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July 2nd, 2009 by Erin Vosti Lal
We’ve all been faced with the dilemma of choosing a paint color for a small room. Whether it’s a bedroom, a den, or even the living room, the challenge seems to be brought on by the desire to make a room feel larger. Common theories on making a small room seem roomier have brought many to simply paint the room white, or a cheery, saturated color. The idea being that bright colors open up a space and let light in.
While this is true, I challenge you to think a little differently, to think outside the boring, flat white box, if you will. Consider this: paint that small room a dark color. Perhaps a velvety brown or a royal eggplant, even a darkish gray or beautiful navy. “Crazy and completely beyond conventional thinking!” you’re saying to yourself right now. This is a trick many of the top designers have used for decades and is a mantra in color theory classes.
Darker colors make the corners of a small and square room disappear, allowing the eye to be tricked out of distinguishing where one wall meets the other. It’s basically a game of shadows, making the room’s dimensions appear less small. And darker colors, with the right lighting at night, can be warm and envelop you like your favorite blanket. This works especially well in a dining room with candlelight! And who doesn’t want to look good at the dinner table?
Dark colors also serve as a great background to your decor. For instance, deep browns pair really well with reds, blues, purples, pinks, and especially bright white . For a really fresh look, use a dark brown or paint on the walls, bright white paint on the trim and pair it with painted white lacquer furniture and white upholstery. Add some accent colors in the way of vases, throw pillows and artwork and you’ve got a very clean and chic room. The dark walls will help your accent colors really stand out.
There are, however, many instances where a room benefits from white walls. If you have a lot of artwork or busy furniture and bright fabrics that are the scene stealers of the room, white walls are absolutely appropriate. White painted walls also serve as an excellent background for displaying one’s collection of paintings or photography, and also works well for modern décor; but it always helps to have interesting architectural details or paneling to keep it from being plain and boring.
But if you choose to go the white route, don’t choose a boring white paint. There are many thousands of white colors out there that have depth and character. Benjamin Moore is my favorite paint to work with, and I’ve amazed many clients with a “plain white” wall that is anything but plain!
Whatever color on which you decide, I urge you to paint several patches on your wall before you dive into the commitment. I always live with a color for several days to make sure it’s the right one, and I paint it on each wall of the room; this way you can see what the color is like as it’s reflected by natural light during the day, and how it looks at night in softer light. You’d be amazed at the difference one paint color has on one wall near a window, and one that’s not as close to a natural light source. The color in our family room reflects green at one part of the day, gray at the other, and yellow toward the end of the day! Who knew paint could be so complex?