A Guide for Using Wall Paint to Change a Room’s Layout

Whether you are planning a design, hiring someone to refresh a room’s paint, or doing some DIY decor, you know that you’ll have to pick and choose between suspiciously similar shades of paint as well as how you want that paint to sit on your walls.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, painting one or two walls darker or cooler than others is not just a trend; there’s a reason behind why some walls are chosen and others aren’t. Paint can have an effect on how occupants can perceive a room’s dimensions, you can make a room appear to be narrow, wide, long, or with a lower ceiling just by using paint!

In this post, I’ll talk about 9 of my favorite ways to play around with dark wall paint to “change” a room’s layout.


  • The room used in this illustration is 4 meters wide by 5 meters long with a ceiling height of 2.7 meters.
  • Baseboard and Crown are 10cm.
  • The room is simulated to be lit by a single window, and black and white paint is used to represent Dark and Light paint.

To Make a Room Appear Larger

How to make a room look larger

To make a room appear bigger, it’s always best to just stick with off-white paint or very light shades of paint, like pastels. Make sure that the Baseboard and Crown are matching the walls, and try to avoid large pieces of furniture or heavy drapery.

The downside is that a room can be too empty without any wall accessories, so make sure you hang a few things on the wall, but don’t hang anything that is too big unless it’s a mirror.

For more info on how to arrange hanged frames and decor you can refer to this post.

To Make a Room Appear Longer

how to make a room appear longer

For a longer looking room, you need to paint all the walls with a darker color than the ceiling, while matching the ceiling’s lighter color with the Baseboard and the Crown.

The downside of this option is that it can make a small room appear cramped, so make sure that you don’t overload the space with furniture, and hang lighter drapery as well as light-colored frames and wall deco.

another tip is to arrange your frames and wall hangings horizontally, or have the furniture on the left and right side of the room align at approximately the same height.

How to Make the Ceiling Appear Higher (Lengthen the Walls)

How to Make the Ceiling Appear Higher (Lengthen the Walls)
One wall + its crown + its baseboard + the ceiling.

To do so, you’ll have to choose the wall facing the entrance of the room or the wall at the farthest end, and then paint that wall + its baseboard + the ceiling + the crown that’s between them with a darker color.

Bonus points for using a very light-colored vertically striped wallpaper for the lighter walls to help make the effect more prominent! You can also use graceful furniture with vertical shapes, arrange groups of small frames in vertical formations and/or use elongated frames/mirrors/wall scones on the darker wall.

How to Make the Walls Look Shorter

How to Make the Walls Look Shorter
Bottom quarter of the wall + the baseboard in a light color and the top part + the crown in a darker color. Ceiling should match the bottom part.

Paint the top 3/4 (or 2/3 if the ceiling/light fixtures are hanging low or if the furniture includes high-backed seats) of the wall in a dark color along with the crown, while the bottom part of the wall + the baseboard in a light color that matches the ceiling.

You can use wallpaper that matches these requirements and paint the ceiling to match the lighter colors of the wallpaper. Bonus points if you use drapery that has horizontal lines and wall hangings/scones that are wide.

How to Make a Room Look Narrow

How to Make a Room Look Narrow
Paint two opposite walls dark (Painting the crown + baseboard is optional).

Choose two opposite walls in a room and paint them darker, painting the baseboard and the crown is optional. However, make sure there are no horizontal lines that are perpendicular to those walls (on or along the lighter walls).

To elongate the room as well as narrowing it, add those horizontal frames or wide furniture parallel to those walls (along the dark walls). You can also use horizontally striped dark wallpaper instead of paint.

How to Highlight a Wall

How to Highlight a Wall

There is more than one way to highlight a wall; from using wallpaper to decals, or just giving it a different finish such us wood or exposed brick. But since we’re talking paint, then we just give that specific wall a light paint color while the other walls + the ceiling a darker color, with the baseboard and crown being either light or dark, it’s your choice.

Just make sure that the wall won’t end up being covered by large pieces of furniture, instead highlight a wall that’s going to be behind a couch, TV, credenza, or bed for a better effect.

How to Make a Room Look Smaller

How to Make a Room Look Smaller
Go dark, on all the walls.

It’s common knowledge that a bright room appears bigger, and a dark painted one appears smaller; this is perfect for rooms that will be sparsely furnished and needs to look cozier or more intimate.

If you’re not a fan of dark walls, you can still use wallpaper with busy patterns, or just go with the paint but hang bright artworks and frames. For a luxurious effect, use metallic frames/hangings, spotlights and/or mirrors on a dark wall.

How to Shorten a Room (Or Hallway)

How to Shorten a Room (Or Hallway)
Paint the farthest wall with a dark color.

To shorten an elongated room (or hallway/corridor), all you have to do to give that illusion is to paint the farthest wall at the end of it in a dark color (or install dark wallpaper).

Just don’t use any horizontal lines on either side of that wall, instead go for vertical. Also, avoid any repetitive decals or scones on the side walls.

Another good trick is to use carpeting or rugs with horizontal lines, instead of vertical.

How to Make a Ceiling Look Lower

How to Make a Ceiling Look Lower
Paint the ceiling + the crown in a dark color.

While leaving the walls and baseboard painted in a light color, paint the ceiling + crown/moldings in a dark color to demote the ceiling and give the illusion of it being lower.

It would help if you hang your scones halfway between the ceiling and the walls, and use big square frames to hang on the wall.

There you have it! These are my favorite ways of changing a room’s properties with minimum time and cost.

If you have any more ideas, just drop them in the comments below 🙂 I look forward to them!

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