Maximize Your Small Space

Use these ten decorating moves to squeeze more out of a small space.

I adore decorating and living in small spaces. When all the design elements are working in harmony, it is like living in an efficient little boat, with every square inch put to good use. Small means different things to different people, but whether you live in a 1,200-square-foot cottage or a 350-square-foot studio, there are a host of techniques you can employ to make the most of what you've got. Today we will look at 10 easy ways to enhance any small space.






1. Use focal walls and vignettes to create "destinations" within your home. The impulse in a small space is often to keep things sleek and simple, which can be beautiful, but I urge you to consider going bold instead. Rich paint color and graphic wallpaper that can feel overwhelming in a large room actually looks glorious in a smaller space. Bonus: It won't take much of that fancy wallpaper you've had your eye on to fill a postage stamp–size room.

Where to put that focal wall? Think about your space in terms of zones of use. For instance, you might have an entry zone near your front door where you open the mail, and a dining table tucked in the corner by a window. By adding an eye-catching element to each zone (a painted or wallpapered wall, interesting artwork, a unique chair shape) you can create the feeling of a separate room. Each mini-destination is another place for the eye to rest, creating a sense of more space.

2. Go for multipurpose furniture. When you live in a pocket-size apartment, you must make every piece of furniture earn its keep. Poufs or small stools can be used as tables, footrests or extra seating and are easily tucked away when not in use.

Other flexible furnishings to consider:

  • A dining table iwth leaf extensions
  • An ottoman or a bench with built-in storage
  • A petite sleeper sofa or a daybed for overnight guests
  • A bar cart that can hold mail and keys between parties

Michelle Hinckley, original photo on Houzz

3. Unify the space with a single color palette. If you can see from one end of your flat to the other without getting up, an overall color palette will help pull everything together and make the space feel more expansive. Pairing one main color with an accent hue and filling in with neutrals is an easy way to start. To add interest, try using the accent color as the main color in a smaller space. For example, use navy as the main color with sunny yellow accents in the living room, but go for a bold yellow wallpaper in the bathroom.

4. Use mirrors to create depth. This is probably the oldest trick in the decorator's book, and with good reason. Mirrors reflect light and views, standing in as extra windows and amplifying the space. Try placing a mirror in the entryway, above the mantel or anywhere it will reflect a lovely view or artwork.

Want even more from your mirrors? Fill a whole wall with mirrors and add mirrored furniture to give the illusion of another room just beyond view. Placing candles and beautiful flowers where they will be reflected in the mirror doubles their beauty.

Don't want the hassle of hanging a giant mirror? Create the same effect by hanging a cluster of smaller mirrors instead. No need to match them exactly, but do look for a theme such as all round mirrors or all distressed wood frames.

LiLu Interiors, original photo on Houzz

5. Open up your floor plan. If you live in a Victorian flat or a similar space made up of many small, compartmentalized rooms, consider ways of opening up the space. If you own your home and are thinking of renovations, removing some dividing walls is usually an option. For a quicker fix, replace a few solid interior doors with glass doors to visually connect the rooms. If you are a renter, you still might be able to temporarily remove a few doors to increase light and flow.

6. Keep it clean and clutter free. In a small space, even a few things left out can make the whole place feel like a mess.

Pare down to only your favorite and most essential belongings, and make a habit of cleaning and clearing clutter at the start of each season.

Keeping attractive bowls, baskets, bins and hooks at the ready will ensure that picking up is a breeze.

MANDARINA STUDIO interior design, original photo on Houzz

7. Assess the scale of your furniture. Often we try to cram the furniture that worked in a previous home into the current space, even when the scale is no longer a good match for the room. In a small room, you will generally want to avoid the overstuffed and oversize in favor of small-scale pieces. But it is possible to go too far, filling the room with too many itty-bitty things. Strive for balance.

8. Lighten up with Lucite, crystal and glass. Clear objects take up very little visual space, which is a great benefit to those of us living in tight quarters. Try a small crystal chandelier, Lucite chairs or a glass-top table. Want bonus points? Add a mirror to the mix.

Garret Cord Werner Architects & Interior Designers, original photo on Houzz

9. Save space with swing-arm sconces. Sconces are great space savers, freeing up room on tabletops or even making it possible to do without a table altogether. Often seen bedside, swing-arm sconces can also work wonders in a tight corner in the living room or above a desk. Renters take note: Most lighting stores offer swing-arm sconces with cord covers, so you can simply plug them into the wall.

10. Finish every room with a green plant. A good tip no matter the size of your space, but especially relevant for small space dwellers. In addition to cleaning the air and adding a bit of interest, plants create a sense of depth, softening the edges of a room and helping us to imagine there is more space beyond their borders.

A small home is a chance to get creative. Often the best design solutions are born of necessity. If you are feeling stuck, try making a list of things you appreciate about your home or create a style file of inspirational images. Simply sitting with a cup of tea and allowing yourself to daydream can be a wonderful way to come up with ideas too.

This article was originally published on
For related posts see:
Sit or Sleep in a Two-in-One Chair Bed
Contemporary Futon Covers for a Grown Up Look
The Foolproof Houseplant for Someone Who Kills Indoor Plants

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