece of posterboard, so that you can actually see what each color looks like in the room.
8. Super trendy colors
You might think that keeping close tabs on what’s hot on Pinterest or in design magazines would help you make the right decisions when repainting your home. However, it can actually make it harder to choose something that you’ll really love seeing every day. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you like a trendy color because it really resonates with your style or just because you’re seeing it everywhere. Don’t choose a color simply because it’s trendy, especially not in a small space where you’ll be in close quarters with it.
9. Any color you don’t love
No matter what the design rules tell you, you should never paint a room with a color you don’t love. Even if a designer tells you that a specific color will make your room look larger, don’t settle for a color you dislike. If you’ve been dreaming of painting your room with a specific color, then go for it! Just find the right shade to show it off without overwhelming the space.