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Creating space with contrasting colours

Posted on Mar 22, 2013

7HB0311kitchen_WhtLi#14AE91Not only does colour create atmosphere, but if you use it in particular ways, it can create optical illusions. Understanding how to use contrasting colours, often known as complementary colours, can instantly manipulate a room’s proportions and intensify features.

When choosing contrasting colours consult a colour wheel; contrasting colours are opposite from one another and although the colours may seem dramatic, when used correctly the colours will balance a room.

Look for interesting features in the room that stand out and highlight them. This could be anything from a curve in a wall, an alcove, an angle or a fireplace.

If you’re painting a feature wall, avoid choosing walls with windows and doors, as these stop the flow of colour and eliminate the objective of drawing emphasis to an interesting feature.

If your intention is to make a small room appear bigger, as a general rule, you should stick to neutral colours.

Lighter tones will make walls appear further away and make the space feel big, bright and spacious. Use strong and dark tones to make a wall appear closer.

However, if you simply love dark colours and want to incorporate it into a small room, apply a dark colour to one wall and leave the other walls a lighter shade.

To reign in more interest you can also break up colour and add contrast by painting the walls above and below the dado line a different colour. You can even use wallpaper on the top or bottom half of the rail using a design that complements the main wall colour.

  • Use a darker shade on a tall ceiling to give the illusion the ceiling is lower. Painting a ceiling white or pale colour will make it appear lifted. Vertical stripes also work to enhance the sense of height
  • Apply a darker colour on the lower part of the walls below the dado rail and paint a lighter colour above and on the ceiling to make the room feel enclosed
  • You can change a room’s size by applying a dark colour on ceiling and walls down to dado height and paint a lighter colour on the lower part of the walls to match the floor
  • To create the illusion of a wider room, consider painting a deep colour on short end walls with a lighter colour on the adjoining longer walls, or use horizontal stripes to make a space appear narrow and wide. Or paint the floor and ceiling in a similar colour, with the walls painted a lighter colour
  • Paint the walls to match the floor using pale colours to give the feeling of airiness and space
  • Consider breaking up a space by adding texture and colour by using textured wall finishes, fabrics and furniture.
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