37 tips from design experts to make your small space seem bigger

Angela R. James

Love it or hate it, working from home is here to stay. For those of us with huge living and outdoor spaces, it’s relatively easy to carve out space and declare it your home office. For the rest of us, there’s a constant challenge to figure out how to make your kitchbathsofabedlivingroom seem more spacious.

We asked some top decorating experts for their tips on what to put where to make your home seem more spacious:

From Hope Gough, Laura Ashley Marketing Manager:

  • Color is your friend: When you want to make a small space feel larger, “there’s the magic of threes,” Gough explained since “designers gravitate to odd numbers and we feel the same way about color in a small room. To make a small space feel bigger use no more than three colors. Start with a classic blue and white and give it a punch with accessories in a fun color like yellow. Another winning color combination is grey and white with a pop of pink. Using two neutral shades keeps the color story less cluttered, making your room feel larger.”

  • When in doubt, go monochromatic: Gough advises “Painting the walls and the ceiling light, crisp shade like duck egg blue. Select bedding and accessories in the same color for a seamless style. A monochromatic color scheme has a calming effect and tricks the eye into making a room feel larger.”

  • Highlight height: Make the eyes look up with wallpaper or by painting a contrasting color on the ceiling. The walls will disappear when the ceiling is the star.

  • Play with prints: Gough said “We never shy away from using a pattern. A printed wallpaper can give a room depth and make your space feel instantly grander. Create the illusion of more space by choosing a large-scale print. If you are intimidated by pattern, select a printed wallpaper in a neutral color or lighter shade.”

  • Hang curtains high: Gough recommends placing drapery as close to the ceiling as possible. “By using the vertical space, it makes they eye go up, making the room feel more open in an instant.”

Maggie York, of Margaret York Interiors had lots of great ideas to make your small space feel bigger:

  • Paint or wallpaper the ceiling to make the room feel taller and draw the eye up. Use a fun pattern or color for interest!

  • Keep your walls and flooring light: York said that “Dark colors tend to absorb light and make a room feel and look smaller. If wallpapering the walls, try a vertical stripe paper to give a sense of height.”

  • Add in mirrors to reflect the light and make your room feel more spacious.
    Keep furnishings and upholstery neutral to give the space more visual breathing room. York said, “Too many patterns in a small space can create the feeling of chaos.”
    Go big with your rug!

  • Add floor to ceiling bookcases or cabinetry to give the appearance of a taller ceiling.

Speaking of rugs, Samantha Hodges, Rugs.com Director of Digital Marketing shared these tips on using rugs to make a small space feel larger:

  • Use the largest rug your space can handle, just be sure to leave an 18-24-inch border around the edge of the room.

  • Focus on defining spaces (seating, dining, etc.) rather than filling the whole room.

  • Use lighter colors to open up the room.

  • Avoid heavy shag or tufted rugs that could add visual noise to the room.

  • Add depth to your small space by layering rugs! A bright and intricate handmade rug layered on top of a neutral jute can interest and dimension to a smaller space.

  • Make sure not to match your rug to the space “too perfectly”. Select colors that are complementary and work well together instead of being too matchy. For example, if you have a fun patterned wallpaper, you may want to go simpler in your rug design choice and color.

  • Consider rug size – If you are decorating a small space, Hodges said “the traditional 5×8 and 8×10 may be too angular and large. Opt for something round, or something with irregular lines, like a cowhide rug.”

  • 2’ x 3’ Area Rugs – “Small rugs may not fill a room,” Hodges said, “but they are still extremely versatile. 2’ x 3’ rugs are best used in small spaces or places where the functionality of a rug is more important than its visual impact. Entryways, bathrooms, kitchens, and even walk-in closets can benefit from a small rug.”

  • Runner Rugs – While runners are typically thought of as hallway rugs, they’re far more versatile than that. Hodges said “Runners are perfect for any awkwardly shaped space in your home that could use a bit more comfort. In kitchens, they can lay alongside counters to provide some cushion while you work. Similarly, runners can work well in larger bathrooms to keep your feet warm and prevent slipping on wet tile floors. It’s also very popular to use runners on either side of a bed to give you something soft to step on in the morning.”

Jess Kennedy, co-founder and general counsel/CCO of digital home-loan lender Beeline three rules of thumb whenever you’re trying to make the most of these spaces: “light, paint, and floorplan.”

  • Light may be hard to come by, so renters or homeowners will have to prioritize where windows are, how they want to position different floor lamps or other light sources.

  • In terms of colors, Kennedy said “it’s actually simpler than you may think — people tend to think that only light/white colors open up a room, but a darker/black color scheme can equally achieve that result!” And don’t forget the plants. “Adding plants and greenery is a great way to add a pop of color while improving air quality and mood,” she added.

  • For your floor plan, Kennedy recommends “choosing light colors and simpler furniture that won’t feel too crowded. As we’re all spending more time at home, you want to put thought and care into all of your design choices, so your home makes you happy as well as provides functionality. Seating that doubles as storage or collapsible tables and chairs are functional choices to really make the most of your space.”

AJ Olson Whitfield, Villa Real Estate Agent and Home Flipper, shared these tips to make your space feel bigger:

  • Scale down your furniture: Whitfield said to find a smaller version of furniture you love to give you the same look without dominating the space.

  • Mirrors. Mirrors. Mirrors: When decorating with mirrors, “Be sure to focus on what the mirror actually reflects. If you can place it to reflect your outdoor space that will have the greatest effect on the space.”

Home Office tips:

  • “Creating a home office space is a must in today’s current environment, but it can be hard to do if you don’t already have a designated area,” Whitfield said. Try to find a location in your home that is relatively quiet. “The garage or the master bedroom are the ideal locations since neither are the hub of the house and they have doors. If you have kids at home right now, you know how important that is!”

  • Ideally, choose a place that you don’t have to clear off at the end of the day. The dining room might seem like a good idea for the space, but it is too central to get any real work done. Also, bring a plant. There is a reason people have plants in their cubicles so treat your home office space, desk, a little corner where you can hide, wherever it may be, the same.

Jessica Harris, an interior designer from Living Spaces shared 10 of her top picks and products:

  • In a small space, hang plants from the ceiling in trendy macramé planters to open up surface space and bring the eye up.

  • Hang your shower curtains higher. – You don’t need to stop right where the showerhead starts. Hang your curtain about a foot above and see how much taller and grand your ceilings appear!

  • Keep the counters clear of clutter! –Keep the counter minimal with necessities only and tuck anything else away. No more than 1/3 of the counter should be taking up space.

  • Keep your bedding simple. A solid monochrome bedspread, with a patterned pillow or two for style, is all that’s needed to bring life into a small space.

  • If you’re low on storage in your living room, bring your bedroom nightstands in to take the place of traditional end tables. The nightstands provide functional storage for throw blankets, magazines, and remotes.

  • In your bedroom, replace your nightstands with sleek accent tables and top them off with a bold reading lamp for practical light and height. Even wall shelves are a great alternative if you’re seriously lacking space.

  • Add a cozy area rug in your bedroom to add a major décor element without taking up any extra room.

  • If you’re looking for a small, comfortable seat that you can easily rearrange, buy a pouf. Poufs are versatile enough to serve as a soft seat, a footstool, or even an end table for nearly any room in your apartment.

  • Invest in chic baskets to keep above the refrigerator to hold seldom-used appliances and silverware. Not only will they free up your limited counter space but will act as a new piece of décor in the room.

  • Get the most out of your space when you choose a storage bed that also functions as a chest. Investing in a multi-functional piece allows you to maximize your space and preserve precious square footage.

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