Using Paint To Alter A Room Shape

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Redecorating a room is an exciting time for interior lovers - a blank canvas lays ready with endless possibilities for creativity. But even if you're just looking for a quick refresh for your space, how do you know where to start?

Rooms come in so many different shapes and sizes it's difficult to know what to do with them, but one thing to keep in mind is how you want the space to appear. Paint (and wallpaper) can be used to visually change the shape of a room - make it seem larger, smaller, longer, taller etc - and is often a much cheaper alternative to physically moving, adding or removing walls.

Below we give you different combinations for changing the room the way you want. We're using a simple rectangular room as an example but of course it can be applied to any room shape.

Enlarging Rooms

Windows are of course an excellent way of making a room seem bigger - natural light opens up the space and gives it an airy feeling, but if you haven't got windows, painting the walls in a lighter colour will do too. White and light tones reflect more light which gives the sense of space - and by using one single colour on walls, ceiling, coving and skirting it removes contrast and doesn't highlight the corners as much, so you are less aware of the constraints of the room. Use warmer tones so it doesn't feel quite so clinical, or bright colours if you'd rather not use white.

Compacting Rooms

Alternatively, sometimes you want to make a room seem more intimate and cosy, and using warm, darker tones can make the walls seem closer but still give an element of grandeur. Again, using a single colour for everything will remove points of reference and give that intimate feel. A few splashes of bright cheerful contrasting colours in your furnishings will add that lighter touch if you don't want it all to be a little too dark.

Lengthening Rooms

Having the end wall a lighter colour than all the others will 'push' it away and naturally make the side walls seem longer. Horizontal stripes are an excellent visual trick for this as well - using wide bands of contrasting colours/tones will give the illusion of length.

Shortening & Widening Rooms

Alternatively, using an end wall as a 'feature wall' - with either darker colours or patterned wallpaper brings it forward visually and the lighter side walls create that feeling of space.

Elongating Rooms

Sometimes you'll have a small room or corridor and you want to give it a spacious feel but with a combination of colours rather than a single wash. Using lighter colours on the side walls and a brighter, darker shade on the ceiling and end wall draws the eyes to that far wall, making it seem longer.

Narrowing Rooms

Using the opposite approach to above, having colour on side walls and the lighter shades on the ceiling and end wall will bring the side walls in to narrow the room.

Higher Ceilings

For compact rooms, sometimes you want to keep the cosiness but also introduce an element of space. Using a lighter colour on the ceiling will keep the cosy atmosphere of the room but lift the height, and choosing a satin or gloss (or semi-gloss) paint will reflect light even more to make it appear taller. Include the coving (if you have any) when painting the lighter shade, or extend it partway down the wall to give it extra height.

If you're a little more adventurous, go for vertical stripes - they automatically make the walls appear taller. There are some amazing wallpaper designs out there that would do the job without having to go to the effort of painting!

Lower Ceilings

In larger rooms specifically, one way to keep it light and airy but still not too spacious is to paint the ceiling a darker colour - this makes it look lower. Depending on the size of the room, you may want to continue the darker colour onto the coving (if you have any) or further down onto the wall to ground it.


- Painting pipework, radiators and architectural features the same colour as the walls/and or ceiling can create that feeling of space and declutters the room visually.

- If you have open plan rooms, use different wall colours to delineate each space.

- If you intend to make a particular wall a feature, choose one that is plain with no windows and doors.

- Don't be afraid to be bold with your choices! Strong colours and combinations are popular even in tiny rooms.

- Create a mood board with inspiring images and palettes before you start your final decisions.

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