Yes, a feature wall can make your room feel smaller and more cluttered. I said that in the last column and have had some questions from readers about this, so here is the why of it all.
It really all stems from the fact that our eyes notice first, and place most importance on, something that is different from its surroundings. Visualize three vases on a window sill: two are almost white and one is blue. The blue one is the first one you will notice; it becomes so important to your eye that you may not even realize that the other two are not exactly the same color.
A wall a different color than the adjacent walls will jump to importance. Can’t help but do that because it is high contrast. So if the wall becomes the most important thing to your eye, it will also appear larger and, therefore, closer than it really is.
There is the color theory that warm colors advance and cool colors recede. This theory says that a cold blue wall will make the wall appear further away — making the room appear larger and a red wall will make the room appear smaller.
In the bathroom with the blue tile wall, the blue wall commands so much attention it makes the room look more narrow.
The advancing/receding effect may be true in some applications, but my experience in the home decor world says that the temperature of the color is less important than the contrast value.
And this whole contrast/color idea applies to drapes, furniture and blinds.
Once you get this contrast concept firmly planted in your decor brain, it becomes a lot easier to understand how you can make a room appear larger and calmer. Which is what we tend to strive for in our living spaces.
In this kitchen, again, the red wall makes all the noise so the room appears smaller. — A feeling compounded by the red partial wall on the right. And it’s not because it’s red, it’s because it’s so loud.
Keep the contrast to a minimum. Contrast creates visual clutter. And clutter does not add to the feeling of calm. I define clutter as anything that does not belong in the design plan of the room. Which is not to say you can’t live in the room; living creates stuff and clutter. But it does mean that the backdrop to your living should be as clutter-free as possible.
This is a great example of using contrast to full advantage. The blue is the loudest, it gets the most attention — as the bed should.
And this is a great example of using a warm wall color to make a room feel cosy and spacious at the same time. Lots of contrast, but the backdrop is consistent and everything relates to the color.