Small spaces can be the most charming areas of a home, and since they require a bit of extra design consideration and ingenuity, they can often be the most original.
From galley kitchens to awkward alcoves, no space is too small for a brilliant decorating scheme, but there are many design myths – painting your space all white, adding an excessive amount of storage, and downsizing your furniture is most common – that can hinder you success.
If you’ve struggled to arrange furniture or choose a color palette, these clever small space tips can help. Below, our design experts from Benjamin Moore, Interior Fox, Tom Howley, Olive & Barr, KING Living, Interiors London, Valspar and Albion Nord cover layout, storage, color schemes, visual tricks and more…
Lift space with color
“Paint is a clever way to change the perception of space in a room,” says Helen Shaw, UK Director at Benjamin Moore. “As a rule of thumb, lighter colors tend to make a space feel bigger, while darker colors tend to advance and bring the wall towards you making a room feel smaller.”
Painting a small room – including the ceiling – in an all-over uniform color blurs its edges and boundaries giving the impression of space. This is particularly effective if you paint woodwork, doorframes, and radiators, too.
Go light on fabrics
“Sheer fabrics allow light to pass through curtains, bedskirts and table coverings, creating the illusion of taking up less space,” says Sarah Lloyd, interiors and paint expert at Valspar. “Lighter colors such as ivory and cream will seem almost translucent in a sheer material, and accentuate the room without overpowering it.”
We love the return of sweet cafe-style curtains in the kitchen, and in the tiniest of galley kitchens, the light and breezy fabric will break up heavy sections of cabinetry without compromising storage space.
Use every nook
“Awkward spaces in the home can be a conundrum, we are all often faced with tricky looks and box rooms, especially in period properties,” said Jen & Mar founders of Interior Fox. “Ingenuity is key, with careful storage elements and creative thinking , you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve even in the smallest of spaces. Consider choosing for bespoke cabinetry to create something truly unique, perhaps an occasional seat, storage cupboard or desk.”
As working from home will remain the norm for the foreseeable future, those living in compact spaces can adapt to adapt into an effective WFH space. This sunny yellow example from Neptune makes perfect use of the natural light, and creates the illusion of a larger footprint by using matching paint on the wall paneling and bespoke fitted desks.
Highlight your light source
“Drapes and curtains block the view from the outside and make rooms seem more insular – even if they only cover part of the window,” says Sarah. “Installing blinds or shutters guarantees privacy without seeming too imposing, and if curtains are a must then choose a pole that extends far beyond the edges of the window so the view isn’t blocked.”
If your space can do without any window dressing like this fabulous bathroom, then go for it – the view beyond and the abundance of natural light will do wonders in small spaces.
Rethink the kitchen
The natural inclination in a small kitchen might be to include as much storage as possible, including overhead cabinets, but opening up space at eye level and above, will provide more of an impression of space. Plus, open shelves can take more decorative accessories that can often warm up clinical space.
Instead of overhead cabinets, try a freestanding pantry, or small butcher’s block.
“Pull-out larders and slim pantries are just two of the ways to maximize storage and efficiency within a compact kitchen. With space at a premium, utilizing the full height of the room and the depth of the cabinets means every inch serves a purpose, ” says Tom Howley, design director of the eponymous kitchen brand.
“Homeowners with small kitchens automatically assume they haven’t the room for an island, but that isn’t always the case. A slimline island adds extra surface space and cooking area,” says Al Bruce, founder of Olive & Barr. “An induction hob that has a built-in downdraft extractor is a clever way of opening up the space, while also allowing you to move the hob to the island for a sociable cooking set up.”
Don’t be afraid of furniture statements
“The key in a small apartment space is to ensure your furniture is suitable for the space available. Nothing makes a room look smaller than filling it with undersized furniture,” said the experts at KING Living.
Instead of downsizing all of your pieces, and squeezing a collection of compact side tables, narrow armchairs, and small accessories into a cramped space, choose a single piece that really fills your room and fulfills a need.
Larger pieces don’t need to be propped against a wall in small rooms either, but instead act to zone a space according to its use. “In the living room, don’t feel that your sofa needs to sit against the wall. Pulling it off the wall will create the illusion of space and make the room look bigger.”
“One of the most common tricks for making a room seem bigger is to utilize vertical space to create the illusion of height,” says Helen Pett, Design Ambassador at Interiors London. “Where possible throughout the home, utilizing mirrors to reflect light will make rooms seem larger than they are particularly when occupying a full wall.”
Wallpaper and fabric are both great options in this instance – here, botanical wallpaper used in a small bedroom draws the eye upwards to the double height ceilings, and hanging fabric has been used so cleverly to zone and heighten the silhouette of the bed.
“Another design trick is to choose tall lamps to frame furniture,” says Helen. “Whether this be on symmetrical bedside tables or an accent table beside each key piece of furniture in the living room. This will not only draw the eye to the height of your lamps but will also emphasize any verticals in the room.”
Mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors
“It’s no design secret that mirrors will make a room look bigger,” says interior design expert Amy Wilson. “But did you know that where and how you hang them can make all the difference in terms of how much extra space they will give the illusion of? A mirror opposite the door you enter the room through will immediately make the space you enter feel bigger.
“A large mirror over a fireplace is a popular choice but many people hang them too high so they only reflect the ceiling rather than the rest of the room. Consider propping your mirror onto a mantel piece or shelf as an alternative to hanging it so the mirror hangs lower. Propping small mirrors onto shelves and windowsills helps extend the line of sight beyond the items placed around them and works particularly well if you pop something metallic in front.”
Pattern is your best friend
Displaying a few things in a small room can well create the illusion of space, but it can also strip your home of any warmth and cosiness. To remedy this, try layering a small number of patterned accessories to make pockets that look busy.
“We like to create spaces that feel layered and homely, which allows you to create messes without feeling messy or needing to put things away the second you put them out,” says Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord. “It’s important to make space feel relaxed and not sterile or unliveable.”
“We like to use patterns in smaller doses in cushions, armchairs or statement headboards. There are so many beautiful, patterned fabrics out there to choose from our favorites being anything and everything from Tissus D’Helene, Zak & Fox, Soane, The Fabric Collective, and Blithfield,” says Camilla. “We love using antique fabrics found out and about at antique markets or fairs. We tend to use them on cushions or frames them as artworks to add a unique point of interest to any room and you won’t see them in anyone else’s house. “
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