How to Use Lighting and Colors to Make Small Rooms Feel Bigger

Everyone dreams of living in a spacious home, but many of us have to be satisfied with a small house or apartment. For many homeowners, the biggest challenge is making the most of the available space, without crowding it with furniture. But even with minimalist furnishing, some rooms still look and feel small. 

However, there are always solutions for this issue. Of course, you cannot make the room bigger, but you can trick the eye to give the feeling of more generous space. For decades, interior decorators and homeowners have tested and tried various solutions. And the winning ones are lighting and color.

The Influence of Light and Color on Space

To understand how powerful these two elements are on our perception of space, let’s try a simple experiment. Think of a summer day with clear, blue sky and the sun shining brightly. You get the feeling of immense space all around you, and a very distant horizon. 

Now, imagine an overcast sky in late fall. It feels closed in and oppressive, almost bearing down on you. This is how powerful light and color are on our perception of space. At, we know all about how to blend lighting and color to enhance the look of any space. And we will share with you some helpful tips to make your small rooms feel bigger.

1. Install Multiple Sources of Light in a Room

When light comes from one single source, it focuses on one single spot, leaving the other areas in comparable darkness. This arrangement can make even a large room feel smaller. 

Instead, opt for spot lighting and neon lighting skillfully arranged to bathe the entire room in light. The fewer areas are left in shadow, the larger and more welcoming the space feels.

2. Paint the Ceiling and a Portion of the Walls around It in Light Colors

When a room has a really small surface, try to make it look higher. To achieve this effect, use a light color for the ceiling and extend it for 5-6 inches on the walls. The contrast with the wall paint will make the ceiling appear “floating” higher above people’s heads.

To enhance this effect, install small spot or neon lights in small recesses, pointing to the ceiling.

Photo by Adrien Olichon on

3. Use Backlighting

Backlighting is usually installed in bathrooms, where space is generally small. But when the entire house has small rooms, you should incorporate this lighting effect everywhere. 

So, what is backlighting exactly? It consists of sources of light installed behind mirrors or pieces of furniture. They appear to be free standing and not pushed against the wall. This tricks the eye into believing that there is more space behind the respective items.

4. Choose Wallpaper with Complementary Colors to the Furniture

Complementary colors (such as brown and cream) create a comfortable and spacious atmosphere. On the other hand, contrasting colors draw the eye to one precise spot or another – and this is not what you want to do in a small room.

Another useful tip: if you choose patterned wallpaper, select large patterns. Small, repetitive models will actually make the room look smaller than it is.

Photo by NastyaSensei on

5. Install Large Mirrors to Reflect the Light

There are many things to be said about the role of mirrors in a house. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to its key property: to reflect the light. Thus, to make a room feel bigger without installing too many lights (as we suggested at item 1), install a large mirror to reflect light all over the room. 

At the same time, by reflecting the image of the room, large mirrors also create the visual effect of more space.

6. Use Contrast Smartly

Contrasting colors are usually not a good idea for a small room. But with clever use, they can give the illusion of depth and more space. You should select a feature of the room, such as the angles or a protruding part of the walls to add a spot of contrasting color.

You can also achieve this effect with pieces of furniture or decorative items.

7. Select a Compact Sized Lighting Source for the Ceiling

A large and voluminous ceiling lamp will dwarf the room. These lighting sources are designed for large and lofty rooms. Instead, select a flat and compact sized ceiling lamp, or an arrangement of neon lights. You will get adequate lighting without taking up a lot of space overhead.

Photo by Vincent Rivaud on

8. Opt for Neutral Colors

White, beige, cream, grey and tan are neutral colors. So is the color palette of natural wood grains. These colors are restful for the eye and give a sense of larger space. In small rooms, these are ideal colors for the walls and large pieces of furniture.

To enhance the effect of open space, paint your walls in the same neutral color of the furniture. Then add a few brightly colored items, such as cushions, paintings or vases to create visual diversity.

9. Install Open Shelves with Embedded Lighting Sources

Small room owners are in constant battle between the need of space and the necessity of storage space. To reach a truce, opt for open shelves with neon lighting installed inside them.

They will provide a clutter-free solution to storing various items and trick the eye into believing the space is deeper and more generous.

10. Opt for See-Through Furniture

Glass coffee tables and transparent chairs are becoming more and more popular. This is because they appear to occupy no space at all, thus they are ideal for small rooms. In some cases, especially in rooms with poor natural light, no color is better than any color at all.


Plus, these items of furniture allow light to pass through them and reach all the corners of the room.


About the author

Lara Douglas is a young woman who loves interior designing and home decor. She is passionate about new trends and fashion forward home décor ideas. She regularly posts at Neon Signs Depot.




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