How to decorate a small space
Designing and decorating your home to your tastes doesn’t require professional training, but you may find yourself wishing for a professional eye when trying to finish a space that feels particularly tricky. A small space is often the toughest to get right, whether it’s a studio apartment, small house or individual room in a larger home. To help you make your small space feel bigger and serve you better, we’ve tapped design experts for advice on the best ways to tackle a small footprint. Read on the 25 tips for decorating small spaces.Remove clutter.
In a tight space, having a few belongings out of place can make the entire room look messy, so be diligent about tidying up and putting things away. If a space still feels too full or unorganized, consider clearing more space on shelves or countertops. This means you may need to find additional storage space or get rid of things you don’t use often, but a less cluttered space can allow your mind to relax at home. Figure out the system and level of neatness for you to be happy – you may find that a few items on the counter don’t bother you, or that anything left out at all adds stress to your day.Make space for your hobbies.
Make space for your hobbies.
Just because your home is small doesn’t mean you need to remove things from your life to fit the space. “I find a lot of people limit themselves in their space,” says Laura Cattano, a professional organizer and owner of Organizational Design in New York City. Designate a place that allows you to indulge in the hobbies you love but haven’t had the space to pursue. If you rarely entertain dinner guests, forego a large dining room table and use the free space to practice your instrument, or create a knitting nook so you can comfortably master your hobby.Add mirrors.
Mirrors are the ultimate solution to making a room feel bigger because they trick the eye into seeing the reflection of the space as an addition to the room. The only key, Cattano says, is that “you have to know what it’s reflecting.” A mirror reflecting the cityscape out your window can be lively and engaging, but the bathroom door doesn’t necessarily need to be replicated in the space. In a room without much natural light, adjust the mirror to reflect the lighting you have in the space to add brightness.Make the space feel bigger with light colors.
Make the space feel bigger with light colors.
Shades of white, cream and gray make a room look larger than a deep red, brown or navy would on the walls. If you’re looking to make your small space feel bigger, go for a light shade. Lisa Seeger, a design trend expert for N-Hance Wood Refinishing, says white cabinets in kitchens and laundry rooms have been popular for years because they keep the space light and bright. On walls, cabinets or anything else, light pastels can allow you to introduce some color while still maintaining a light, airy look in the room.Create a cozy space with darker colors.
Create a cozy space with darker colors.
Not every small room needs to feel bigger, however. You can transform your small room into a more cozy space by embracing some of the darker shades that bring the walls and ceiling in. If a comfortable cave is what you’re looking for, opt for wood accents, deeper colors on the wall (and even ceiling) and embrace the hygge look with soft fabrics throughout the room. Add blankets and candlelight to complete the cozy ambience.Refresh your floor.
Refresh your floor.
A recent trend for wood and vinyl floors is lighter stains instead of the darker look of a few years ago. This serves small spaces well because a lighter floor tone can help make a space feel larger. But if replacing your flooring sounds like a big project to tackle, consider refinishing your existing wood floors with a lighter stain. “You would sand it, then (professionals) could change it to a lighter tone,” Seeger says. If refinishing isn’t an option, thin, light-colored rugs that almost reach the walls could be a less-permanent solution to open up a small room.Give the illusion of bigger windows.
Give the illusion of bigger windows.
Imposing walls can make a room feel small. Surrounding a window in particular, you can play a couple tricks on the eye that make the wall feel less significant and make the window appear larger. When you hang a curtain rod or shades, start about a foot above the window frame, and extend the width another foot on each side of the window. “Now my window feels two-thirds larger than it actually is,” says Kelsey Stuart, CEO of Bloomin’ Blinds, which does blind and window treatment sales, installation and repair throughout the U.S. Plus, when you open the curtains, you’re less likely to block the edges of the window, allowing maximum light in.Use vertical space.
Use vertical space.
Compensate for a small footprint by embracing the space in a room above eye level. Often, we keep items on the wall limited to slightly above eye level. But when space is limited, position your photos, wall art and shelves a bit higher to embrace the vertical space. The area above a door frame or window can be a perfect place to add a shelf. In a mudroom, garage or laundry room, use the vertical space with tall cabinets or racks that reach up to the ceiling, keeping floor space as open as possible for easy maneuvering.Let your artificial lighting mimic the sun.
Let your artificial lighting mimic the sun.
