Small space living can be tricky. If it’s a new space, it can be tough to figure out what to bring and what to leave behind. The last thing you want for your small space is to pack everything into it like Tetris and just live with it. A few times scooting past a sofa arm blocking a doorway or having to walk around a wide table in a narrow space will get old fast. With small space living, you must consider how you’ll use the space every day.
I got inspired to write this post comes from binge watching Tiny House Nation on Netflix. These spaces are the ultimate test to small space living. I love to see how people figure out where to put all their stuff. The episodes are formulaic: Usually the people moving into the tiny are coming from a larger space and they are completely unaware of what they can bring. Inevitably, there’s a coming to God moment where the host challenges them to limit their belongings to one suitcase or a single box or something. This is when coveted shoe collections and hundreds of unicorn knick knacks get painfully edited. It makes for good TV but, I’m sure it sucks for the people making the move.
The reality TV formula is genius and it pulls us in because it mirrors what we may have experienced at one time or another. You may not have a 230 sq. foot tiny house, but perhaps you have a super narrow living room or a near perfect square dining room or office. There can be challenges to small space living but, a little planning and understanding a few key things can really make a big difference. Here’s 11 fool proof ways to make your small space feel bigger than it is.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Know Your Actual Room Dimensions
This is probably the most important first step in any space re-design. If you don’t know the size of your room, you really don’t know what you can fit in it. Having a floor plan that you can refer to will help keep you organized and will prevent you from buying furniture that’s too big or too small.
1. Draw the shape of your room as if you’re looking down at it from above.
2. Include doorways, the swing of the door (the direction that it opens) and all the windows and architectural elements that are fixed (Built-ins, fireplace, etc.)
3. Measure across the room at the widest point and across the longest side and record those measurements on your paper.
4. Measure each wall segment around the room and the width and height of all windows, doorways and architectural elements.
5. Measure the height of the ceiling and note any changes in the height, (like if your ceiling tapers down on one side or if you have a vault making it higher).
6. Check the measurements of each segment against the overall length and width for accuracy.
I have a new free pdf that illustrates all these steps if you’d like to get it right below. Knowing the dimensions of your room will save you time, money and headaches when you redecorate any space in your home.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Tiny Room, Tiny Furniture, No Bueno
One common misconception is the notion that you must put small furniture in a small room. That makes the space feel much smaller than it is. By placing a larger, deeper piece in a small room you can the room feel larger. Of course, you will want to consider doorways and heating and cooling vents to make sure there is no obstruction, but essentially, a larger piece in a small space will be far more inviting and comfortable.
Tip: Use a larger, deep sofa in a small space. You can always flank it with smaller end tables and a small cocktail table to add in some functionality. It’s all about balance. When considering adding in accent pieces to a small space, make sure you have 12” to 16” of space between the cocktail table and the front of the sofa. You can tuck end tables in close to the arms of your sofa. Consider having hanging pendants or wall sconces for lighting so you don’t have to sacrifice valuable table or floor space with lamps.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Edit the Clutter
Cut down on the stuff you bring into the space. You don’t have to have things on every corner of a surface, nor do you have to load up every shelf with books and knick knacks. Leaving empty space creates the illusion of more space. It tricks the eye into thinking there’s room to grow. It’s also much more enjoyable to look at a few intentionally selected pieces rather than a jumble of unrelated things, taking up space and shoved together.
Pick display cabinets or shelving with a combination of open display and closed storage. This way, you’ll have space for some overflow items that you really want to keep and change out from time to time. You can also use baskets to keep clutter neat and organized when its not in use.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Pull Furniture Off the Wall
Don’t push your furniture right up against the wall. I know that it’s tempting to try to save as much floor space as possible but, a little bit of space behind your seating gives the illusion that there is more space. If you can, place a small sofa table behind the couch so that it’s bumped off the wall a few inches. It’s not hard to find tables that are 9” to 12” wide and long as the sofa itself. This little bit of space creates depth and instantly makes the room feel larger.
