Solutions for Small Spaces

Challenge your small spaces to work better with these ideas to improve function and style.

Furniture Options

Problem: Too much furniture in an itty-bitty space.

Solution: Tweak arrangements when entertaining large groups of people: Your primary arrangement in a small room should suit your day-to-day needs, but try bringing in chairs from elsewhere and pushing ottomans to the side when hosting large groups. While this arrangement seats only four, the small space isn't overrun by furniture, and people can easily maneuver around the chairs and love seat during family movie night or an evening by the fire. That also means there is space enough to pull up extra chairs (at the corners of the love seat and next to the fireplace) when guests are in tow.

Closet Woes

Problem: A shared small closet.

Solution: Install a closet system, a DIY project. Watch this videos to learn how to make a small closet work for two.

Color for Small Spaces

Problem: You love dark colors but have small spaces.

Solution: Implement dark colors alongside brights. In this living room, peacock blue is enlivened by vivid red accents and crisp white. Using the accent color in smaller, but more frequent, doses lets blue be the star but balances dark with bright.

Small-Bedroom Decor

Problem: Small bedroom that lacks drama.

Solution: Add luxe details. Chandeliers needn't be limited to sweeping spaces. A crystal baubled light fixture is a pretty crown for a small bedroom -- just be sure to select a fixture that is to scale and doesn't feel too big for the room. Hang drapes at the ceiling and beyond the window frame to give the suggestion that there is a wall of windows rather than one small one.

Solutions for Storage

Problem: Lack of kitchen storage.

Solution: Implement a rolling island cart for stacking extra baking pans and dishes. The cart can easily be moved from place to place.

Unexpected Small Space

Problem: Boring bathroom.

Solution: Enliven a small bathroom with fun pattern and color on the walls and floor. It adds a happy twist to a utilitarian space. Since it's a small room, you won't need to buy as much wallpaper or flooring, a cost-saving perk of a small-space makeover.

Utilizing Space

Problem: Awkward corners and spaces.

Solution: Work with what you have and consider an unconventional use for a space. Here, a window alcove hosts a long, narrow table and acts as a platform for a vignette while supporting concealed storage beneath the skirt. The table spans across the space, but because it is narrow, it doesn’t jut out into the rest of the living room.

Boxed-In Kitchen

Problem: Kitchen with a space-cramping peninsula.

Solution: Remove the cabinets above a peninsula to open up the kitchen to the adjoining space. You will lose some storage space, but it will make your kitchen feel less confined, a worthy trade-off.

Cabinets v. Shelves

Problem: Wanting to open up a kitchen, but not so sure about shelves.

Solution: Compromise. Swap out a few cabinets for shelves and retain the rest. Consider swapping the cabinets you first see when walking into the kitchen for the most impact. Be strategic about where the shelves will go. Take out the middle cabinets so that the shelves are centered on the wall, or take out the cabinets on the ends, leaving cabinetry in the middle.

Learn how to remove cabinets and install shelves.

All-in-One Small Space

Problem: A small but open room.

Solution: Divide and conquer. Plot the room into zones, creating boundaries with furniture and area rugs. Here, a love seat separates the bar and kitchen from the sitting area. To keep a small and open space from feeling dwarfed, avoid tall pieces of furniture so that the sight line extends across the space. Tall pieces, such as bookcases, can be tucked into corners. By using shorter pieces and arranging furniture to set up zones, you will retain an open quality while bringing order to each part of the room.

Decor Refresh

Problem: Small spaces with no personality.

Solution: Be bold in making a statement in small spaces. Choose a few key pieces to showcase your style and edit out the rest. In this breakfast nook, traditional style takes the helm. An antique table and chairs, re-covered in fresh slipcovers, showcase classical detailing. Banquette cushions in classic teal coordinate with the chair fabric. Neutral walls and windows, along with minimal accessories allow these few key elements to shine.

Wayward Entry

Problem: Entryway disorganization.

Solution: Start with a few simple components and watch your entryway go from chaos to calm. Start with a bench with built-in storage, which can be tucked in almost anywhere. In lieu of a closet, fill a wall with hooks for jackets, scarves, and bags. If you hang hooks in two horizontal rows, stagger them so what's on the top hook can hang down and not overlap the hook below it.

