How colour changes our perception of interior spaces

Humanity spends more and more time inside, whether at work or at home — with studies showing that we now spend 87 percent of our lives indoors.

Pleasant environments positively influence the mood and well-being of its occupants, just as poorly lit, uncomfortable places can make lives miserable. That is why the craft of interior design is so important, even if it is often considered minor by some professionals.


When designing an interior, the architect has the power to alter important variables, be it artificial lighting, natural light, proportions, or materials — with all such elements influencing the experience that occupants will have in a space.

To provide the desired spatial experience, there are elements that change the perception of a space without changing an inch of wall. This can be done by painting surfaces, using different materials, or applying different coatings. Lighter and cooler colours make the space appear larger. Darker colours make them appear more closed and smaller to the eye. The arrangement of colours or textures in an environment changes the perspective, making the room appear taller, longer, wider, or highlighting a particular element.

Below, we list some possibilities for changing an environment using only colours and material contrasts:

Enlarge the Space | To create a feeling of spaciousness in an environment, the best method is to use light colours, which will reflect natural light and make surfaces appear larger to the eyes.

Compact the space | On the other hand, when the idea is to make the room appear more compact, smaller, and cosier, opting for stronger colours on wall surfaces can work well. They will absorb most of the natural light, giving a feeling of enclosure that can be beneficial for certain functions.

Lower the ceiling | There are times when lowering the height of the ceiling can make the space more pleasant and provide a welcoming feeling. When painting it in a darker colour than the walls or leaving the material texture visible, this feature will give the impression that the ceiling is lower.

Stretch the space | In other situations, it’s just the opposite. There are apartments whose lower ceilings give a claustrophobic feel to the spaces. Painting the walls in a darker colour and leaving the ceiling white makes it feel like a higher ceiling.

Make the space wider | Painting the back wall and the ceiling with the same darker colours and leaving the side walls lighter will make the space appear wider and more spacious. This is a technique widely used in corridors or narrow rooms.

Narrow the space | Painting the two opposing side walls dark colours and leaving the background and the ceiling in light colours will make the space narrower to the eyes, improving the proportions of rooms with unbalanced dimensions.

Shorten the space | If you have a very large space in your home and want it to feel more intimate, invest in dark tones on the back wall in contrast to lighter colours elsewhere.

Highlight a wall | To highlight a wall, it is recommended to keep it a lighter colour while others have a darker tint. This causes the eye to be drawn to it.

Shorten the walls | If the idea is to make the walls shorter, applying a darker shade to the bottom of the wall will work.

Words Eduardo Souza via ArchDaily


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