Let’s face it, most rooms aren’t the grand retreats we wish they were. But just because a room is short on square footage doesn’t mean it has to feel cramped. Follow our tips to make even the tiniest space feel tremendous.
1. Hang ’em high
You can’t make the room wider, but you can make it feel more airy by drawing the eye up. Accentuate a room’s ceiling height by hanging curtains above the window and letting them cascade down to the floor.
Or create a gallery wall and hang art above eye level to make your walls feel even more expansive. You’ll create the illusion of more space instantly.
2. Mirror, mirror
It’s the oldest decorating trick in the book for a reason. Not only do mirrors visually “double” the size of your space, they reflect light which opens up a room even more.
3. Let there be light (walls)
“Lighter walls and light floors do automatically give the illusion of more space,” designer Mary McGee suggests to readers of House Beautiful. Picking a near neutral, like a light gray or a cafe au lait-taupe, or softer tones, such a light blue or pale yellow, can make a space feel airy, particularly when paired with natural light.
4. Or go dark
Don’t feel beholden to the previous piece of advice. Many designers prefer playing up a slight room by swathing the walls in a strong shade, turning the room into a comforting, cozy den. “Embrace small spaces and make them feel like jewel boxes — don’t be afraid of dark or bright colors,” says designer Jonathan Adler. Adler told Country Living magazine that his go-to hue for small spaces is Benjamin Moore’s Outrageous Orange. Bold orange might not work for everyone, but his trick for making brazen shades work will: choose warm, low, artificial light to make the hue feel livable.
5. Nice legs
Some pieces have legs — and they know how to use them. Opt for furniture with legs versus bigger pieces that sit directly on the floor. Additional air and light underneath the furniture will prevent your room from looking visually overcrowded.
6. Proportion/ scale
Resist the urge to go small with furniture. You won’t fool anyone with too-tiny pieces. “Just a few pieces of large-scale furniture, with the appropriate lighting and accessories, can give a room a larger, more luxurious feel,” designer Mona Hajj tells House Beautiful. “People think they need to use small furniture to make a room look big, but that’s not the case at all.”
7. Pattern play
While you might be drawn to simple patterns for fear of making your room seem too busy, a more intricate design could have the opposite effect. San Francisco-based design blogger, April Sheldon mixed red chinoiserie wallpaper and a zebra-patterned rug in her 9 1/2-by-10 1/2 foot dressing room in hopes of enlarging the space.
“I think big bold prints on the walls and lots of pattern in a small space really distract you from the size of the area,” says Sheldon. “The room takes on the feeling of a walk-in art piece.”
8. Use discretion
The easiest way to make a small space feel smaller — too much stuff. Your editing eye is your greatest asset here. According to Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan from Apartment Therapy, the trick to making a small space working is holding back.
“You’ve got to leave some breathing room,” Gillingham-Ryan says. “Emptiness allows the eye to travel someplace and rest. Every space will feel bigger if you leave some things out.
9. Choose a unified color palette
Too many different colors and patterns can make a room seem busy and disjointed. Instead turn your tiny space into a serene hideaway. Pick a single color and layer it in in various shades to unify the space.
Choose knick-knacks in a single hue to keep decorative items from feeling too busy. The cohesiveness will help curtail the look of clutter.
10. Make each piece work hard
In a small space, every item has to serve a purpose. When you’re selecting furniture, opt for multi-functional pieces to ensure there’s no dead weight.
A small skirted table disguises storage underneath. A coffee table with multiple levels gives you more places to stash books and magazines. An ottoman with storage houses extra blankets, and gives guests — or you! you deserve it! — a place to put their feet up.
11. Light it up
Instead of taking up precious table space with bulky lamps, get your lighting sources on the wall. Swing-arm sconces behind a couch provide light you can direct as needed, while installing a more dynamic overhead pendant can add some drama to your space without taking up valuable real estate.
12. On the move
Choose pieces that give you options. Chairs can normally house stacks of books, and then be moved from the walls when company comes over.
Nesting tables can be rearranged when extra space is needed. By creating a room with mixed functionality you’ll feel less trapped by your narrow walls.