As our population grows, housing (particularly in urban areas) is becoming smaller and smaller. With a lack of square footage, comes the desire for more space. But, what do you do when you don’t “have” more space? You create it, obviously. Here are my Top 30 easy tips to make a small room look bigger.
1. USE LIGHT PAINT COLOURS
Light paint colours make a room feel lighter and brighter. Psychologically spaces with more light appear to have more space. Focus on using whites, off-whites or muted tones of your favourite colour for painting your walls.
Photo Credit: @benjaminmoore via @ashleylaurensnyder & @melissaclickphotography
2. USE A MONOCHROMATIC COLOUR SCHEME
Monochro-whaaattt? A monochromatic colour scheme is one that uses one colour only. However, it allows tints and shades of that colour to be integrated into the design for more interest. Using this method provides variety without too much contrast. Avoiding contrast is ideal when trying to make a small room look bigger because contrast defines space and therefore, will create the illusion of less space.
Photo Credit: Lady Premium Print & Colors
3. AVOID BOLD PATTERNS
Bold patterns and colours create visual clutter by creating more contrast. If you absolutely must include a bold colour or pattern in your design, do it with something small rather than in something that takes up a lot of space such as a rug as seen below or a wallpaper, etc. Instead, use a bold patterned throw pillow or a bold coloured picture frame to satisfy your desires.
Photo Credit: Anthropologie
4. ANALYZE WHAT YOU WANT IN A WINDOW COVERING
If you can get away with it and you’re comfortable with it, leave your windows bare. This will let the most light into your space. However, this may not be ideal if you value privacy. If that’s the case, opt for minimalist type window coverings such as roller shades, blinds or shutters. There are pros and cons to each, which you can read about in How to Choose the Right Window Treatment. If you’re a fan of drapes (I know I am), then choose a colour that is the same as, or as close as possible to your wall colour so that they don’t create contrast on such a large surface area. Whenever possible you should apply this principle to your shades, blinds and shutters as well or opt for white.
5. USE LIGHTWEIGHT FABRICS
While we’re on the topic of windows, cotton and linen are great options for window coverings because they diffuse light, but don’t block it. Heavy or dark coloured fabrics absorb light, making your room feel darker. Remember, it’s best to keep the space as light and bright as possible to make a small room look bigger.
6. INCORPORATE MIRRORS
Mirrors are great for a couple of reasons. First, they trick the eye and give the impression of more space by mirroring imagery back at us. A carefully placed mirror can make a hallway feel longer, make it seem that there is more seating or make it look like there are additional windows in a space. Mirrors also reflect light, and as I already mentioned, more light translates into more space.
Photo Credit: Unknown
7. CHOOSE SMALL SCALE FURNITURE
These days there are a lot more options for apartment/condo sized furniture. Use them! Even if you live in a small house rather than an apartment, chances are that these smaller furniture pieces will work better to make your small room look bigger by taking up less space and leaving more room to roam.
Photo Credit: Wayfair
8. LOVE LONG LEGS – I MEAN WHO DOESN’T?
Choose furniture with exposed legs, rather than furniture that sits right on the floor. Sofas and chairs with longer legs reveal the space that’s beneath them. While there isn’t actually any more physical space, this trick fools the mind into thinking that there is.
Photo Credit: West Elm
9. INTEGRATE REFLECTIVE FURNITURE
Use glass table tops, Lucite chairs, desks, consoles, etc. to expose the area beneath them. You get the function of the furniture added with the illusion of more space – a double win! And, as a bonus, glass and Lucite are reflective so they also help to transmit light around the room. Mirrored furniture will provide the same effect. Consider mirrored dressers, side tables or console tables to make a small room look bigger.
Photo Credit: CB2
10. USE MULTIPURPOSE & FOLDAWAY FURNITURE
Pretty obvious here, but the fewer pieces of furniture you use in your design, the more space you will appear to have. You don’t need to sacrifice function though. Try using an ottoman with reversible tray to use for seating or side tables. Use a roll-away island in the kitchen or dinette. And there’s always the classic futon if you’re living in super tight quarters and need your sofa to double as a bed.
Photo Credit: Wayfair
11. EXTEND & COLLAPSE
Instead of buying a table for six, get a smaller one that is extendable. Keep it small on a regular basis and extend it only when company comes over. If your space is really tiny, consider stow-away TV trays instead.
Photo Credit: IKEA
12. THINK BIG
This might seem contradictory to what I have been suggesting so far, but I assure you there is method to my madness. When thinking about what furniture will make your small room look bigger, consider one large piece instead of two or three smaller pieces. Even though the large piece will take up a fair bit of space, it will still take up less space than two or three pieces of furniture. Sectional sofas are a great example of how you can maximize seating capacity in a small amount of space.
Photo Credit: CB2
13. KEEP A LOW PROFILE
Pick low profile furniture for your room. Furniture with low backs or low height will make your walls appear taller and thus, your room feel larger.
14. LEARN TO FLOAT
In a really tight space, floating furniture is your best friend. It takes up far less room and because of its minimalist style; it takes up very little space visually. Try incorporating floating shelves, media consoles and desks into your small room design.
Photo Credit: Wayfair
15. CREATE THE ILLUSION OF SPACE
Okay, I’m not asking you to do magic here, but this tip is pretty magical. In order to create an illusion of more space, place your furniture a few inches in from the wall or try placing it on an angle. I know, I know….you’ll actually have less space to move around in, BUT it will look like you have more space because your brain will see the space around your furniture and think of it as extra space. Cool, eh?
