How Colors Change the Perception of Interior Spaces

How Colors Change the 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% 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.

© Katherine Lu. Casa Vida Dupla / Breathe Architecture

To provide the desired spatial experience, there are elements which 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 colors make the space appear larger. Darker colors make them appear more closed and smaller to the eye. The arrangement of colors or textures in an environment changes the perspective, making the room appear taller, longer, wider, or highlighting a particular element.

© Maíra Acayaba. Apartamento Pantone / AR Arquitetos

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

Enlarge the Space

Enlarge the Space. Image © ArchDaily

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

© Rory Gardiner. Redfern Warehouse / Ian Moore Architects

Compact the Space

Compact the Space. Image © ArchDaily

On the other hand, when the idea is to make the room appear more compact, smaller, and cozier, opting for stronger colors 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.

© Rocket Mattler. Balmoral House / Ian Moore Architects

Lower the Ceiling

Lower the Ceiling. Image © ArchDaily

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 color than the walls or leaving the material texture visible, this feature will give the impression that the ceiling is lower.

© Matthijs van Roon. HofmanDujardin Office Villa / HofmanDujardin

Stretch the Space

Stretch the Space. Image © ArchDaily

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 color and leaving the ceiling white makes it feel like a higher ceiling.

© Cristiano Bauce. Pitanga Filmes / Arquitetura Nacional

Make the Space Wider

Make the Space Wider. Image © ArchDaily

Painting the back wall and the ceiling with the same darker colors 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.

© Ronaldo Azambuja. Casa da Lagoa / Brasil Arquitetura

Narrow the Space

Narrow the Space. Image © ArchDaily

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

© Diego Opazo. Cave de Vinhos Vegamar Selección / Fran Silvestre Arquitectos

Shorten the Space

Shorten the Space. Image © ArchDaily

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 colors elsewhere.

© Maíra Acayaba. Apartamento Vazio / AR Arquitetos

Highlight a Wall

Highlight a Wall. Image © ArchDaily

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

© Hugo Santos Silva. Apartamento Alameda / ARRIBA

Shorten the Walls

Shorten the Walls. Image © ArchDaily

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

© Manuel Sá. Restaurante Torta da Vila / PHENOMENA arquitetura

About this author
Cite: Souza, Eduardo. "How Colors Change the Perception of Interior Spaces" [Como as cores alteram a percepção dos espaços interiores] 09 Mar 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

© ArchDaily


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