20 Small House Dos & Don'ts

Short on square footage? Don't despair. Follow this advice for maximizing a minimal space.
Small Space Dos
Bamboo shades and a sisal rug add
contemporary touches to Sheila's
clean-lined country cottage.

Homeowner Sheila York knows you don't have to live in a palace-size place to reap the benefits of good design. In fact, smart space-stretching ideas abound in her 1,200-square-foot Michigan home, from room-expanding paint treatments to efficient ways for displaying treasures. Here, she shares her design dos and don'ts for other homeowners who have more style than space.

Vertical molding creates the
illusion of more volume in the
dining room.

DO Start at the ceiling. Sheila hung the window treatments in the dining room from the highest possible point on the wall (just under the crown molding). Hanging the curtains high lets the fabric flow freely and tugs the eye upward.

Well-chosen furniture,
including a large ottoman that
doubles as a table, makes
a smaller home cozy and

DO Include built-ins. They take up almost no floor space but yield plenty of much-needed storage -- both perfect characteristics for a small house. Sheila assigned double duties to a built-in bookcase in the living room: It not only holds books and display items but also serves as a mini-bar.

DO Reflect on the situation. Mirrors and panes of glass act as room expanders when strategically placed to reflect something pretty. The small mirror next to the built-in bookcase in Sheila's living room doubles the number of pretty glasses in view. And she made the dining room lustrous by adding glaze to yellow paint so the walls reflect the limited light.

A large hutch commands the
spotlight in the dining room.

DO Open rooms to each other. Though it's important to clearly define separate spaces, some openness between adjoining rooms makes all of them feel bigger. Sheila's cramped kitchen used to be cut off completely from the dining room, but now a large pass-through connects the two spaces. In a similar way, her office joins the living room through a French door, which allows the two rooms to share the same light and views.

Slate blue paint defines the
dining room; other rooms have
plain hardwood floors.

DO Define different spaces subtly. Separate one room from another without choosing completely different wall colors or flooring. A checkerboard pattern in slate blue on the floor of the dining room looks like an area rug without being bulky.

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