Manipulating a space with colour – colour lesson 5

Colour, and more importantly its tonal level, is a very useful tool to change the perception of size and scale in a room.   Designers refer to this as manipulating a space with colour.  Often people will do this and not even realise it and then either be unexpectedly happy with the end result of the décor scheme or feel that the room is not quite right. When we select colours for a room, we focus so much on what will work with our furnishings and which colours we prefer.  However we don't always consider how we can use that colour or a darker or lighter tone of it, to change the look of a room.  I have some great imagery to help you understand this.

My tips for manipulating a space with colour

Extend the height of a wall

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – Poppytalk

The simplest way to achieve this is to paint the cornice the same colour as the wall and this is particularly effective if the wall colour is bold or dark.  If you also include the skirting boards you will make the wall seem even higher.

Define a great view

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image –

Use a different tone of colour to frame a great view.  With this window seat, framed in timber, it is completing the beauty of the view and is far more effective than just letting the white wall meet the window frame.

You can also paint the walls a dark colour and include the window architraves so that the view becomes the picture in the wall without anything else to detract the eye, for example a white trimmed architrave.

Lower the ceiling

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – Elle Magazine

This is a common design trick and an excellent way to demonstrate the art of manipulating a space with colour.  The darker you paint a ceiling, the lower it will appear and if it is the same tonal level as the walls, you will achieve a cave like feeling and you can use this to really train the eye to focus on what you want it to, for example a beautiful view or artwork.

Make a room appear larger

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – Elle Decor

Include part of the ceiling, for example a sloping area that is distinct from the rest, into the wall colour.  This will disguise a funny shaped ceiling and make the room feel larger, even though the walls may be in a much darker colour.

Draw attention to a domed/feature ceiling

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – House Beautiful

If your ceiling has a central section that you would like to highlight you can paint this in a darker or contrasting colour which will have the effect of lowering the ceiling but also creating a feature.  By leaving the surround in white, you create a framed effect.

Focus the eye

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – Houzz

A bright strong colour, anywhere in the room, will focus the eye on this point.  This is the reason why you should never add a strong feature colour or amazing piece of pop art near a beautiful view.  A front door painted a strong colour on the interior side acts as a feature colour, drawing the eye automatically to the exit.

Accenting shelving and display cabinets

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – House of Turquoise

Incorporating the wall colour or simply another dark feature colour, behind shelving really makes the shelf pop and will also provide a defined space for the item that you plan to display – even better if you install lighting. By replicating the blue and white stripe here in the rug, you achieve a very structured and striking colour scheme.

Shorten the length of a hallway

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – So Soft Sunday

If you are faced with a very long hallway, it is very effective to paint the end wall in a strong dark colour or place a large piece of dark furniture here as this will appear to bring the end wall closer.  This is an important lesson to learn as often people do this without realising its effect and of course it can work the other way and close a smaller space in.

Making a feature less obvious

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5

If you would like to detract from a feature (remember not all features are necessarily good ones!), you can paint it all one colour.  The effect is stunning on these stairs but by using a dark tone and not highlighting either the tread or riser, this makes it quite a challenge to see.

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5
Image – Beach Bungalow

You can see how different the effect is with this staircase as the carpet runner feeds you up the stairs and the bright colour also attracts your eye to this area.

This is just a small group of examples but once you start to look at how colour and tone affects a space, you will see that it is a very powerful tool.  Therefore, you should consider the shape of your room, the height and style of the ceilings and the areas to paint, e.g. architraves, skirting boards etc. and see how you can use colour and tone to get the best from the space.  Remember to consider the features you want to enhance and those you need to hide and ensure that the eye is drawn just where you want it to be.

I have lots of inspiration on my colour boards on Pinterest and it would be great to hear your comments in the section below – look forward to hearing from you.

Manipulating a space with colour - colour lesson 5

I have some related articles that you may find interesting.

What should you paint on the inside of your front door?

Are you confused about how to treat the trim in your home?  If so, this is for you What colour do I paint my skirting boards and architraves?

Do you just reach for the ceiling white paint at the hardware store?  There are lots more options – even if you just want to use white.  Find out more here What colour do I paint my ceiling?

Did you know that I also have a FREE Resource Library with lots of e-books and checklists to help with your next decorating or renovating project.  You can access everything FREE here.

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