Score More Square Footage Without Moving

Tap into your home's untapped potential by finding, freeing, and adding space in ways that improve how existing rooms function. Make your home live larger, look lovelier, and perform better using these 15 space-stretching strategies.

Change Spatial Perceptions

When you can't physically expand a room, try a few tricks to make rooms appear larger. Paint walls and ceilings the same light hue. Install wide planks or big tiles diagonally on floors. Heighten short walls with vertical boards or stripes.

Include Storage Benches

Thoughtfully designed window seats and banquettes offer comfy perches and below-deck storage for everything from table linens to kids' toys. The built-in pieces take advantage of underused corners and wall spaces beneath windows, while introducing purposeful, good-looking profiles. Not ready to commit to construction? Shop for a storage bench that suits your decorating preferences and fits the space beneath a single or a pair of windows. Eighteen-inch-high (the height of a dining chair seat) storage benches work nicely as faux-banquette seats and as commodious bench seating at kitchen and dining tables.

Pay Attention to Dimension

Be space smart when selecting furnishings; compare different pieces' widths, depths, and heights to determine which pieces will accommodate your needs without crowding the space to be furnished. Armless chairs and sofas take up less room than traditional upholstered furnishings but are just as comfortable. Dining and kitchen chairs with small-scale frames may allow you to fit more people around a table. Coffee and accent tables with legs you can see through take up less visual space, which in turn makes a room look larger. Extension tables that are mounted to the wall and recessed Murphy-type beds keep floor space free until it's time to serve dinner or hit the sack.

Reach Under the Stairs

Look beneath your staircase and steps to find square footage awaiting your creative touch. Open up a stairway wall to harvest ample space for bookcases, cabinets, drawers, pantry-style pullouts, or a reading nook furnished with a built-in bench. Take advantage of the empty space under each step: Place custom-built drawers beneath stair treads on built-in glides that allow the draws to slide easily in and out.

Short on storage space? Turn an underused closet into a do-it-all workstation with just a few clever add-ons.

Annex a Closet

If you're have more closets than you need, convert one into a room all its own--a designated chamber that allows you to relocate hobby and workaday gear from other rooms in the house. Remove all the closet rods and racks to clear the interior for setting up a crafting center, a home office, or a getting-ready center complete with dressing table, mirror, and accessory storage. Save a closet corner to house tubes of wrapping paper, bolts of fabric, and other oversize items in need organizing.

Float Your Furniture

Arranging living room furniture in the center of a room makes a lot of sense. It frees a room's outer edges for placing cabinets, sideboards, and sentimental pieces that are pretty, but not essential to how the area functions. These types of arrangements keep family and friends close, promote intimate conversations, and when centered around a substantial coffee table, make it easier to share snacks.

Maximize Possibilities

Got a large room that's not living up to its potential? Strategically place tall bookcases or shelving units as partitions that divide one space into two. Use area rugs to stylishly define spaces within one room that host different functions, such as dining, seating, and game playing. Arrange floor-to-ceiling cabinets or tall dividers to frame out an alcove big enough to hold a desk or kitchen table and chairs. Enhance a kitchen's purpose by rolling in a steel kitchen cart or adding a freestanding island that supplies storage, a prep surface, and a landing spot for incoming groceries.

Free Up Perimeters

Rooms will look much bigger and provide more square footage when perimeters are streamlined. Built-in bookcases or cabinets to create storage and display areas that won't intrude into your space. Opt for window treatments, such as shades, blinds, and shutters, that don't extend outside a window's frame. Mount shallow shelves above doorways and windows to create exhibit space that is easily seen but is out of the way of passing-through traffic.

Enlist Corners

Though corners often sit unused and under appreciated, they supply ample space for a variety of uses. You'll find desks, media cabinets, antique cupboards, contemporary bookcases, and accent tables that tuck neatly into a corner to create a home office, enhance storage capacity, or display collections in ways that don't take up too much floor space. A simpler idea? Move a comfortable club chair, a standing lamp, and a side table into a corner to fashion a spot where you can kick back with a good book.

Add a Loft

  Take your design cue from short-on-space college students, who expertly stretch tiny dorm rooms to make way for sleeping, hanging out, and studying areas that serve two or more. Mount a lofted bed high on a bedroom wall so you can accommodate a work area or relaxation station below. Or, amplify a room's sleeping/slumber party capacity by lofting a single bed above a perpendicularly placed full bed.

Make a Statement

Think about how you can repurpose flea market goods to improve a room's function in appealingly artistic ways. Stack wooden crates to create easily accessed storage for kids' books and playthings. Equip a reclaimed board, old window frame, or a vintage shelf with hooks or pegs to corral mugs, towels, or coats. Revive timeworn dressers or bookcases with paint to create colorful storage pieces for dining rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms that can move in and out as needed.

Contain Clutter

Rooms jam-packed with jumbles of extraneous stuff look cramped, messy, and smaller than their dimensions. Use ready-made shelf, cabinet, office, and closet organizers to corral things that are likely to pile up on countertops or take up valuable floor space. Giving everything a proper place means you'll be able to move freely through your home, always have work surfaces available for the tasks at hand, and know where to find what you need when you need it.

Create a Mudroom

Keep incoming clutter at a minimum by supplying hardworking storage for dog leashes, outerwear, backpacks, and sporting gear near your home's main entry. If possible, give each household member their own hooks, locker, basket, or compartment to stash their stuff in an organized manner.

Use Multi-Functional Furnishings

Double-duty furnishings and dual-purpose spaces go along way to stretching a home's functionality. Add a pullout sofa to a living room or home office and you're ready for overnight guests. Trunk-style coffee tables make convenient caches for family amusements, such as board games, jigsaw puzzles, and photo albums. Bedsteads with drawers or cubbies combine sleeping and storage functions that let you opt out of dressers, which in turn may mean more square footage for setting up desks, vanity stations, or play areas.

Take the Living Outside

Gain square footage by converting porches, decks, and patios into outdoor rooms that call folks to gather through multiple seasons. Use screening systems to screen in your front porch and create a bug-safe haven; furnish the porch with interior comforts, such as cushy furnishings, tables for setting books and drinks, and lamps that set the porch aglow after dark. Wall in your deck with privacy-promoting lattice panels or tall plantings and shade it with an awning. Cover seating and dining patios with freestanding gazebos, which let you enjoy the great outdoors during hot sun and gentle showers.

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