How to make a small space feel bigger!



The first time I watched Tiny House Nation, I assumed the concept was to construct a ridiculously small house just to see if it could be done. It took a second viewing before I realized the homes were being built for people who actually wanted to live in these down-sized domiciles. The Tiny House Movement, a social movement for simplified living, not only exists, but it’s not so little. Apparently, teensy digs are the next big thing!




Tiny house modern awning desertImage source: Tiny House Living




Do these folks like to feel swaddled by small spaces? Abhor cleaning capacious quarters? Appreciate that tiny homes fill up quickly and thus discourage gross (in both senses of the word) consumption–because you don’t need what you can’t fit in? Possibly, but add to this that tiny digs also leave a shallower footprint on the Earth’s tender terrain (fewer building materials required and less square footage to illuminate, cool or heat.) With regard to economics, smaller houses equal smaller price tags and a miniature space demands minimum effort to maintain. In other words, there are myriad reasons to support less is more.




 Tiny house window wallImage source: Care 2 Care





If you happen to inhabit a pocket-sized space, whether it be anything less than 1,000 s/f (the national home average is 2,600 s/f), or a true Tiny House (ranging between 100-400 s/f), here are some ideas to make even a home with Lilliputian-sized rooms feel big.





Bibelots be gone: Pairing down is the first step in opening up small space. If you aren’t using it, you don’t love it and/or it doesn’t truly fit or do anything to improve the space, recycle or donate it. Amen.





mantel decor Image source: Studio McGee





Let it shine: Allowing more light to enter a room will make it appear more vast. If privacy isn’t an issue, consider sheer drapes. Avoid “chopping up” walls by choosing sheers in a similar color to your wall color and keeping the pattern small to non-existent. Or lose the heavy look of drapes entirely in favor of the tailored, crisp lines of blinds or shutters.




Studio McGee InteriorsImage source: Domino




Lighten up: Warm, dark colors will make spaces feel tighter, whereas light, cool colors visually recede, making rooms feel more expansive. A light, monochromatic color palette used for large areas such as walls, flooring and big pieces of furniture will do wonders to widen a room. Break up the blandness by introducing color through smaller items like art, plants, accessories, a throw blanket, and/or decorative pillows.




Seeing clearly: When you can see through furniture, it takes up less visual space. Thus glass or acrylic coffee tables are ideal for diminutive digs.  Following this logic, exposed legs on chairs and sofas offer an airier appearance than skirted pieces.





Lucite coffee table Mathew JamesEh, yes, these are skirted pieces. Focus, instead, on the lucite coffee table by Mathew James Designs via Etsy




Pulling away: Instead of placing a sofa pressed up against a wall, move it out a few inches. The “breathing room” behind it will make the sofa appear less cramped. Another trick? Angle it in the room and suddenly the formerly small space may appear to grow.




 White sofa striped rug coastal living roomImage source: Unknown





Run with it: Run plank flooring (wood, laminate, tile) the length of the room to make it read as larger.






Lucite chairs capiz chandelierImage source: Best of BKYLYN




All together: A unified space will appear larger. This means, when possible, keep the same flooring running throughout the house. When you get to areas that may require a different flooring choice (i.e., tile in bathrooms or kitchens) select a surface in a similar color palette. The same concept applies to rugs: the less contrast, the better. Tip: a natural fiber rug pairs very subtly with wood floors.






Side to side: Sliding barn doors and pocket doors free up space by not swinging into it.






Rustic distressed barn door Image source: Vintage Mulberry




Smart storage: Consider floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Even if every book you own is already stored on your Kindle, bookshelves are a great way to display curios in one centralized area instead of sprinkling them across every spare surface.




No smoke, only mirrors: Use them to create the illusion of an expanding space and to bounce light around. The fewer shadows, the more open your rooms will feel.





 living room with mirrorsImage source:





Go big: Oddly enough, a few big pieces of furniture can make a room look larger than many smaller pieces. (Same goes for walls. Select one larger piece of art versus several tiny framed pieces as a gallery wall can go busy very quickly.) For a win-win, select furniture that does double duty, such as an ottoman that functions as both a coffee table or extra seating, a trunk that acts as a side table as well as a handy storage spot, or a daybed that doubles as a sofa with room for storage boxes to slide underneath and out of sight.





trunk coffee table coastal living room





Happy decorating!




This post has been adapted from my column, Design Intervention, which can be found every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.



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2 Comments on How to make a small space feel bigger!

  1. JT
    June 23, 2015 at 7:47 AM (5 years ago)

    Good job!


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