The Secret To Making Your Small Space Seem HUGE

A millennial walks into a hardware store...

When it comes to the science of picking a paint color, or even a non-color, for your walls, there are too many options and too little information out there. It's easy to be indecisive — or worse, to make the totally wrong decision. Fortunately, there's a method to the madness, or, in this case, a science behind smart selecting.

Getting the right sheen depends on a multitude of factors, including the surface being painted, the lighting, the direction your room faces, and the size of the space. The experts at Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams helped us decode the slippery business of selecting paint — so you can make your cramped living quarters appear larger. Now that's something we'll brave the hardware store for.
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Photo: Courtesy Anna Alexia-Basile.
Testing Is Mandatory
"The easiest way to [sample a color at home] is to simply tape the color chip up on a wall that sees both natural and artificial light," says Susan Wadden, color marketing and design manager fore Sherwin-Williams Diversified Brands.
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Photo: Courtesy Julia Robbs.
Wadden advises watching the color over the course of a few days, taking into account fluctuations in natural light. Early morning light makes colors appear luminous and glowing, mid-day light can make colors look washed out, and late-day light is warm as the sun hits the horizon.
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Photo: Courtesy Winnie Au.
(Not Just) One Direction
What direction do the windows face? "A northern exposure is cooler, so a warmer color choice might be appropriate to compensate for the lack of sunlight," says Wadden.
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Photo: Courtesy Rus Anson.
Southern exposures, on the other hand, get the most light all day long; neutral tones may be better in that case.
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Photo: Courtesy Erica Gannet.
Be Aware Of Artificial
Your lamps and bulbs will often dictate the true color representation. Wadden breaks it down as such: Incandescents provide warmer light that enhances reds, yellows, and oranges. Fluorescents provide cooler light that enhances blues and greens. LEDs are more flexible; their light looks good with most paint colors. CFLs can offer varying types of light, so check the Kelvin rating. The lower the number, the warmer the bulb. Meanwhile, full-spectrum bulbs mimic daylight. Halogen bulbs also closely resemble daylight — and make colors pop.
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Photo: Courtesy Maria Del Rio.
Flat Finish Is A Must
"A flat finish [on a ceiling] hides irregularities, surface imperfections, and lap marks, whereas a glossy finish would not," says Jennie Gerardot, associate product manager for HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams. Chances are, most of us aren't working with brand new ceilings, so it's best to stay away from gloss, which will highlight all of the cracks and irregularities.
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Photo: Courtesy Julia Robbs.
A No-Fail Choice Is Eggshell
"If you're looking for something subtle and forgiving on an imperfect wall, a matte or eggshell finish is the way to go," says Andrea Mango, color and design expert at Benjamin Moore. "The look of a glossy finish will be more bold and dramatic in a room, due to the reflectance of light, so this finish is often seen in spaces where there is a strong color or design statement to be made."
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Photo: Courtesy Winnie Au.
Primer Is Your Best Friend
"A primer should be used most frequently for unique surfaces or special circumstances," says Wadden. "Water stains, smoke damage, dark colors, bare drywall, and smooth, glossy surfaces that are tough to adhere to."
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Photo: Courtesy Winnie Au.
"The point of primer is to seal the substrate — walls, wood trim, etc. — for optimal performance of the topcoat," notes Wadden. A renter will most likely need primer when painting over a darker color.
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Photo: Courtesy Maria Del Rio.
Color Coordination
A pale hue or white is the obvious choice when making a room appear larger, because those shades will reflect more light, says Mango. "But, there are some other ways to give the illusion as well. Painting an entire room, including the ceiling, walls, and trim, will decrease the amount of contrast in the room, so that the eye is less drawn to where one color stops and another starts."