Secrets of Small-Space Decorating | Midwest Living

Secrets of Small-Space Decorating

How do you make the most of limited space? Here are 31 ways to decorate your small rooms with style.
  • Furniture: Less is more

    Choose larger furniture pieces for their design interest, but use fewer of them. One large piece of furniture makes a small space feel grand; lots of small pieces create visual clutter.

    Buy quality furniture. It may cost more up front, but good furniture will last longer.

    Skip the trends. Look for traditional furnishings that blend with a variety of styles. When you're in the mood for change, switch out inexpensive accessories instead of furniture.

    Have a plan and purpose. Don't fill your home with impulse buys. Make sure every piece of furniture fits in an overall plan.

    Pictured: An oval table takes up less space than a rectangular one, and the pedestal style allows more legroom. A mirror and large window add lots of light to this dining area.

  • Keep patterns to a minimum

    Use fabrics with texture rather than pattern on larger upholstered pieces, such as this couch.

    Add throw pillows to inject dashes of pattern and color without overwhelming the space. But don't overdo it; it's better to have one or two oversize pillows on a bed or sofa than several smaller ones.

    Pictured: A large sofa and mirror give big impact to this room. Muted colors on the upholstery and one large patterned pillow keep the overall feel simple but dramatic.

  • Go light

    Abundant natural light transforms a room's feel. Create the illusion of larger windows by hanging curtains higher than the window frame. Extend drapery rods well beyond the width of the window, so curtain panels don't cover any glass. Lightly dress windows with sheers or tailored panels that avoid a heavy, confining effect.

    White, neutral or pale wall colors reflect light, visually "pushing back" walls. A flat paint recedes more than gloss.

    Light-colored fabrics unify furniture, which prevents your rooms from feeling jumbled and crowded.

    Pictured: Light colors allow the bedroom furniture to blend into the subtle background. Curtains hang well above the French doors to add height and maximize light.

  • Multitasking rooms and furniture

    Share space. One room can serve several purposes with the right assortment of furniture. A long sofa, for instance, can provide seating as well as extra sleeping space.

    Gain reserve seating without taking up space by stowing an ottoman under a tall coffee table or sideboard.

    Pictured: The ottoman under the coffee table can be a seat or, with the addition of a tray, double as an extra table.

  • Keep colors simple

    Use just a couple of colors per room for visual simplicity that expands a space.

    Try similar colors in adjoining rooms to visually unite them. The color harmony will blend two small rooms into one larger area.

    Pictured: Brown and white are the dominant colors in this elegant loft home living room.

  • Draw the eye up

    Expanding the vertical space of a room gives the illusion that it's much bigger than its actual square footage. You can:

    Open up attic space. If you live where you can push up the ceiling, your small room will look larger with vaulted space and light-giving transom windows or skylights.

    Hang a sparkling chandelier or ceiling fan. Either will draw the eye up to the vertical volume of a room.

    Use one tall piece of furniture. As with a chandelier, it draws the eye up.

    Pictured: The living room in this ranch home gained height and light when a vaulted ceiling was created from attic area.

  • Storage solutions

    Look to furniture for storage opportunities. If at least one furniture piece in a room doesn't have drawers or shelves, get creative: Skirted beds and floor-length tablecloths over round tables provide easy stow zones.

    Hide small clutter such as mail inside china vases, pitchers, boxes or baskets.

    Pictured: A glass-front pine cabinet in a bath stores towels and toiletries.

  • Accessorize sparingly

    Limit collectibles. Display your collection with space around it, or choose one favorite piece, as opposed to 10, and allow it to become a focal point.

    Simplify live displays such as a huge vase of flowers or a group of houseplants. Instead, set out a bowl of apples or a single-bloom orchid.

    Use see-through, pale-colored or reflective accessories that blend into the background to keep your eye traveling smoothly around the room.

    Pictured: Just two accessories top this table. Their color blends with the surroundings but also provides a texture contrast to the rough rattan chair.

  • Bring the outside in

    Create virtual windows. Nature-theme artwork or vases brings the idea of the outdoors in.

    Use mirrors to expand visual space by reflecting other parts of the room, as well as bouncing light around.

    Pictured: A large mirror and pitcher of greenery brighten the small bath, as do the light-filled windows and white color scheme.

  • Airy style

    "Open" furniture can fill a small space without overwhelming it. Slim-design chairs, tables and bed frames won't obstruct views or light.

    Paring down the amount of furniture in a bedroom puts the decorating focus on the bed. Put drawers and shelves in closets to eliminate the need for a chest or armoire.

    Pictured: The canopy bed's sleek metal frame adds height and drama without visual weight to the bedroom.

  • Art tricks

    Don't center your artwork as expected. Pictures hung off-center make the eye focus on something other than the size of the space.

    Pictured: A stack of two prints leads your eye up to the vertical volume of the room.

  • Kitchen helpers

    Try a mirrored backsplash to get the appearance of more space.

    Limit countertop items to those you use every day. Store once-in-a-while appliances in the pantry or a drawer. Consider a pegboard or rack to keep utensils within reach but off the counter.

    Contain clutter. Don't let your kitchen counter become a drop zone for everything that comes into your house.

    Consider a re-do. Remodeling an older kitchen won't be cheap, but you'll benefit from new cabinet and appliance styles that make great use of every inch of space.

    Pictured: Tall cabinets lend height to the small kitchen. The combination of light wood and reflective stainless steel also make the room seem larger.

    What are your favorite ideas for small-space decorating? Share your tips in the "Comments" section below!

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