No doubt about it: we’re inspired by the palatial estates, glossy big-city apartments, and antiques-filled French countryside manors that make their way into the pages of shelter magazines. But not many of us actually dwell in 6,000-square-foot manses, and we often hear the question, “Do you have any tips on small-space decorating?” Well, hang on to your Pantone swatches, design fans, because today Annie’s offering advice on putting together apartments and small homes, or even small spaces within a cottage or house, with serious chic factor.
Here are Annie’s top 12 tips on decorating small spaces:
1. Keep the overall design simple. No matter the type of room, if there’s one rule you want to follow with a small space, it’s this one. The less stuff in the room, the larger it will look. Pulling the furniture away from the walls and toward the center of the room can also create the illusion of space around the perimeter.
2. Free up precious real estate on floors and tables by mounting wall sconces or installing a flush-mount or pendant lamps for lighting.
3. Invest in dual-purpose furniture, like this adjustable coffee table and dining table, which can be raised or lowered depending on your need. We’re also fans of wheeled carts that can work as a mini prep island in the kitchen and a bar/serving cart in the dining room. And we can tell you from experience that dining tables with extension leaves (which can be stashed in a closet while not in use) make a great project tables or computer desks. The extra chairs can be stashed against the walls in the dining room, living room, or guest room until needed.
4. Clear your coffee tables, accent tables, and countertops, or at least don’t overstyle them. Keeping tables clutter-free will maximize the look of the space. For an even more spacious look, try coffee and accent tables made of translucent materials like glass, Lucite, or acrylic.
5. Make use of horizontal storage wherever possible. Think tall bookcases or curio cabinets, floating wall shelves, kitchen islands with shelves under the countertop, and dining room tables with drawers that can hold linens and serving utensils.
6. Choose furniture in the same color palette. You can either include one or two bold pieces of furniture to break it up, or go with all-neutral furniture and several bold accents. Alternatively, try this visual trick often employed by Scandinavian designers: match your furniture color to your wall color. Instant open sesame.
7. Let in the light. It’s a decorating myth that dark and bold colors automatically make a space recede and pale colors automatically enlarge it. What matters most in making a space look larger is light—both natural and electrical. Let in as much natural light as possible by using sheer fabrics for window panels, or skipping the window treatments entirely. The latter option can make a space look even more dramatic, especially if it has walls painted in a pale shade—think white, ivory, aqua, or the lightest yellow. Make sure you have plenty of overhead lighting to help the room look less petite.
8. If you opt for window panels, add height to the room by choosing light-colored fabrics, and go floor-to-ceiling length. Shorter curtains, by contrast, visually shorten the room by cutting it off two-thirds of the way down the wall.
9. If it’s in your budget, add a skylight or two; this is the gold standard for adding extra light to a room. But architectural details—like wood planks or molding—near or on the ceiling, and painted white, will also draw the eye up. Or start at the opposite end of the room, and try whitewashing the floors and adding a single, bold accent wall.
10. Reflect even more light with a large, wall-mounted mirror. There’s a reason every interior designer we’ve ever met has recommended this trick: it works like gangbusters.
11. In a small bedroom, skip the overly large or ornate headboard and try using a piece of tapestry or wall art as your “headboard” instead. And make use of all that wasted under-bed space by adding a platform bed with drawer storage or picking up some inexpensive canvas bins you can slide under the bed frame.
12. If space is really at a premium and the room needs to be used in two distinct ways (such as a home office and bedroom), or if you have unsightly necessities (think: filing cabinets) with no real storage space, pick up a divider to split the space into two and/or hide the not-so-pretty parts.