Home Decor

3 Things to Consider Before Painting a Large Room—& Which Colors to Choose

According to the experts.

October 21, 2019

It’s true that cramped rooms are tough to design. This is a fact that is far too familiar in the age of tiny homes and large rents. But in the last few years, plenty of information about how to maximize square footage has been provided so that even the smallest quarters can eventually become functional. The same probably couldn’t be said about people with the opposite problem: Too much space, and not a clue about what to do with it.

While those in smaller homes might dream of more room to call their own, those who have it might consider this issue to be more confusing than convenient. How do you design for a large space, especially one that has high ceilings? To answer this question, it’s best to start with the right paint color, since this is key to creating a desired effect.

“Because there’s already a lot space in your room, whatever you choose to paint the walls will be magnified,” says Shea McGee, chief creative officer at Studio McGee. “A lighter paint will feel especially airy, and a darker paint will make the room feel even more dramatic.”

Maggie Griffin, founder and principal designer of Maggie Griffin Design, agrees that this design challenge isn’t easy—but says you shouldn’t shy away from making a statement: “Don’t be afraid to go bold in a large space.”

But before you stretch a paint roller all the way up to those coveted high ceilings, McGee and Griffin think it’s important to consider everything you plan to cover—which should include more than blank walls.

These are their three tips for inviting more texture, color, and pattern into an especially large room.

3 Details to Consider Ahead of Painting

1. For more texture, consider beams.

One of the most important goals of designing a large room with high ceilings should be drawing the eye up. McGee says that one of the best ways to do that is by installing beams. “I’d use wooden beams and trusses for a big design payoff,” she says, since they’ll add plenty of texture and dimension to the room.

2. For a color statement, consider your trim.

Griffin, on the other hand, suggests focusing on the potential of a feature closer to the floor. “I love tone-on-tone walls and trim work,” she says. “For instance, using a deep hue on the trim and a shade lighter on all the walls makes for a dramatic finish. Crisp white walls with dark trim can make such a fun statement, too.”

3. For more pattern, consider wood accents.

Another option, McGee adds, is installing a wooden design on the walls before painting everything in one or two shades. “I love using architectural details like wainscotting or paneling in spaces with tall ceilings,” she says. “It brings in dimension that really takes the design of a room to the next level.”

Once you have the details figured out, these are the eight paint colors that Griffin and McGee recommend.

The 8 Best Paint Colors for Rooms with High Ceilings

For a breezier feel:

1) China White by Benjamin Moore: “This is my current favorite because it seems to change shades depending on the light,” says Griffin. “I love that in the afternoon it takes on a tone of drabware, and in the morning it’s a crisp warm white.”

2) Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore: “This is a beautiful neutral with a hint of gray,” says Griffin. “I use it for clients with more traditional inclinations.”

3) Simply White by Benjamin Moore: “This pick is always at the top of our list for rooms with high ceilings,” says McGee. “It’s this great crisp white that creates a great foundation to build the rest of a room’s design.”

4) Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore: “It isn’t too warm or too crisp, just a nice neutral white that lightens up your space,” says McGee.

For a moodier feel:

1) Antique Pewter by Benjamin Moore: “This is my go-to moody color for the different tones of blue, green, and grey that make up the fabulous hue,” says Griffin.

2) Nightfall by Benjamin Moore: “My team and I used this color in an office with tall ceilings for a dramatic effect,” says McGee. “This inky blue elevated the entire feel of the space.”

3) Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore: “This is a warm gray that helps your space feel cozy, but it’s not overwhelmingly dark,” says McGee.

4) Benjamin Moore White Dove: “This is another one of my favorites,” says McGee. “It has a warmer tone to it that keeps a room feeling cozy, especially when accented by wooden trusses.”

What's your favorite paint color for a large room? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Kelly Dawson

Written by: Kelly Dawson

Writer and Editor


GPE L. January 15, 2020
Nice article, Thank you for sharing informative articles, Kelly.
nana M. December 19, 2019
Perfect timing for planning painting renovations for 2020! Thanks
Alyson H. October 21, 2019
My fav paint color is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter lightened by 50%. A pale greige that goes with every tone (warm or cool) in upholstery and woodwork.