How to make small spaces and rooms appear larger
If moving or extending isn’t an option, can you at least make your house look bigger?
“There are so many clever tricks for creating the illusion of space in a smaller room, and they don’t have to break the bank,” says Sarah Lloyd, Valspar’s interior design and paint expert.
Here, Lloyd and fellow interior designers outline cheap and easy ways to make rooms look bigger…
“Lighter shades of paint will help reflect light around your home and make it appear larger,” says Ryan McDonough, interior designer at Myjobquote.co.uk.
“Whites, creams, and muted grays work well for this. Sticking to just one shade in each room will help enhance the space.”
Lloyd explains that dark paint can accentuate outlines and shadows, draw the eye to the corners of a room and give the impression of a smaller space.
“Brighter walls are reflective and create an airy, open atmosphere,” she adds.
“Soft whites and creams are the perfect paint palette to maximize your space, and using lighter shades on wall decorations and moldings makes walls look distant.”
This can help create a clever optical illusion, Lloyd explains: “It makes the walls look really far away, and it takes very little time or expense.”
However, you don’t necessarily have to steer clear of color completely. “Pops of color against a lighter, neutral base can create a room that is more aesthetically pleasing, without making the space appear cluttered. So find cabinets, countertops, benches, and other furniture or decor pieces in your favorite shades,” says Chris Dance, director and chair. Design department at InHouse Inspired Room Design.
“To keep your interiors feeling calm and sophisticated, choose just one aspect to add color and look for slightly more muted tones, like cherry red, forest green, and navy blue, rather than bright primary colors.”
Drawing stripes on the feature wall is an interesting way to change the perception of a space — and allows for some individuality, says Lloyd.
“It’s important here to pair the colors effectively,” she adds. “Vertical stripes in soft colors make ceilings appear higher, and horizontal stripes make rooms appear wider, so they’re great for compact spaces.”
Although it’s tempting to push furniture against the walls to give yourself as much space as possible, nothing makes a room feel smaller than having all your furniture against the walls, Lloyd warns: “Leaving space on either side of sofas and dressers creates a nice sense of spaciousness.”
If you’re buying any new furniture, she advises, look for designs that are slimmer and less massive. “Choosing thinner legs and slimmer pieces allows light to flow through gaps and gives the impression that the furniture takes up less space.”
Lloyd suggests, “Mounting the TV to the wall looks modern and prevents taking up any precious floor space.”
You can create flow by using the same flooring throughout your home, says McDonough. He promises, “This will make a huge difference in how big your home feels.” “Laying floorboards is a great idea, and adding rugs can help create a cozier feel, without affecting the spacious visual.”
Drapes block views of the outside, Lloyd says, and can make rooms seem more isolated — even if they only cover part of a window. “Installing blinds or shutters ensures privacy without appearing too drawn out, and if curtains are necessary, choose a pole that extends well beyond the window edges so the view isn’t blocked,” she advises.
In addition, try to use transparent fabrics as much as possible. “Lighter colors like ivory and cream will look semi-sheer in a sheer material, accentuating a room without overpowering it,” says Lloyd.
Dance says one of the main criticisms of small rooms is that they can look dark and stuffy. Wherever possible, ensure there is enough light and ventilation.
“This will help create a brighter, fresher space that’s a lot more fun,” he says. “Once all the natural light is allowed in, you can identify any remaining dark corners and add LED lights or strips to brighten them up.”
McDonough says mirrors help reflect sunlight around the room. “A large mirror leaning against the wall can make a huge difference to the size of a room,” McDonough explains.
“If you want to enhance the view and make sure as much light as possible is reflected, subtly position the mirrors so they reflect the window and the view outside.”
Dance suggests hanging a large mirror over the fireplace, or on the wall perpendicular to the light source: “This not only gives the illusion of more space, but it also helps reflect natural light coming from one corner, helping it to shine in other parts of the room.”
McDonough says glossy tiles and other high-gloss materials can help maximize the effect of a wall with a reflective pattern. “This will reflect light around the room and make the space feel much larger, more open, and more airy,” he says.
Dance adds, “The mirroring method also extends to other furniture pieces—pieces in polished wood and shiny metal can help bounce light and make your small room appear larger.”
A small kitchen, for example, would benefit from clear countertops and surfaces. Dance suggests: “Then add a few carefully chosen decorations or art pieces to draw the eye toward these crisp surfaces. Adding more decor may seem counterintuitive, but it works because the space wouldn’t be overloaded with visual stimuli if everything else was neatly arranged.”
One of the best things you can do in a tiny home, McDonough says, is keep the floor as clean as possible. Try adding floating furniture, like nightstands and shelves, to keep the floor clean, he suggests.
Dance says that vertical storage techniques—including wall-mounted cabinets, floating shelves, ceiling shelves, and other units that don’t rely on floor space—will increase dead space on walls.
“By choosing vertical storage solutions over freestanding storage, you’ll have more space at ground level and won’t feel like the area is cramped,” he says.