Allow the lighting you add to a room to mimic the position of the sun based on the time of day, and don’t be afraid to have multiple lamps throughout a room – even if it’s small. “When you think of overhead lighting, that’s noon or midday because the sun is overhead. I don’t use my overhead lighting in the evening,” Cattano says. In the evenings and when the sun has set, use lamp lighting instead of overhead fixtures. For a better transition to sleep, Cattano says she turns off one light every hour in the evenings, allowing the dimmer atmosphere to prepare her body for rest and make it easier to fall asleep.Feel free to be creative.
Feel free to be creative.
While you may prefer certain decor styles, there are no hard and fast rules that you have to follow to make your space your own, big or small. Still, you may be more inclined to get creative with textures, colors and patterns if it’s a small corner that you don’t have to look at for hours on end. Small powder rooms are often the perfect place for bright wallpaper, with wall art and hand towels to embrace the aesthetic you’re going for. “It’ll still feel really cozy because size doesn’t matter when you go bold,” says Leah Tuttleman, allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers for Re-Bath, a full-service bathroom remodeling company.Avoid oversized furniture.
Avoid oversized furniture.
Naturally, the furniture you buy to fit in a larger room is going to fit a little different in a tight space. Often, full-size furniture can work in a small room with a bit of finagling to make sure walkways are still clear – rarely do you need to scrap everything you have and buy apartment- or teen-size furniture. However, if you’re trying to fit a sectional that seats seven in a one-bedroom apartment, it will likely overwhelm the room. If your furniture blocks doorways, takes up a third of the room or simply doesn’t fit through the doorway, you may want to consider couches, chairs and tables with smaller dimensions.Don’t break up the flooring.
Don’t break up the flooring.
In a small house, cohesive flooring from room to room can help the space feel larger by avoiding breaks and transitions. A hard floor that flows from room to room helps the space look more open, rather than a new material that appears at the entrance to each room. Seeger says a couple different floor types, like wood and tile, can make sense between a hallway and bedroom or the kitchen, but try to limit the types of flooring to three or less. “Keep it as simple as possible,” Seeger says.Opt for multipurpose furniture.
Opt for multipurpose furniture.
When space is limited, you’ll need to create storage where it doesn’t exist, so choose your furniture carefully. An ottoman that opens to reveal storage space can be the perfect place to keep extra throw blankets or candles. A coffee table with drawers can allow you to store small items that would otherwise pile up on the tabletop, from remotes to notebooks. Rather than allowing the guest bedroom to be taken up by the bed itself, get a smaller daybed, and then use the room as a space for reading or work when you don’t have overnight guests.Give everything a place.
Give everything a place.
In a small room, clean and uncluttered surfaces aren’t so much about minimalism as they are about keeping the space from feeling overwhelming. There are certainly items you might want out on display, but you should have a place that's out of sight for other things that could make your space look and feel cluttered. Take full advantage of medicine cabinets, under-bed storage and closets to give everything a place, and get in the habit of consistently putting things away that aren’t in use. Cattano says you won’t see a toothbrush, lotion, nail clippers or even a pen sitting out in her home, because they all have a place to go when not in use.Stick to white bathroom fixtures.
Stick to white bathroom fixtures.
You can embrace a funky bathroom design on the walls or tile, but stick to standard white plumbing fixtures, including the toilet, sink and tub. Even if you have colored tile and a color on the walls, white fixtures are less imposing on the space than a dark toilet or sink may be. “Keeping those a very bright color, such as white, helps to mitigate that look of a breakup,” Tuttleman says. Plus, nonstandard fixture colors like black run the risk of making your bathroom look like a nightclub.Keep window treatments lightweight.
Keep window treatments lightweight.
Window treatments can make a room feel more complete, but they also have the potential to make it feel stuffed. In a small room, consider simple, lightweight window treatments to avoid too much heavy fabric. Aggressive patterns can also make the space feel smaller. “A heavily patterned approach is going to make the drapery feel more pronounced and feel like it takes up more space in the room,” Stuart says. In many spaces, he recommends Roman shades as an option to keep things simple but still serve a purpose and look finished.Balance open and closed storage.
Balance open and closed storage.
Open storage, where shelves display the items, can be a great way to keep the space from feeling closed off, but may add stress and anxiety. “You have open bookshelves, glass-front cabinets (and) baskets with no lids. No wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed – you’re looking at everything you own,” Cattano says. Strike a balance between open and closed storage in your home, hiding away items that you don’t need on hand, and display the things that make you happy.Consider wall-mounted options.
Consider wall-mounted options.
