- view all thumbnails
Windows can be a strong tool in visually enlarging a small room because your eye moves beyond the wall to the outdoor view and embraces it as part of your living space. Take advantage of this liberating effect by leaving windows bare, or dress windows with draperies that match the color of the walls to eliminate boundaries and open the space. For privacy, install simple shades or blinds that can be pulled out of the way during the day. In addition, to make windows seem taller, hang draperies just below the ceiling; to widen windows visually, extend draperies beyond the window frame.
If your house is too small to meet all your needs, gear spaces for double duty. A daybed anchors this living room by mimicking the look of a trendy, extra-deep designer sofa -- and scores space for guests to sleep. Look for a daybed with a solid back for all-day lounging support. Cap off the ends with a pair of bolster pillows to imitate the rolled arms of a sofa. Two small tables work together as a larger coffee table but move aside easily to give guests more space.
Small spaces are quickly overwhelmed by large or overstuffed furnishings. Choose neatly upholstered pieces with compact frames and slimmed-down, leggy pieces without skirted bottoms that allow you to see through them to the walls and floors. In this living room, a pair of low-profile chairs eliminates heavy arms that take up visual space and interrupt movement through the conversation area. The open area under the lightweight side table gives the illusion of space. And petite upholstered stools maintain the small scale.
It's an age-old decorating adage: light colors open up a room, while dark colors keep a space cozy. To give your room the illusion of spaciousness, bathe it in white. White surfaces bounce light around the room, keeping a small space feeling bright and open. In this petite living room, the white walls, draperies, furniture, and accessories allow the eye to roam freely over surfaces, stopping only at points of contrast -- the wood floors and rattan coffee table. These dark accents anchor the space without constricting it.
Rather than using white walls as a backdrop for colorful accents, try the opposite effect. The green wall color here connects the room to the scenery and spaciousness outside, while white furnishings, white accessories, and white-painted architecture keep the room open and bright. A handful of green accents tie it all together.
Increase the apparent height of the room with vertical lines that lead the eye from floor to ceiling. A seemingly higher ceiling adds breathing space, particularly if the walls are also painted a soft, receding color. The four-poster in this bedroom pulls all eyes toward the ceiling, while sheer fabric panels cocoon the headboard in softness without adding visual weight. Mounting draperies at ceiling height around a window achieves the same effect by drawing the longest possible vertical line. For a similar effect, hang a collection of artwork on a wall that is arranged toward ceiling. Add crown molding around the perimeter of a room, or add architectural molding on the ceiling and an intricate medallion around a light fixture to enhance the details overhead.
Hang a large mirror with a decorative frame (or prop it against a wall) to create the illusion of depth in a small room. Even small mirrors expand the sense of space by reflecting views and light, but an oversize mirror like this one has a dramatic effect because it reflects a large chunk of the room.
When it comes to small spaces, too many colors can be chaotic. Select a few and stick with them. In this family room, the white coffee table, rug, and bookshelf wall unify the room, while a dark sectional frames one end of the space. Then, a few colorful accent pieces, such as pillows and decorative accessories on the shelves, add personality. Blue, with an occasional pop of pink, is repeated for consistency.
When decorating a small room, let texture and color guide your fabric choices. Introducing too many patterns in tight quarters will create confusion. In this bedroom, a little bit of pattern, on the headboard and the window valances, goes a long way. The pattern's brown and white hues are repeated in large, solid spans on the walls and bed to balance the busy pattern. And textured upholstery and accessories, such as throws and pillows, add subtle visual interest. Painting the single wall a dark color also creates the illusion of depth in the room.
Create a sense of movement and make a room feel larger by floating big furnishings away from walls. Allowing air space between the wall and seating pieces gives the impression of depth and more room. This trick works whether your furniture is lean and spare or overstuffed and upholstered.
Architectural focal points can make a small space feel choppy by causing the eye to stop and focus in on that area. By painting the brick fireplace white in this compact sitting area, the fireplace stopped distracting from the room and now the wall nearly disappears into the neighboring bank of windows. The cohesive color of the wall and architectural focal point blends with the primarily white furniture to make the area feel open and spacious.
Accessories make every room personable, but filling a small room to the brim will steal space both visually and literally. A handful of well-chosen and well-placed accessories is all it takes to give a small living room a layer of sophistication. To avoid a cluttered look, take advantage of natural display spots, such as the coffee table, end tables, and the fireplace, accenting them with a handful of thoughtful items. If you spread accessories throughout the room, keep the walls simple and quiet to focus attention on the objects. Likewise, if you want the eye to focus on the shapes and textures of accessories, keep their colors neutral or monochromatic.
A little something in the entry creates a welcoming focal point for guests, but when you're squeezed for space, keep it lightweight visually by mounting a shallow shelf on the wall instead of filling the space with a more bulky table. This provides a surface for some flowers and a piece of propped art, creating a well-balanced display that doesn't eat up too much space. A slim-profile coat tree adds a bit of function.
Keep a small room from getting extremely cramped when you entertain by outfitting it with smaller, portable pieces of furniture that can be rearranged. Three end tables stand in for the usual coffee table in this sitting area. It's easy to sprinkle the tables around the room to open up traffic flow when entertaining, or move them to another room altogether and open the floor for a family game.
Anything that stops the eye in its movement around the room can register as a boundary or border that limits space. Eliminate the obstacles, and you enhance the sense of limitlessness. A unifying color is one powerful means of banishing limits; glass is another. The glass top on this dining table virtually disappears, opening the eating area so it feels bigger. The transparent surface also allows the table's decorative base to shine without weighing down a room. Open-slat chairs further contribute to the airy feel and visual openness.
One oversize piece of art can create a strong focal point that actually opens a small room. To the contrary, multiple pieces scattered around the room make the room feel cluttered and small. In this dining space, a black-and-white abstract work propped against the wall at one end of the room stands as a noteworthy focal point, without overwhelming with too much pattern or color. In this instance, a symmetric row of small framed pieces on the adjacent wall draws the eye down the length of the room without adding clutter. Acrylic chairs around the table help the room maintain its openness.
Add round elements to a small, square room. Soft edges, instead of rigid corners, turns small into cozy. In this living space, a curved-back sofa, round coffee table, and circular ottoman open the visual and physical flow of the small space.
Expand a small room visually by wrapping the walls with wide horizontal stripes. In this bedroom, horizontally aligned boards achieve this effect without overpowering the room. The rough texture of the planks, installed with the unfinished side facing out, lends a light and airy washed finish to the soft wall color. You can achieve the same effect by painting horizontal stripes on plain walls. Use light colors to maintain a bright, open scheme and similar tones so the stripes are noticeable but don't visually break up the space.
Squeeze more function into small spaces with strategically selected pieces of furniture. A tall table designed for an entry hall or foyer supplies a slice of sophisticated storage in this cozy bath. The table's height and long legs play up the room's vertical dimension. The open space beneath both it and the console vanity contribute to the room's airiness.