Small-Space Dos and Don'ts
It's time to embrace your small spaces. You'll be surprised by how much style and function you can pack in with these dos and don'ts.
Everything In This Slideshow
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DO Know Your Space
Every small room comes with unique challenges and assets. And when it comes to your space, nobody knows what those are better than you. So tune into your home's attributes and proceed wisely, discerning what will work for you and how you can adapt ideas to suit your space and needs.
DO Make Arrangements
The right furniture arrangement can make or break a space. Watch and see the smart strategies for getting a perfect furniture arrangement in a small bedroom.
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DON'T Push All the Furniture Against the Walls
You may be able to do cartwheels in your living room this way, but carrying on a conversation? Not so much. Moving furniture to the center of the room ups the cozy factor and makes carrying on a conversation easier. Pulling furniture away from the walls -- even just a few inches for a floor lamp or sofa table -- creates an illusion of greater depth and -- you guessed it -- more space.
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DO Use Solids
Large planes of solid color give you the freedom to use pattern in smaller splashes without going overboard.
DON'T Resign Hope
Even the smallest of bedrooms (like the one in this tiny apartment) can maintain a sense of style, comfort, and function. These three tricks will show you how.
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DON'T Be Afraid to Put Your Bed in Front of a Window
Sometimes, in a small room, it’s the only option if you want to also squeeze in dressers and nightstands. Plus, placing your bed in front of a window can create a super strong focal point.
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DO Get to Know These Furniture Pieces
These key pieces will help you maximize space, so add them to your shopping list.
Love seat: A short sofa made for two -- hence the name. Pullout models accommodate overnight guests. (Hello, double-duty living room.)
Armoire: A tall cabinet originally used as a wardrobe; it can also hide a bar or games and books.
Sofa table: Also called a console table, it's narrow and slightly lower than the sofa back. This makes it a good spot for a reading lamp.
Parsons chair: A slim, armless, upholstered piece that can adapt to different rooms and styles.
End or side table: About chair-arm height, it stands beside seating to hold a lamp, beverage, and other necessities.
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DON'T Overdress Windows
The general rule of thumb in smaller rooms: the simpler the better.
Bare windows create a clean look that shows off the architecture and opens up the space. At night, however, they can become black holes. Blinds or Roman shades offer an unfussy solution, providing privacy day or night and light control during the day. Simple drapery panels soften the architecture of the room without crowding the space.
But at the same time...
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DO Use Window Treatments to Your Advantage
To make windows seem taller, hang draperies just below the ceiling; to widen windows visually, extend draperies beyond the window frame. Fabrics that match walls enlarge the room.
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DON'T Rule Out Certain Colors
Yes, we know dark colors can make a small room feel smaller. But if cozy is what you crave, color can help you get there. Even professionals do it, like when legendary interior decorator Billy Baldwin painted his tiny Manhattan apartment entirely in high-gloss chocolate brown. The easy road to success: pair a deep wall color with crisp white trim.
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DON’T Forget to Breathe
Fabrics don’t have to be wild and crazy to be impactful. Subdued colors and patterns, like in this living room, are often more effective in making a small room feel larger.
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DO Rethink Open Shelving
If you're in the "no open-shelving" camp, can we persude you otherwise? By nixing the visually heavy doors, you can really open up your kitchen (even a tiny one) and make it feel larger. Plus, you can easily convert existing cabinets to open shelves (more on that below). Still not sold? If a redo is in the cards, consider doors with glass fronts.
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DON'T Ignore Vertical Bathroom Space
Even if your bath is small, you still have some height to play with. Tall freestanding units add much needed storage. If you’re remodeling, consider a cabinet that sits on the countertop.
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DO Embrace Sconces
They don’t take up much room, but boy, can they pack a punch. In a bathroom, light from sconces can soften cold, hard surfaces, and provide extra illumination where you need it most. And who couldn’t use a lighting boost around the vanity? Can you say no more uneven brows?
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DON'T Forget the Headboard
Headboards take up so little room, but have such a big visual impact. And taller headboards introduce a vertical element that can help enlarge the sense of space.
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DO Connect with Color
Often, a consistent wall color is the simplest and most effective unifying thread in a small home. That doesn’t mean all your walls have to be the same color, but when physical distance between spaces is minimal, subtle and gradual color changes usually work best to maintain openness. If you do opt for multiple wall colors, keep moldings and trim the same color.
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DO Create an Entryway
Does your front door skip the entryway and head straight for the living room? Add a console table or cabinet and layer in artwork and accessories. The vignette will create a pause between the doorway and the living room space and give the illusion of an entryway. Did we mention this also creates extra storage?
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DON'T Ignore Awkward Spaces
That weird bump-out? Turn it into a window seat. Bonus points if you incorporate storage.
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DO Large-Scale Patterns
Only send 'em to the floor to soften the impact. A large scale pattern on a rug isn’t at eye level so it’s not as "look at me, look at me."
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DO Offer Multiple Choices
Rooms larger than 6x6 square feet benefit from multiple light sources. Kick off your lighting with an overhead fixture (ideally, one with multiple bulbs). Illuminate dark areas with additional wall-mount and tabletop fixtures. Want to maximize your lighting’s potential? Place fixtures diagonally in a room to cancel shadows and make the space feel brighter overall.
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DON'T Stick to Just Solid Furniture
Leggy pieces, glass tabletops and see-through furnishings will make a room seem less full. And who doesn't love a little Lucite?
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DO Scale Down
If faced with the option of one bulky sofa v. two smaller loveseats, two trumps one almost every time. A pair of loveseats can provide just as much seating as a clunky sofa and take up less visual space. Plus, it may give you more arranging options to play with.
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DON'T Rule Out Built-Ins
If adding built-ins is an option, lucky you, even if your space is small. Think about your needs and design accordingly. Here, shelves add storage, but space for a small settee creates seating space.
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DO Go Armless
Armless chairs that can shimmy under the dining room table=more floor space. You're welcome.
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DON'T Say No to an Island
Think your small kitchen can’t accommodate an island? Think again. An open cart, like this beauty from a restaurant supply store may be your answer to more storage and workspace. Be sure to measure your kitchen and choose a size that still leaves plenty of walkway space. And look for a cart on wheels that can be moved around as needed.
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DON'T Forget About Mirrors
We've said it once (or a hundred times), and we'll say it again: mirrors are your small space BFF. They reflect light to give the illusion of more space, pluse they add a bit of sparkle. And what's not to love about that?