With a small footprint, every square inch of floor counts, so avoid making the space look even smaller with too many freestanding bookshelves, cabinets or appliances that crowd the area. When possible, Cattano recommends floating shelves or other wall mounts to showcase books, art and other decor. In tiny bathrooms, try getting the sink or even toilet off the floor. “You can always use a wall-mounted type of vanity so that you have some space underneath the vanity,” Tuttleman says.Keep like items on display together.
Keep like items on display together.
Whether you’re a collector or you coincidentally have a lot of one item, consider grouping like items together to keep them from taking over your small space. “If I walk into a home and it’s only open shelving, I try to move it all to one wall – try to make it all one system,” Cattano says. If you have many bookshelves, for instance, figure out which wall works best as the bookshelf wall, and put everything there.Change up your blinds.
Change up your blinds.
To keep a small room or apartment from feeling confined, let in as much natural light as possible. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice natural light for the sake of privacy, but with standard blinds that raise from the bottom, that often feels like the case. However, Stuart says an alternative that's growing in popularity is a set of blinds designed to both raise up from the bottom and lower from the top. “That can leave you the feeling of open sky above the shade, but you still have privacy and light control,” Stuart says.Ditch the kitchen table for an island or peninsula.
Ditch the kitchen table for an island or peninsula.
Small kitchens are tough to navigate, especially when more than one person is cooking, so consider removing additional furniture. “People are putting the islands in or trying to get away from traditional tables that are in a kitchen, and somehow trying to incorporate maybe a countertop seating area,” Seeger says. Adding a permanent island or peninsula may have to be part of a larger renovation project, but it can provide the seating you want from a table with the added cohesion that a table doesn’t provide.Install pullout drawers instead of cabinets.
Install pullout drawers instead of cabinets.
In a tight space, forget what you expect to see in a kitchen and instead opt for what will work best. Seeger says that means lower cabinets become large drawers in a lot of cases. “That helps people tremendously to roll out drawers for easier access and to hide things better,” Seeger says. Dishes, glasses and utensils can fit inside drawers just as well – if not better – than on a cabinet shelf. Not to mention that the pull-out function of a drawer can make it easier to grab pots, pans and other items rather than stooping down to reach in with a typical cabinet.Opt for clear glass around a shower.
Opt for clear glass around a shower.
Small bathrooms rarely feel spacious, and three-quarter bathrooms, with a toilet, sink and standing shower, often feel cramped for just one person to move around and get ready. “Clear glass in a bathroom is optimal for making a space feel open even if it’s very small,” Tuttleman says. To achieve the right effect, opt for clear glass over fogged or textured glass. Clear glass is also more likely to look contemporary for longer, whereas glass brick or fogged glass can make a bathroom look dated.Know that it’s OK to get rid of gifts.
Know that it’s OK to get rid of gifts.
When space is limited, the gifts that come with birthdays and holidays can become stressful. Where are you going to put the new vase or kitchen gadget when every inch of your apartment is full from the last round of gifts you received? Incorporate gifts you plan to use (or any with sentimental value), but don’t be afraid to give away another cheese board when you already have one you love. “Make room for what you actually want,” Cattano says.Love what you have.
Love what you have.
A good organizational system can make life in a small home easier, but you shouldn’t have to pay top dollar to achieve that peace. Cattano says she tries to avoid solutions that require her clients to buy more things, whether they’re storage bins or a custom closet system. “Any time I come into a space, I’m looking to reuse what you have in a new way. And if I’m going to propose a new item that you need to buy, it better blow you away,” Cattano says. Before you go out and buy new drawer organizers or storage solutions, see if it’s possible to achieve the same result with the space and items you already have at home.Here are 25 small space and furniture ideas for your home:
Here are 25 small space and furniture ideas for your home:
- Remove clutter.
- Make space for your hobbies.
- Add mirrors.
- Make the space feel bigger with light colors.
- Create a cozy space with darker colors.
- Refresh your floor.
- Give the illusion of bigger windows.
- Use vertical space.
- Let your artificial light mimic the sun.
- Feel free to be creative.
- Avoid oversized furniture.
- Don’t break up the flooring.
- Opt for multipurpose furniture.
- Give everything a place.
- Stick to white bathroom fixtures.
- Keep window treatments feeling light.
- Balance open and closed storage.
- Consider wall-mounted options.
- Keep like items on display together.
- Change up your blinds.
- Ditch the kitchen table for an island or peninsula.
- Install pullout drawers instead of cabinets.
- Opt for clear glass around a shower.
- Know that it’s OK to get rid of gifts.
- Love what you have.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.