Colour and Pattern Tricks for Small Spaces

Live in a tiny apartment/room/house that’s in need of an injection of clever decorating? Pffft, no problem. We positively celebrate tiny spaces in this day and age as merely something to motivate raw creativity – and something that one has to do if living in overpriced cities such as London or New York. The time for painting everything white to make it feel bigger is past, or at least, it’s not the only option. At The Chromologist we’re big believers in adding colour, pattern, pizazz in spite of dimensions. Here are a few of our favourite ideas…

Dazzle ship down under

Bathroom design | Dazzle ship style | James Dawson | The Chromologist

Australian Interior designer James Dawson has taken a narrow hallway that leads to the main bathroom in this apartment, and made it the place you’d want to hang out in. Like a Dazzle ship, the ceiling and end wall are decorated in straightforward black and white striped wallpaper that the designer mapped out in what he calls “a disconnected pattern. It was added to make the space feel more defined and like a piece of art,” James says. “It took 14 hours and was done in one sitting.”

For the sanity of all decorating teams out there (couples, you especially), I’m going to recommend you lose that last piece of information if trying this at home.

Two-storey blues

Blue hall | Sarah Lavoigne | The Chromologist

Photography by Francis Amiand

It might have seemed predictable had designer Sarah Lavoine kept all the walls of this Paris duplex in bright white. But the black staircase reminded her of a shipdeck and so she added a shot of blue-green to span the two floors behind it. This is how to do a feature wall. It outlines the area as being a different zone – it’s transitional really, but now it feels like more than that – and also unites the two levels of the home.

Note how the ginger cat tones with the wicker basket and dining chairs. Intentional, non?

Floor show

Black Blue Floor| Farrow & Ball | The Chromologist

Well, if you are going to paint everything white then might we tempt you to let yourself go with the floor? This is an idea from the Farrow & Ball file that predates when everyone became completely obsessed with decorated floors. Beautiful encaustic tiles or a statement rug can be a bit out of financial reach and if that’s the case for you then get the paint out, find a groovy pattern to copy and get creating. Hand drawn lines are completely acceptable – the wobble is in – but if you prefer to be exact then mark out your pattern with masking tape before you begin.

Hot pink twist

Berlin pink kitchen | open plan living | The Chromologist

Take one bijou open-plan space, add tremendous taste in furniture, then introduce hot pink units to create a kitchen that looks like a sideboard in any fancy living room. It certainly works in photographer and interior designer Peter Fehrentz’s apartment in Berlin. The rest of the walls in his home are white, while much of the furniture is taupe or grey and both of those facts make pink the big twist here. But there’s something else in Peter’s design equation that makes the room work so well – the black wall behind the kitchen. It’s both a bold contrast for the units, helping to make them stand out, and a neutral base that continues seamlessly and quietly from the black floor, ticking the eye into thinking the space is larger.

Got a boring Ikea kitchen in a similar set up? Spruce it up with new coloured or lightly patterned cupboard fronts from Superfront – Ikea Hackers extraordinaire.

Under the stairs

Shouchikubai wallpaper | Papering under stairs | The Chromologist Shouchikubai wallpaper by Farrow & Ball

Part of the problem with small spaces is that they present fewer surfaces on which to get your decorating kicks. Thus we present under the stairs. Sure you could just paint them white or the same colour as your walls, but is there really any satisfaction to be found in this? Paper them! The sartorial equivalent is painting your nails to match or expertly clash with your outfit. On a workday. This is caring about details that most people can’t be bothered to.

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

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