Decorating: Visual Tricks with Colour
As well as creating an atmosphere with colour, and visually heating or cooling a room, you can use colour, pattern and light to play decorating ‘tricks’ that appear to alter proportions — far less expensive than any structural alteration.
To lower a ceiling :
• Paint it a warm, advancing colour and colour the walls with a cool contrast.
• Colour the floor to match the ceiling, or use the same tonal value for both.
• Team a brilliant white ceiling with dark walls (white ceilings do not always look taller).
• Use a horizontal pattern on the walls, or divide them up with a dado rail and picture rail or frieze.
• Paint the cornice/coving to contrast with the ceiling.
• Tent the ceiling with fabric.
• Tall items of furniture will make a room look lower.
To add height to a low room :
• Paint the ceiling a pale receding colour — sky blue is particularly effective.
• Colour the ceiling a slightly lighter tone than the walls or match it to the background of any wallcovering.
• Use a light-reflecting texture on the ceiling but only if the plasterwork is good.
• Use a bold, vertical treatment on the walls.
• Use the same mini-print pattern over walls and ceiling making sure the pattern is non-directional.
• Furnish the room with low-slung furniture.
Dealing with ceilings and beams :
• To hide beams, girders, slopes and angles, colour them all to match the walls and ceiling; to make these features stand out, treat them in a contrasting colour.
• Use pale receding colours and small patterns.
• Avoid too much contrast in colour.
• Use light-reflecting textures on main surfaces.
• Choose a harmonious, neutral or monochromatic colour scheme.
• Use mirrors to reflect light.
To make a large room cosier :
• Use warm, advancing colours and contrasting textures.
• Use bold patterns on the main surfaces.
• Use complementary colours, such as curtains to contrast with walls and furniture that contrasts with the floor.
• Emphasize different features or areas with lighting.
To camouflage ugly features :
• Paint or colour unsightly features the same colour as the background. This is particularly effective with radiators.
• Use receding colours on both the feature and the background.
To enhance attractive features :
• Paint or colour attractive features to contrast with the background, for example use neutral colours against a white background or an advancing colour against a receding one.
• Light features dramatically.
To make a narrow area look wider :
• Paint or paper end walls in a bold, advancing colour or with a strong pattern.
• Dress a window in an end wall with floor-to- ceiling/wall-to-wall curtains in a companion fabric to the wall treatment.
• Put a well-lit, eye-catching piece of art or group of pictures on an end wall.
• Paint or paper both long walls in a cool, receding colour.
• Hang mirrors on one of the long walls.
• Make the floor seem wider with width-wise stripes or a chequerboard effect, and paint the skirting to match the floor.
To make a box room less square :
• Create a focal point in the centre of one wall, such as a fireplace, opulent window treatment or bold drapes above a bed to contrast with the surrounding wall.
• Colour one wall in a bold contrast to the other walls.
• Use one wall for built-in furniture, decorated with contrasting panels or beading.
• Create a trompe l’oeil effect on one wall.