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It’s All an Illusion

Short of taking a hammer to your walls which, if they are load bearing tends to…. make your house fall down (!) the best way to increase the feel of space in your home is through the use of optical illusions. They can also be used to scale down an overly large room, drop the height of cavernous ceiling, or to add width to a narrow room.

Colour is an extremely powerful visual tool and somewhat handily, is also the most simple and cost effective way to play with the dimensions of a room. In a small room, patterned wallpaper or busy or brightly coloured walls tend to crowd a space. To counteract feelings of claustrophobia, it is wise to stick to lighter, cooler colours such as pale blue or pastel green which will cause walls to recede, thus increasing the feel of space. Using these principles, narrow rooms can be given extra width by applying dark a colour to the shorter walls, which will draw them in, and a lighter shade on the longer walls- in the case of a wide room, reverse the technique. Applying a warmer or darker shade to all four walls in a large space will cause them to advance, thereby making for a more intimate and comfortable atmosphere.

To decrease the height of the ceiling in a tall room the principles of colour are used in a slightly different way but are no less effective. Sectioning a wall into horizontal bands of individual colour breaks up the surface and has the effect of shortening it- the Victorians used this technique to fantastic effect using different patterns of wallpaper broken up by a dado rail. Another option is too apply a deep shade to the ceiling which will also help drop its height visually. If the thought of painting a ceiling anything other than white seems a little nursery school, you could instead clad yours with wood for a more sophisticated finish that is no less effective.

Mirrors are also a fantastic way to change the dimensions of a room and have the added bonus of creating much less mess. Two placed on opposite walls will add lots of width to even the most narrow of rooms and one large mirror, cut to the size of your wall effectively doubles the amount of space in a small room. Mirrors can be a grand and decorative or as minimal and simple as you like. They can be fit into any interior scheme and no matter what your budget, guarantee immediate, unmistakable impact.

Mirrors are obviously no good in rooms that are too large or open, for this problem screens and room dividers are the most obvious solution. There are lots of different types of screens so finding one to suite your style shouldn’t be too difficult. Amongst the best examples are traditional Japanese screens which have a beautiful black lacquer finish and contain typical scenes involving anything from dragons to birds to Geishas, natural wooden screens which were extremely popular during the sixties and seventies and rather than being hinged, instead have a graceful curved structure.

Of course if a screen is a little over budget, curtain material hung from the ceiling on tension rods can do just as good a job and has the added advantage of being able to be matched to other fabrics around the room. When you want to open up the space for a party or get together you can use curtain holdbacks to pull your homemade screen back and out of the way.

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