By Janet Eastman
Compliments: The Oregonian
When it comes to tiny houses, every inch counts. Trying to make a place look as spacious and inviting as possible adds to the pressure of making the right design decisions, from ceiling height to paint colors. If you overwhelm a minuscule room with jarring colors, it won’t be the relaxing hangout you envisioned.
Architect Russell Hamlet of Studio Hamlet on Bainbridge Island, Wash., understands how light and color can expand the perceived size of a tiny house or small room.
“Bright light in the foreground with slightly darker areas in the background creates a perspective that increases the perceived depth
of a space,” he says.
Although a color scheme should be kept simple, contrasting colors can help to expand a space, he says. Rarely recommended black, when combined with white, can add a sense of depth.
Light colors on ceilings and walls dissolve boundaries, making a room seem larger; darker colors enclose the volume of a room, making it feel smaller and more intimate, he adds.
Too much dark blue, purple, red, black and other dark hues
can make a tiny space look like a cave, while warm colors seem to advance toward us and cool colors tend to recede, he adds.
Paint can have a psychological effect and that’s amplified in a small space, says Janie Lowe, co-founder of Portland-based Colorhouse, which only makes and sells paint that has no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), toxic fumes, toxins or chemical solvents.
Lowe likes warmer whites with yellow undertones rather than gray or “dirty” whites in a small space. “Grays could feel like it’s a cloudy day all the time,” she says.
Since paints tend to stay in place for a long time, she suggests selecting colors that you won’t tire of quickly.
Bolder, playful colors can accent architectural features and define zones of a tiny house. But again, don’t over do it, she advises.
A powder room and other short-stay rooms in a larger house can make a statement with radical colors but those same bright hues can be unsettling in a tiny house or a room that you linger in for hours.
“I’d recommend a color that is light, comfortable and soothing,” says Lowe, like Colorhouse’s Beeswax.05 and Beeswax.06.
Since horizontal planes don’t benefit from light making them look lighter, any color will look darker on a ceiling than on a wall. Lowe likes Colorhouse’s Air.05, which has a slightly pale green tint. “It gives a feeling of greenery outside reflecting in,” says Lowe. “It’s like a breath of fresh air even in a concrete jungle.”
Jeff Flowers of Compact Appliance reminds tiny space dwellers to consider the room’s function:
Kitchen areas benefit from bright, sunny colors that energized you in the morning. For the bedroom loft, you might want to pick gray or sage green that will be calming at night.
Also, think about the finish.
A gloss finish such as satin, eggshell or semi-gloss opens up a small space, he says.
Tiny house builder Joseph Crowell relies more on wood paneling than paint to add character to the 9 ½-foot-long vardo-type trailers he handmakes in Ashland.
The former tile installer and proud dumpster diver buys or finds castoff planks of blue stain pine, mahogany and recycled barn wood and installs them on top of plywood, inside and outside of his mini houses on wheel.
Like the vintage crystal knobs on cabinets and manzanita grab railings, elements in his custom houses are both functional and artistic.
As for color? Burnt sienna, terra cotta and turquoise are used for the trim to draw the eye to specific objects. His latest tiny house has purple trim painted above a red door.
“If you’re going to do it, might as well use a color that goes with the flavor,” says Crowell, whose work appears in the book “Tiny Homes On the Move: Wheels and Water” by Lloyd Kahn. “When clients see the purple against the wood grain, they love it.”
He says he wouldn’t use hot pink but he’s building a tiny house with forest green trim. “Nothing loud,” he says, “but tasteful and keeping with the style.”
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