Live It Up

Problem: Boring small spaces.

Solution: A light, neutral palette will make a small room feel airy and bright but also runs the risk of reaching into dull territory. Nix the blahs with interesting accents. Here, a strip of molding enlivens the taupe walls, as does a slight paint color shift above and below the trim. Textures also play out well in a small space. This living room relies on the tactile variations of a smooth ceramic stool; nubby sisal rug; and soft, comfy, canvas-slipcovered love seat.

Small Kids' Bedrooms

Problem: A shared room with lots of stuff.

Solution: For a shared room, try shared furniture. In this girls’ room, a dresser positioned between two twin beds doubles as a nightstand for both beds.

Activity Hub

Problem: Multiple uses, small space.

Solution: Choose furniture and an arrangement that is flexible to host any multitude of activities. In this family-friendly space, two chairs face the love seat in a conversation-friendly layout. The chairs don’t face the TV in the armoire, but the wicker chair is lightweight and can be easily repositioned for TV viewing. Swivel armchairs are also a good option in a small space because they can orient toward almost any point in a room.

Versatile Dining Table

Problem: Big tabletop needs, small dining space.

Solution: If you crave a large tabletop with space to seat extra guests or to spread out a crafts project, opt for a table with leaves. The table can stay small for the day-to-day and not overtake your dining space. But when extra table space is needed, simply pop in a leaf or two. Or use a drop-leaf table and forget trying to find a place to stash the extra leaves.

Color Courage

Problem: Misconceptions about color in small spaces.

Solution: Step out of the box. Take a risk with your small room. In this kitchen, a dark gray might not have been the obvious contender for a small-kitchen paint color, but it results in an interesting, personalized space. While a golden yellow inspired by the fabric shades would have been pretty, the kitchen would have lost its modern edge. Plenty of shiny surfaces -- the sink, appliances, and countertops -- reflect light around the space, taking the edge off the dark paint.

Flexible Furniture

Problem: Shoebox living room that sees a lot of entertaining.

Solution: Utilize flexible furniture that can be easily tucked away or moved. Garden stools can be grouped in the middle of the room to create a coffee table effect but can almost effortlessly be moved next to a sofa so guests have a place to perch their drinks within reach. Being able to relocate furniture in the center of a room also provides more walking space for droves of guests.

It's Clear

Problem: Close quarters.

Solution: Clear furniture. Acrylic chairs and a glass-top table add little visual weight to this small dining space. If your style is more traditional, opt for chairs with open backs and a glass-top table with a less modern, yet minimal, base.

Kitchen Counters

Problem: Cramped counter space.

Solution: Move the microwave below the counter to free up precious work space in a small kitchen.

Make an Entrance

Problem: No entryway.

Solution: Make one with a partition screen. Close off the adjoining room with a screen and place a table on the entry side. Since it is pushed up against the partition, the table will make the screen feel more like a wall and less like a randomly placed object.

Small-Space Dining

Problem: Lack of in-kitchen eating space.

Solution: Instead of trying to fit barstools around an existing counter -- or sliding in a table where there isn't really room for one -- try a slender eating counter installed against one wall in your kitchen.

Tight Sleeping Quarters

Problem: Cavernous small bedroom.

Solution: Rooms with low ceilings tend to feel a little claustrophobic. Relieve the suffocation with crisp, light colors. A bright white or gray on the walls will distract from the diminutive height. Punctuate the space with lines of bold color, such as a striking stripe on the bedding or a series of gallery frames in the same hue. Here, black does the trick, creating a modern, animated bedroom.

Wow Walls

Problem: Space for necessities only.

Solution: While you might have space for only a bed, nightstand, and dresser, a small bedroom still has walls. Put your energy into making your walls interesting, with a unique paint treatment or a pretty wallpaper, for example, rather than trying to add more space-consuming furniture.

Galley Kitchen

Problem: A narrow kitchen.

Solution: Galley kitchens do have their perks: fewer steps across the kitchen and the layout can be configured to work in a small space. This kitchen has plenty of landing space next to the sink for a drying rack and the cooktop, and ovens are just one stride away from the refrigerator.  

Bath Organization

Problem: Small bathroom, no storage.

Solution: For a quick and easy fix, install wall shelves to corral bathroom necessities. Or consider a slender etagere for even more storage.

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