How to Make a Small Bedroom Look Bigger and Brighter

Are you ready to make a small bedroom look bigger and bright? With just a few steps, my husband and I transformed our dark cave of a bedroom into this bright and beautiful retreat (a must-have for happy, but often-very-tired parents). By making the room look light and brighter, it also looked bigger and more welcoming.

How to Make a Small Bedroom Look Bigger and Brighter

Small Bedroom Ideas – Before and After

How to make a small bedroom look bigger and brighter with curtains and paint

How to make the most of a small bedroom

I know some people prefer keeping their bedroom dark for sleep reasons. During this stage in our life (with little ones who get up early), we don’t usually have the luxury of sleeping in and when we do, we’re so tired a marching band couldn’t wake us, let alone some softly filtered light (FYI: before we had kids, our apartment was next door to a high school with a marching band that practiced early on weekend mornings, so that was not just a figure of speech). Since we’re up with the sun anyway, I figured we might as well let a cheerily lit room make it a little less painful.

I used these four design tips to make a bedroom look bigger and brighter:

  1. Paint

  2. Color design – Use the 60-30-10 rule.

  3. Window and curtains

  4. Create separate purpose areas using rugs and furniture

Design Tip #1: How to make a small bedroom look bigger with PAINT

I knew paint color would be instrumental in brightening up the room.  We painted the ceilings, walls, baseboards and all other moulding in our room “bright white” (i.e. we took the paint cans home from Home Depot as-is, no color added). I knew some people would be aghast at this, but this wasn’t my first experience using bright white–I used it to paint our fireplace and I loved how those turned out.

Before, our walls were white-ish. I don’t think we realized how dull and light-sucking it really was until my husband painted the closet wall and we were able to see the side-by-side comparison. The bright white makes off-white look straight up taupe.

how to make a small bedroom look bigger with paint

Design Tip #2: How to make a room look bigger and brighter – The 60-30-10 Color Design Rule

Does everyone already know the 60-30-10 rule? My sister-in-law (an interior designer) taught me this design trick in college

Color breakdown:

60% – Overall hue <–Make this color light and bright to make a small bedroom look bigger and brighter

30% – Visual Interest <–Any color: Dark or light

10% – Accent

Basically, when designing a room, you should shoot for 60% of one color as the overall hue, 30% of another for visual interest, and 10% as an accent or, as said, for “that little spark of sparkle.”

How to make a small bedroom look bigger and brighter 60-30-10
This room is 60% white, 30% black, and 10% brown.

To brighten up your room, that 60% color should be something light and bright (in my case, white).

The 30% and 10% can be any colors–dark or light (I did 30% brown and 10% light teal, mostly just in the accent pillows).

how to make a small bedroom look bigger and brighter after 3
Our small bedroom is 60% White, 30% espresso brown, and 10% teal

How much of a difference does it make having the 60% be bright vs. dark? Hmm…shall we see what a room that is 60% brown looks like?

This is the duvet cover my husband and I bought after we got married. He thought every other bedspread Bed, Bath, & Beyond had was “too girly” so we went with this brown beauty. Although it has kept us very warm over the years, it was time to upgrade.

Design Tip #3: How to make a window look bigger with curtains

Most people know the “hang curtains high and wide” trick and for good reason: it makes a HUGE difference.

I decided we needed to upgrade our window coverings situation to let the natural light fill the room. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to brighten a room.

AFTER (can you hear the Halleluiah Chorus?):

After: With white curtain hung high and wide

First, we took advantage of our renovation energy and upgraded our 1970s original aluminum window. Luckily, the window was already large enough to allow for lots of light, so we didn’t have to do a new construction window as we did for our bathroom (by “we” I mean, my husband installed the window with his dad’s help, not mine. I was there for emotional support–it was crucial, I tell you).

how to make a small bedroom look bigger with windows
Yes, that was our old shed. We eventually ripped it out and when we did, we found the Norman Bates of opossums. He was living with the skeleton of his dead parent. Yikes!

Our old way of ensuring privacy was to keep our ugly blinds closed all the time. But after seeing how well two layers of curtains worked in our living room, I decided to duplicate it for our bedroom. This still gave us privacy while allowing maximum natural light to fill the room.

Always on a budget, I opted for:

(1) IKEA RITVA solid white curtains for the front, outside curtains (similar, less expensive curtains here)

(2) IKEA MATILDA sheer curtains for the back, inside curtains. They’re nice and white, but still have pretty textures to keep it interesting. (similar, less expensive curtains here)

how to make a small bedroom look bigger with curtains

White Blackout Curtains

If you prefer a darker room, these white blackout curtains are a great way to keep the room bright during the day and dark at night.

Design Tip #4: Make a Small Bedroom Look Bigger: Create Separate Spaces

Rather than clearing everything out of the room, use furniture and rugs to visually create separate spaces can actually make a room look bigger.

  • Use a chair and end table to create a reading nook
  • Use a rug to separate the bed/sleep area from the reading nook
Make a small bedroom look bigger with reading nook
We made our small bedroom look bigger with reading nook
small bedroom reading nook
another reading nook


So that’s my schpeel. Just for visual effect, let’s do one last comparison:

The difference is dramatic, right? This was definitely my favorite remodel thus far. I love waking up in our bright and beautiful bedroom.

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    What other tips did you use to make a small bedroom look bigger and brighter?
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