One of the greatest worries inhibiting people decorating small spaces is the use of colors. The urban legend of color making a small room look smaller is based on just a tiny bit of fact that's been blown way out of proportion. Color is one of the best ways to anchor a room, and to define it. Let's look at several ways to use color wisely in small spaces.
Dissolve the lines between two rooms by continuing a single color theme through both.
While this technique is clearly applicable to rooms that open to each other -- a kitchen to a family room, for example -- it's effective for rooms that simply fall in the same line of sight.
Living rooms with an arched opening to the dining room, kitchens that flow into dining rooms, bedrooms with a small office attached can all benefit from sharing color schemes. If you've got a favorite color combination, consider using it in all the public spaces in a small house -- living room, kitchen, dining area, hallways, and bathrooms -- to maintain a visual flow throughout the house.
Add depth using solid colors. This tiny New York City apartment kitchen shows how to layer colors to add depth. Originally white all the way around, this kitchen was a bland, amorphous space; the lack of color changes visually flattened the space.
The blue living room wall, followed by the red door opening and walls, accentuates the depth of the space. The white cabinets ringing the space and the white refrigerator in the corner add a great horizontal line that keeps the walls visually separated so the room doesn't look any smaller than it is.
The painting technique of layering on glazes of color gives a wall depth. Separating the wall into blocks of color is another trick to adding visual depth.
It's an especially useful technique when you've got a large wall to cover; a single color -- any color -- could make the wall look flat and massive, or patterned wallpaper would just overpower the room. The gentle tones of color layered here complement the furnishings and visually recede so you see the whole room, not just the wall.
If you'd prefer to keep the wall and upholstery colors neutral, choose an accent color and layer it in the room. This homeowner's passion for pink shows up in cushions on the chair, the large painted panels of artwork, and the ottoman cover.
Used judiciously like this, even the brightest colors won't overwhelm quiet neutrals. One last piece of advice: In most situations, use the chosen color in accents around the room, like this, rather than concentrating it one place.
If you want an all-white room -- in a bathroom, for example -- just add a little variation to neutrals to improve the look.
A tone-on-tone stripe is a simple, effective way to add visual interest. The room still has the quietness of a neutral but it's accented by a change of tone that gives the needed sense of depth without adding a chaotic element.