Tip: create a conversation group where your chair is angled in towards the sofa so you can see the people on the sofa. Chairs can be placed on an angle or perpendicular to the sofa arm depending on the space.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Let the Light In
When you close off the windows in a small space, it makes the room feel much smaller than it is. Heavy, dark curtains close spaces off. When you let natural light in, you allow for light to catch the items in a space creating shadows and adding dimension.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Embrace Multi-Functional Pieces
Storage ottomans, end tables with drawers, storage beds in a small bedroom, these are all pieces that add functionality to a space and a spot to hide clutter away. Consider bringing in a small credenza with doors or drawers to function as a television cabinet and a place to store bits and bobs like extra charging cords, DVD’s, the WIFI boxes, etc. Having pieces that do double or even triple duty in a small space can be invaluable!
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Use the Right Sized Area Rug
This one makes me crazy! Pardon the drama… I hear it all the time. I have a small room so I need a small area rug. I disagree completely. Using a rug the size of a postage stamp will do nothing for making your room feel larger. In fact, it will absolutely make the room seem smaller. I have rarely used area rugs smaller than 8’x11’ in any room that I’ve designed, large or small. I have gotten push back many times but, in every instance, I’ve been told that a larger than expected rug made all the difference in a space.
Rugs are the anchors for any sized room. They define spaces and set the parameters for furniture placement. Using a larger rug in a smaller space will allow you to capitalize on color, pattern and texture. It will set the tone for the rest of the space and it will allow for appropriate spacing of furniture.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Mirrors!
Mirrors bring in light and reflection into a small space. A great place to hang a mirror is perpendicular to a wall with windows because it will reflect the natural light from the window and double that light in the space. I love using large mirrors in a small space because they add dimension and the illusion of depth and space.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Make A Statement! (big art)
You can’t go wrong with adding a statement piece of art to a small space. It provides a focal point, brings in or reinforces a color theme. Large art creates drama and brings a small space to life with personality and grandeur.
Adding in a gallery wall, with lots of sizes and shapes in a small space can make a wall look cluttered and small. This is especially tricky if the art or items on the gallery wall are unrelated in style and subject. A large statement piece is interesting and isn’t competing with other pieces for attention.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Use Vertical Space, Hang Curtains High
When you utilize vertical space, you automatically make a small space feel larger. This true for tall, open shelving, large art and curtains. One of my go to rules for any space is to bring the curtain rods all the way up to the ceiling trim molding or just below the ceiling a few inches. This brings the eye up and elongates the vertical space in any room, especially small ones.
Curtains also add softness to a wall and really give you the opportunity to make the window appear larger by adding height and fullness to frame a small window. This again tricks the eye into seeing more abundance of space.
11 Fool Proof Ways to Make Your Space Feel Bigger Than it is: Go Custom!
Custom furniture has a bad wrap for being expensive. In my experience, custom is really no more costly than stock furniture when you compare what you actually get for the money. It all depends on the level of customization. The most expensive aspect of custom is the cover you decide on. Most furniture stores offering custom options have tiered pricing for fabric or leather. There’s always an introductory price for any custom furniture you design. The real benefit of custom is that you can choose different sizes: lengths, depths, comfort levels, styles and wood finishes for all your furniture. The price difference means that you are getting exactly what you want and need for a small space rather than having to cobble a look together that may not be the right fit.
That’s All There is to it!
With a little planning and some careful consideration, you can create a truly beautiful and functional small space that can rival any palatial mansion. I’d venture to say that small space living can be even more special because you have functionality in its truest form and only room for things that are meaningful and special.
If you’d like a little more help figuring out the exact size of your small space, I’ve updated my guide for measuring your small space. You can get your FREE copy of this short and incredibly helpful pdf here. By singing up for the guide today, I’ll send you future alerts when my blogs posts go live every Friday. You’ll be the first to know and to get the latest advice I only share here!
Thank you so much for stopping by to read today! I am so grateful that you decided to spend a few minutes learning about making your small space feel bigger. I’d love to hear what you do to make your space feel bigger too. Do you have any stories to share or challenges that you faced when creating your own space designs? I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below! Until next week my fun, fabulous, friend, (I love a little alliteration), Stay amazing and keep your dreams big for your small space!
I’m chief banana at Michael Helwig Interiors in beautiful Buffalo, New York. I happily share my experience in the world of home decorating and design to help folks avoid expensive mistakes and decorating disappointments. I’m pretty crafty with simple DIY projects and I love to teach others how to create beautiful and functional decor for their homes. My motto is “every decorating challenge is figure-out-able.”