16. DECLUTTER, DECLUTTER, DECLUTTER!
I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, but if you haven’t, here’s a reminder to declutter your small space. There’s nothing that makes a room feel small more than clutter. Heck! It makes a large room feel small. Take a minimalist approach and get rid of anything you haven’t used in the last two years. If you can’t part with it, stash it away somewhere hidden, which gives me a perfect segue into my next tip…
17. USE HIDDEN STORAGE
Take advantage of hidden storage to store books, blankets, toys, etc. The fewer items displayed the better. It’s so important to keep a small space tidy so that it doesn’t feel cramped. Ottomans, coffee tables, storage beds and bookcases with doors are great options.
18. GO HIGH
Another great way to fake space is to force the eye to move. When hanging bookshelves; opt to hang them close to the ceiling rather than at eye height. Your eye will automatically be drawn upward making the room feel taller and as if it has more space. You can achieve the same effect using floor to ceiling cabinet-type bookshelves as well.
Photo Credit: Unknown
19. INTRODUCE CROWN MOULDING
Seem too formal? Don’t let crown moulding scare you off. These days there are so many styles to choose from. The idea again is that it helps to steer the eye upward and thus, creates the illusion of more space.
20. MAKE A STATEMENT WITH THE CEILING
Make a statement with your ceiling. Do something to draw attention to it, such as adding a tin ceiling, painting it a bold colour, wallpapering it, adding wood beams or panels, etc. Doing so will force the eye to move upward and help to make a small room look bigger.
Photo Credit: Brian Greer's Tin Ceilings
21. USE LARGE SCALE ART
I know I seem to be back peddling here, but trust me these tips work. When choosing art for your small space, pick something large scale and dramatic. The art will draw the eye in and make the rest of the room appear more expansive.
Photo Credit: Art Design
22. ACCESSORIZE WITH INTENTION
Accessories are important in any space to give it personality. However, in a small space, accessories should be used sparingly. Focus on accessories that are functional accessories, rather than ones that are only decorative.
23. BE STRATEGIC WITH LIGHTING
Often times lighting is placed in the ceiling in the center of the room. This is not ideal, especially in a small space. What happens is that the light shines downward onto one spot, forcing us to focus there. In a large room that’s not so much of a problem, but in a small room we want to create movement by forcing the eye to travel around the room. To help the eye travel, use more than one ceiling fixture or wall mounted lighting in a couple places throughout the room to draw attention from point to point. For additional task lighting, use table lamps rather than floor lamps as they take up less space. You can also use lighting to draw more attention to artwork and create additional flow around the room.
Photo Credit: Daily Dream Decor
24. MINIMIZE TRANSITIONS
If possible, keep all flooring throughout your space the same. You want to minimize flooring transitions as much as possible. A floor with no transitions feels more sprawling. Comparatively, the more flooring transitions you have in your space, the more contrast is created and the less space you will appear to have. If it’s impractical to avoid transitions then choose flooring that is very similar in colour so that there is as little contrast as possible.
25. BE DELIBERATE WITH RUG PLACEMENT
I love area rugs so much so it pains me to suggest not using one, but it can make a space feel smaller. If you can avoid using one, great! However, if you love the personality that a rug can bring to a room then keep it light with little pattern. Comparatively, if you have a tad more space, you can use area rugs to help define specific areas in the room, which will make it feel like it has more function and therefore convince the brain that there is more overall space.
26. CONSIDER HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL CHALLENGES
Is your room short or narrow? If so, use these tips to help counteract the deficiency. Use shiplap horizontally to make a space feel wider. Use wainscoting or vertical paneling to make a room feel taller. You can also create height by using hanging lights around the room or by installing drapes so that they hang as high on the wall as possible and don’t quite touch the floor at the bottom.
Photo Credit: CB2
27. USE STRIPES
Stripes are an excellent tool for creating length or width in a room. Similar to the point above, you can use them horizontally to make a room seem wider, vertically to make a room seem taller, on a diagonal to extend a space or in a chevron pattern for movement. And, although stripes are high contrast, stripes that are equally spaced create an expanding effect.
Photo Credit: Wayfair
28. CLEAR A PATH
This may seem obvious, but make sure there is a clear path to walk through your space. You want a minimum pathway of 30” for people to pass through. Make sure furnishings and décor don’t obstruct the path for two reasons; 1) it will make the space feel cluttered and 2) the clear path will extend the space.
29. DITCH THE DOORS
If your small space has a door in it that could be deemed unnecessary; ditch it! Leave a doorway instead. This will make the space feel more open and also help the eye travel outside of the room, thus making it feel that the space is larger.
30. CONSIDER MID-CENTURY MODERN
Now, I’m not saying that Midcentury Modern is the only way to go when designing within a small space, but it is a REALLY good option. It checks almost every box. Midcentury Modern pieces are a perfect choice when considering low profile, leggy furniture. They are naturally minimalistic and space saving. They favour form and function and they’re super on-trend.
Photo Credit: Maison Du Monde
So that’s my top 30 easy tips to make a small room look bigger. If you found these tips helpful, please let me know in the comments section below.
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And, if you have any questions about these tips please contact me. Have other tips that I haven't covered? I’d love to hear them! Leave your tips in the comments so that I can be sure to include them the next time I update this post. Thanks for reading and good luck with your space!
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Principal Designer | Orangetree Interiors
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