There are some common myths that people hold to be true.
One of the most popular is the use of white. While it is true that light colors expand and dark colors recede. The effect of the light and dark is relative to lighting in the space. White, is the absence of color, additively speaking. White is reflective. This is the first thing to remember, what that white is reflecting is the key. It is reflecting the light. In a small space without a great deal of light, the only thing to reflect are the shadows.
Visualize a ceiling. If there is no ceiling light, the white actually appears gray. Look into the corners of the room you are sitting in now. The chances that your ceiling is white are high, what do you see in the corners? Do you see the same white as the light source is showing you? How far away from the light source can you see ‘white’ (or in most cases ‘cream’ because the bulb is casting a yellowish glow over the surface.) At what point of the room does it fade to gray? A cool dark shadow encroaches on the surface, blocking the brightness of the color you thought you painted on the ceiling
Guess what? The same is true on the walls. Look into the corners. What color is the room. Psychologically the corners define a room. When the corners go dark, the room closes in. Our depth perception kicks in and we feel the walls literally closing in on us.
When painting a room, the walls and the ceiling, it is important to have enough color in the surface to reflect something. The pigment has to be strong enough to compensate for the grayness in the corners. This is adjusting the saturation. Gray is a desaturation of black and white. When the lighting in a room casts shadows, it is affecting how the color is perceived. Color correcting for shadows, will allow you to expand the walls, all of the way into the corners. The hue is visible, in spite of the shadows, opening up the corners and bouncing more light reflected in the wavelength of the color selection.
The value of the color, the light or darkness is still valid. Light colors expand, dark colors recede. However, when color is understood three-dimensionally, making the best choices becomes much more effective. There is more control how a room is experienced throughout the day and into the evening where artificial lighting takes over. The uses of the room are also altered from daylight hours to evening, in most cases. This understanding of how space is used and how the elements of design work provide infallible results.
So, don’t be locked into a palette of white or off whites because you have a small space. Choose something more complex, something that will compensate for shadows and pull the subtle interesting tones from the wood and other furnishings in the room. This ensures a cohesive and psychologically comfortable area to enhance the experience you are having.