Design Tips: How to Choose Colors and Patterns for a Small Room

You don't have to stick with Bland neutrals or boring white

Fashionable vintage styled living room
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It's easy to overwhelm a small space with too much color and pattern, but when choosing a small room color scheme, you don't have to stick with bland neutrals or boring white. Choosing the best colors for a small room just takes careful planning.

Below are some great tips for choosing colors for a small room, as well as tips for using patterns in small spaces.

Choosing Colors

  • Beware of muted colors: Muted colors soften a space and can make a small room appear smaller. If you like ​​bold color, stick to clear, bright tones. In small room design, use muted colors as accent colors only.
  • Try a monochromatic scheme: If you choose to go dark in a small space, consider going dark all over. Using a monochromatic color scheme can often make a small space appear much larger, even if the color is dark.
  • Don't go overboard: To do away with visual “breaks” in a small space, paint the ceiling and trim the same color as your walls, or to add height to your space, go one shade lighter on your ceiling.
  • Define an accent wall: Small rooms often lack architectural interest. Use contrasting colors to define an accent wall or to add architectural interest by painting the inside of shelving or windows.
  • Go two-tone: One way to make a small room appear larger is to keep the darker or bolder colors in your pallet below eye level and stick with mostly light colors or neutrals up above.
  • Try a reverse paint palette: This often works well in small spaces. Painting the walls with a neutral or white but adding color via your doors and/or molding can add a bit of bold, contemporary flair to a small room.

    Choosing Patterns

    • Look for white space: If you prefer bold, contemporary patterns in your fabrics, artwork and decor, look for pieces that have a lot of white space in them. This will add visual “rest” in your small room and provide a welcome relief for your eyes.​
    • Add a bold pattern: One idea for decorating a small room is to add a bold pattern or texture on an accent wall then decorate with neutrals elsewhere. To create cohesion, be sure to incorporate small amounts of the colors in your accent wall throughout your space in small decor or fabrics.
    • Create height with stripes: Stripes can work well in a small space because they can be used to create the illusion of height or length. If you go with bold stripes, choose smaller textures or patterns – or go with solids – throughout the rest of the space.
    • Use the 2:1 ratio: When using patterns in a small space, stick with the ratio of 2:1 - two small-scaled patterns or textures with one sparsely used bold pattern to add interest and pop.
    • Avoid busy patterns: If you choose small patterns for a small space, try to avoid small patterns that have lots of things going on in them. This can almost be dizzying in a small room. Use your smaller patterns almost like textures. Small, repetitive patterns work well for this.
    • Create a theme: Whether you are decorating with patterns in a large or small space, be sure to unite your patterns with a common color and repeat your patterns around your room. This will tie your rooms decor together and keep your space from feeling divided.