Home Hacks

A ‘Why Didn’t I Think of That?’ Paint Hack for Making Small Rooms Look Big

You'll never think about painting the same way.

August 28, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Interior designers Jesse DeSanti and Lauren Svenstrup share the same advice when it comes to painting small spaces, and it’s a tip that also feels like permission: Color outside the lines.

“Ditch the white trim and paint everything the same color,” Svenstrup says. “If you want your space to feel larger and more cohesive, then you need to make those lines disappear.”

It may seem like standard procedure to think of paint’s canvas as just the walls—not the trim, doors, or even the ceiling, too. But if those walls contain cramped quarters, then it’s worth it to expand the shade throughout the room. DeSanti and Svenstrup, the respective founders of Jette Creative and Studio Sven, note that sticking to one hue is a simple design secret that they use when square footage is tight. This solution allows the eye to travel more easily, thus giving the illusion of more space.

“When you keep things monochromatic, whatever the paint color might be, it’s a way to help the room feel even,” DeSanti adds. “But when you paint contrasting elements, like only the baseboards and the ceiling, you create lines that call attention to the size. It’s alright to have a pop of color in a small area, as long as the walls, ceiling, doors, and trim are the same.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Yet all the samples show white trim. Show me a room where the walls, trim and ceiling are all the same color.”
— Dee D.

Now that this trick is yours for the taking, DeSanti and Svenstrup also share their six favorite paint colors for small spaces. Once you find the one you like, you’ll know how to work it to its full potential.

The 6 Best Paint Colors for Small Rooms

1. Arctic Seal, Benjamin Moore

“I've used this color a couple of times in big and small rooms alike,” Svenstrup says. “It’s the perfect moody, yet subtle tone for creating an intimate space.”

Arctic Seal in action. Photo by Studio Sven

2. Pacific Sea Teal, Benjamin Moore

“I love the depth of this teal,” Svenstrup says. “It's bold, yet sophisticated and works with any decor style.”

Pacific Sea Teal, tapping in. Photo by Studio Sven

3. Brinjal 222, Farrow & Ball

“I keep thinking I'm going to get sick of this color, but it's been years and it's still one of my favorites,” Svenstrup says. “It's the perfect color to warm up any space, and I love how the subtle red undertones change with natural light during different times of day.”

4. Kendall Charcoal, Benjamin Moore

“Small isn’t a bad thing, and sometimes you just need to accept it for its purpose,” DeSanti says. “I like painting a small room this shade to make it feel cozy and warm. Then the details, like the pillows and art, become the ‘color.’”

An assist from Kendall Charcoal. Photo by Nicole Franzen

5. Crystal Haze, Dunn Edwards

“A subtle color like this one adds warmth to a space without being too dark or too stark,” according to DeSanti.

6. Dry Sage, Benjamin Moore

“I recommend using this one in a small kitchen,” DeSanti says. “It can help make a space feel larger visually when painting cabinets and walls the same color.”

What's your favorite paint color for small spaces? Let us know in the comments.
Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nadia Mansour
    Nadia Mansour
  • Deb Voves
    Deb Voves
  • Teddee Grace
    Teddee Grace
  • Voula
  • CookedGoose
Kelly Dawson

Written by: Kelly Dawson

Writer and Editor


Nadia M. October 10, 2019
It also creates a really boring interior. My kitchen cabinets are the same color as the wall paint and it sucks!
Deb V. October 10, 2019
I painted all of the walls and vaulted ceiling of my master with Pittsburgh paint color natural, in eggshell latex finish. Every wall and ceiling looks like a slightly different color and changes with the light outside. It’s fabulous without any cutting in of different colors!
Teddee G. October 10, 2019
Almost eight years ago I painted the interior of our one-room family cabin high in the Rocky Mountains, which had been white, what I called charcoal brown. I absolutely loved it and seemed to have been ahead of the curve as far as using dark colors in a small space. It made it very cozy and I added numerous lamps to offset any darkness which added to that cozy feel.
Voula September 20, 2019
I agree that if you are posting colors, we should have a pic for reference.
I really don't agree that painting dark colors makes a small room feel bigger. Cozy, perhaps. Bigger? Not really.
CookedGoose September 7, 2019
Unacceptable that you don’t have an easily accessible photo of each color; it’s annoying to see some easily and not others
mudd September 23, 2019
If no photo, click on the color name. Takes you to manufacturers site and the specific color page
Stephanie J. September 7, 2019
Why is there not a photo of this look??
Casey S. September 1, 2019
What are the names of the 4 colors of the swatches on the opening photo of this story? So nice and sophisticated, yet still fun!
Mary P. September 1, 2019
The monochromatic trick for small rooms worked in our tiny powder room. I had the wall color cut to 75% pigment for the ceilings but all the same color. I love these deep shades, I think I am out of sync with trends as everyone is going with white, but deep muted colors I find soothing and comfortable.
Karen L. September 1, 2019
I am so tired of grayed tones! Here in Seattle the latest trend is GRAY. Why? With all the new gray apartment buildings I feel like we're in a penal colony. Our apartment building was just sold and guess what; they are renovating the building by painting the walls, doors, and floors shades of gray. Even the hall rug is gray.
Dee D. September 1, 2019
Yet all the samples show white trim. Show me a room where the walls, trim and ceiling are all the same color.
Ivy H. September 1, 2019
I just painted my bedroom, going from a medium bread-mold green to a light-light salmon pink. The pink color makes my room look so much bigger! With the darker color I had painted the trim the same. With the pink, I'm going back to white trim and it's gorgeous. So I guess I disagree. Maybe it's just changing up color that's exciting. You see the room again.
AntoniaJames August 29, 2019
I'd be interested in your painting hacks for large rooms. I have 11+ foot ceilings and enormous windows, and all the rooms are huge. (Our primary bedroom alone, for example, is larger than many NYC apartments.) Thank you.