Interiors expert Kate Watson-Smyth shares the best paint colour for a small room ... and it may not be what you think

Paint can change everything when you don't have much square footage to play with

living room
(Image credit: Neptune)

Even those living in a chic Parisian apartment will face the design dilemmas of working with more compact space. Although they're often a source of frustration, interiors expert and podcast co-host Kate Watson-Smyth has a clever tip for how to use color to make a small room feel bigger.

‘I'm all in favor of strong color,’ Kate says. ‘If you want a strong color, try having a sofa that's the same color as your strong wall in the sitting room.’ She explains that not only will picking a bold color and running with it make a real style statement, but it will also create the feeling of more space.

sofa in living room

(Image credit: Neptune)

In a small room without much natural light, the Mad About The House author encourages us to pick dark tones. ‘There is a school of thought that under electric light, the walls, ceiling and floor will recede into the darkness if you paint them all in a dark color,’ she says. 

This blurs the edges, drawing the eye away from the corners of the room, and therefore making it look bigger. In other words, it has the absolute opposite effect of painting the skirting boards, doors, and ceilings white, which instantly draws attention to the edges.

living room

(Image credit: Neptune)

However, before coating your walls in Farrow & Ball’s Railings, it’s absolutely key to think about two things. ‘You've got to be very clear when you are using the room and what you are using it for,’ Kate says. 

‘If you're using it in the evening under electric light, then that works really well, but if that's your sitting room and you've got to have Zoom meetings in there, and it's your kids' playroom, then that's not going to work.’ If you’ve got a multifunctional space like the one Kate describes, a paler paint choice will work far better.

small space feel bigger

(Image credit: Neptune)

Alternatively, you can paint the ceiling to make the space feel bigger. In a room with darker walls and a pale ceiling, Kate suggests you ‘bring the ceiling down over the top of the walls to the picture rail, if you have one - but you can absolutely paint a stripe in.'

'When you look up, the ceiling looks bigger because it's folding over the top of the wall.’ 

Kate Watson-Smyth’s book Mad About The House Planner: Your Home Your Story is out on March 18, 2021.

Millie joined Real Homes in early 2021 as a homes news writer. When she isn't writing about trends, makeovers and houseplant care, she spends her free time making tweaks to her rented flat in North London. Her next project is a very basic armchair reupholstering job to help create a cosy reading nook in her living room. She loves browsing antique centres, tending to her small front garden, and is never without some fresh flowers at home.