Do you find yourself at a loss to decorate the small rooms in your home? Do you peer into that bedroom or family room and wonder what you can possibly do to make it feel bigger? Here are some tried and true designer tips to solve the small room dilemma:
Conquer Small Room Challenges
1. Reduce Clutter. Small rooms will appear smaller and more confining if they are full of clutter. Use fewer accessories but of a larger scale; keep papers and junk off of table tops; keep the floor area clear (no newspapers, slippers, etc). Every piece of clutter lying about causes the eye to stop in its motion around the room thereby giving you that closed in feeling. More ideas about de-cluttering can be read in this earlier article (click here).
2. Use Light Colors. Nothing too new in this tip…..we all know lighter colors always make a space feel bigger, lighter and more airy. However. “Light colors” doesn’t have to mean white. You can infuse your small room with tons of color personality by using all of the softer shades of any color palette. Choosing a monochromatic scheme also expands the space because blending shades of one color lets your eyes sweep across the room, increasing the sense of space.
A monochromatic palette of beige and cream is enlived with a subtle wall stripe treatment and multiple mirrors to reflect maximum light from the single window. This daybed becomes a cozy guest room when needed.
Try Something Bold
2a. Sometimes it’s even an excellent idea to break the rules – use a rich mid or even dark toned color on one or even all the walls of a small room. It creates warmth, security, intimacy and a cocooning, sheltering feeling. Sometimes being unpredictable is exciting! HGTV Designer Candice Olson agrees that using darker colors in small rooms can be successful. “If you want to go dark or more dramatic, keep the contrast low by taking the wall color onto the ceiling or use a shade that’s two or three lighter than the wall color so it keeps the contrast level down. High contrast levels is what makes a room feel smaller.”
3. Use Collections With Restraint. We all want to have our favorite things around us – particularly collections that we’ve gathered over the years. Because we’re so emotionally attached, it’s hard to edit them. In small rooms the impact of a collection is much stronger when it’s contained, restrained and displayed with care. Bring out your accessory props (click here to read about them) and create a vignette that really showcases your collection. If it’s extensive, consider rotating it seasonally like Cindy does with her teapot collection.
This charming bookcase shows restraint in the quantity of accessories and also incorporates attractive storage (the banded boxes) which is usually in high demand in smaller rooms. I love the patterned background of the shelves and in a small room it would make a noticeable impact.
Small rooms allow you to be playful and brave. Experiment with a daring color scheme but go lightly with pattern. Pattern (especially high contrast pattern) is busy and creates visual clutter so use it sparingly and balanced with plenty of solids.
4. Float Furniture. In a small room it’s often the tendency to push everything up against a wall to leave more exposed floor space. Pulling a few pieces away from the wall and bringing them into the room actually can open things up. A little more open wall space helps a room feel larger. And if there’s room to move furniture to the center of the room, it must be big, right?
This studio apartment illustrates several great room expanding tricks: a restrained palette, light colors used on the walls and larger furnishings, furniture floated away from the walls (the sofa and side tables are pulled away from the window making room for a console table behind; ottomans), minimal accessories, see through coffee table, plenty of light throughout the room. Below is another one room apartment where floating furniture serves multiple purposes. And notice the playing with scale – those oversize lamps provide lots of light but also act almost as a room divider.
5. Light the Corners. Adequate lighting is very important in small rooms. If there are dim areas that suck the light and life out of the room, it feels smaller, more closed in. When you’re working with a room with limited or no windows (maybe a basement room), make sure to use all ranges of lighting: table lamps for task lighting, uplights to light the ceiling and give good ambient light and even use floor uplight cans tucked behind a plant or piece of furniture to light an especially dark corner. You’ll be amazed at how much light will visually push out the walls.
6. Use A Mirror. Another expected tip, but just because it’s not new doesn’t mean it’s not valid. Mirrors reflect light and furnishings around a room which expands its visual boundaries. Place the mirror carefully – you want to make sure it’s reflecting something pretty. Reflecting light from a window or a pretty lamp is a great way to use a mirror. A mirror doesn’t have to only go above a fireplace…….use a really large one placed on the floor, leaning against the wall; hang an oversized mirror in place of a door to create a visual “doorway”; hang a mirror or grouping of mirrors opposite a sliding glass door to reflect the view or light back into the room. This is a time when a grouping of mirrors could be an interesting twist – the broken and refracted reflections might be more interesting than just a single large reflection.
7. Think Outside the Box. Try an unusual furniture arrangement or pairing. Really think about the function of the room and how you can accomplish that creatively. Rearrange your furniture, edit the pieces down to the bare minimum and see how that feels. Add pieces back in one at a time until you have just the right mix.
This small room has maximized the space by eliminating a sofa altogether but still has plenty of seating. Small stacking tables in the middle of the room, a large mirror that mimics the shape of the bare windows and light colored walls are all excellent space expanding tricks. A lovely, light-filled and attractive small room.
6 More Tips Tomorrow
Today’s tips will get you started in conquering your small room blues but tomorrow’s additional tips will finish the job! Be sure to check in tomorrow to read the next 6 things you really have to know in order to expand those rooms.
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