12 Paint Colors Designers Pick To Make Small Rooms Feel Bigger

Chantilly Lace White Walls
Photo: Margaret Wright

What updates are best for a small space? As it turns out, the most impactful may be the easiest to change: the paint color. If a room in your home feels cramped and needs a refresh, Nicole Gibbons, Founder, and CEO of Clare Paint, offers advice. "Light, bright colors draw less attention to themselves and help to make a space feel bigger—largely because they disappear," she says. "On the other hand, darker colors tend to recede from view, so a more saturated color on the walls could help to 'push' the walls out and therefore give the appearance of a larger space."

Atlanta-based interior designer Alice Cramer says to consider lighting before making a decision. "If there is nice natural light, then a dark paint color can be really lovely," she says.

Whether you're planning to go bold or stick to neutrals, read on for advice and paint color recommendations for small rooms from top Southern designers.

01 of 12

Benjamin Moore's Lead Gray (2131-30)

Katie Davis Powder Bath
Kerry Kirk

Houston designer, Katie Davis of Katie Davis Design, added depth to a client's powder bath using Benjamin Moore's Lead Gray. "The key here was all-over color, and of course, other decor elements that juxtapose the shade, like the floor tile and the sink." She adds that rich paint colors work particularly well if there is architectural interest like paneling or shiplap.

02 of 12

Farrow & Ball's Down Pipe (No. 26)

Down Pipe Paint in Library
Molly Culver Photography

Houston designer, Jennifer Barron of Jennifer Barron Interiors, recommends Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball, which she describes as a warm, dark gray. "It's the perfect color to make a small or cozy space feel larger," she says. "The depth and darkness of the color are inviting, yet allows the space to feel much larger than if it had been painted a lighter color." Barron suggests Down Pipe for any small space "as it leaves you feeling cozy and grounded in the room," she says.

03 of 12

Benjamin Moore's White Dove (OC-17)

White Dove Dining Room
Laura Steffan

New Orleans-based designer Hattie Sparks turns to Benjamin Moore's classic White Dove to brighten any space. "This color white is my favorite, primarily because it doesn't pull yellow or blue like many other shades of white can," she says. "It's a pure, fresh, bright shade that helps spaces feel clean and airy, not sterile. It looks great in all shades of light and in almost every type of room. Truly the most universal white, in my opinion."

04 of 12

Benjamin Moore's Onyx (2133-10)

Studio Thomas James Library
Costa Christ

Philip Thomas Vanderford of Dallas's Studio Thomas James chose Benjamin Moore's Onyx for a client's modern office. "By painting both the walls and ceiling a matte black, we were able to create a home office design that pulls you in and allows you to focus on day-to-day tasks," they say. "We used emerald green for the window treatments and upholstery to bring a natural feel to the space while adding that perfect hint of color."

05 of 12

Benjamin Moore's Coral Dust (2173-50)

Coral Dust Paint Color Office Nook
Costa Christ

Vanderford encourages readers to have fun with patterns and colors, like this Coral Dust by Benjamin Moore, in tight quarters too. "While this space may be small, it is full of cheer. By selecting a light but glamorous pink shade for this home workspace, we were able to create a powerful and bright interior that inspires you to get to work," they say. "We always suggest to our clients to select a bright color for smaller spaces; it's the perfect opportunity to be bold and show off your personality."

06 of 12

Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace (OC-65)

Chantilly Lace White Walls
Margaret Wright

Charleston interior designer Megan Molten says her go-to paint color for making a room feel larger is Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace. "I've used it so much that it's become my signature shade. It's really just the perfect bright white—creating the ideal backdrop for that clean, coastal, and airy feel my clients are looking to achieve in their homes."

07 of 12

Sherwin-Williams' Meander Blue (SW 6484)

Meander Blue Paint Tween Bedroom
Nathan Schroder

Morgan Farrow, the principal designer of Morgan Farrow Interiors in Dallas, says Meander Blue by Sherwin-Williams works wonders for children's rooms. "This aqua tone was the perfect paint selection for this girl's room and really added an extra layer of excitement and personality," she says. "When designing a small space, I think color selection can completely transform the overall feel. This bedroom now feels larger and provides a joyful place to grow."

08 of 12

Sherwin-Williams' Spare White (SW 6203)

Spare White Paint Color Living Room
Maison Studios

Principal designers Anne Scott Gates and Allison Smith of Maison Studios recommend Spare White by Sherwin-Williams. "It has just enough blue-gray tones to offer the slightest bit of contrast when used in conjunction with a true white, allowing any millwork or details to stand out without breaking up the space," Gates says.

09 of 12

Benjamin Moore's Pashmina (AF-100)

Pashmina Paint Color Office
Nathan Schroder

Interior designer, Julie Dodson of Houston's Dodson Interiors, transformed a client's office using Benjamin Moore's Pashmina at 50 percent intensity. Her best advice for readers? "Regardless of the paint color you choose, in a small space, it's best to give the room an allover tone. Paint the trim, walls, and baseboards the same color," she says. "Instantly, the room expands."

10 of 12

Sherwin-Williams' Tricorn Black (SW 6258)

Tricorn Black Paint Color Library
Nathan Schroder

When designing a small space, interior designer Jean Liu encourages clients to use a dark paint color like Tricorn Black by Sherwin-Williams in a high-gloss finish. "Contrary to conventional thinking, painting a room dark and minimizing the delineation between the walls, the ceilings, and the baseboards allows the room to appear larger and taller than it may actually be," she says. "We love the effect it gave this small library."

11 of 12

Sherwin-Williams' Magnetic Gray (SW 7058)

Sherwin-Williams Magnetic Gray
Melissa Fitzgerald

Designer Katie Davis of Katie Davis Design in Houston refreshed this space with a bit of color. Magnetic Gray by Sherwin-Williams is a favorite because of its versatility. "When in doubt, go for color," she says. "Adding color to a space, especially the cabinets, instantly adds 'happy' to a room."

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Benjamin Moore's Normandy Blue (2129-40)

Benjamin Moore Normandy Blue
Margaret Wright

Interior designer, Megan Molten of Charleston, painted the shelves and walls all one color in this small room, choosing the blue-gray Normandy Blue by Benjamin Moore. "Typically, you wouldn't think to bring a darker color into a smaller space," she says. "This created depth, making the room feel larger while making a statement."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much space does eight ounces of paint cover?

    On average, one gallon of paint covers up to 400 square feet. For a small room, one gallon of paint should cover the space, according to PPG Paints.

  • What sizes are available for paint cans?

    Paint cans vary in size, including one gallon or five gallons. There are sizes in between, including a half gallon, one quart, one pint, and a half pint.

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