7 Tips for Decorating a Small Space

Ngoc Minh Ngo via Lunch & Latte

One question I get a lot is how to make the most of a small space. When square footage is limited, there are a few tried-and-true tricks that I turn to maximize the functionality and comfort of the room. 

1. Less is more, bigger is better

When I’m designing a small space, I focus less on decorating every wall and more on establishing key focal points. When you have limited square footage, a little bit goes a long way. The goal is to make a small room feel large and expansive. If there is art on every wall, your eye just stops there. Instead of shopping for art for a whole room, find one large-scale piece for the main wall and let the other walls stay relatively quiet. The same goes for area rugs. One large rug in a multi-functional room is much better than a series of smaller rugs that make the floor plan feel choppy and disconnected. It might seem instinctual to size down on artwork, rugs and even furniture in a small room, but doing so will actually make the room feel even smaller. You want to choose pieces that fill the space well and prioritize comfort. I would much rather spend time in a small living room with one deep and cozy sofa than one with a small loveseat and two chairs that are too small to be really comfortable. 

2. Select multi-tasking furniture

Choose furniture that can pull double duty. Instead of a console table, try a writing desk and tuck two ottomans underneath for flexible seating. Or if storage is more of a concern than seating, use a decorative chest or small dresser in your front entry or as a media cabinet in your living room. You can always use a few extra drawers! Same goes for end tables and nightstands. If you have enough room, always opt for pieces with hidden storage. I love putting a storage ottoman at the foot of the bed in a small bedroom. It adds a luxurious feeling, a place to sit and provides overflow storage for extra linens, shoes, off-season clothes, etc.

3. Choose silhouettes & materials that add visual "lightness"

So we already talked about scale and function, but another important thing to keep in mind when designing a small room is visual weight. A piece of furniture might be the right scale for a space, but if it is too bulky or heavy looking, it can quickly weigh the whole room down. Opt for upholstery and wooden pieces that feature raised legs. It might seem like a small detail, but that strip of open space between the bottom of a sofa and the floor does wonders for the openness and flow of a room. Another trick for making a room feel bigger is to use glass or mirrored finishes. You can get away with using a larger coffee table if you opt for a glass topped version that keeps the space feeling airy. A well proportioned mirror can instantly make a small room feel bigger. A beautiful, leaning floor mirror looks good in just about any space! To maximize the impact, you want to think about what the mirror will be reflecting. Putting a mirror across from a window will bounce more light into the room and double up the views of the outdoors. If your room has a pretty feature, like a fireplace or exposed brick wall, try placing the mirror so it reflects that and not just an empty corner or your television set. 

4. Go vertical with wall shelves

Wall shelves are a functional solution for storage and display that can make a big impact in a small footprint. In our last apartment, we had zero storage in the bathroom (pedestal sink) so we installed 3 floating shelves in an empty niche to hold extra toiletries. We disguised our storage items in stylish containers and filled in with accessories to give a more polished look.  A simple wall shelf is also a great option for DIY nightstands in a tiny bedroom, or as a way to fit a small desktop into an empty corner. You can have your shelf material cut to size at a home improvement store and install in just a few minutes with L-brackets and a power drill. Our DIY wall shelves are probably my favorite part of our living room! I wanted ours to be mostly for artwork and display, so we just used 1 x 6's that were precut to 48" long. For holding books or storage baskets, I would use boards that are between 10-12" wide and use larger L brackets drilled into studs to support the weight. 

5. Consider a dramatic paint color

Most people think to make a small space look bigger, you have to paint it a light color. While that can be a great look too, color theory actually tells us that white and light colors come towards the eye while dark colors visually recede. Have you ever noticed how some stores and restaurants will paint their dropped ceilings tiles black? Doing so deemphasizes the starkness of the white tiles and makes the ceiling look like it just goes on forever, kind of like looking up into the night sky. A good example of this is our living room  (jeez, I REALLY need to take updated photos!) and our front bedroom, directly above it. They are exactly the same size and shape, but I think the living room's black walls make it feel much bigger than the cream walls upstairs. Since I also recommend choosing one main focal wall for a smaller spaces, choosing a dark, dramatic paint color can add interest to the room and help the other walls stand on their own. 

6. Keep surfaces clear with wall-mounted lighting

When table space is at a minimum, wall sconces are a great space saving solution versus bulky  table lamps. Direct wire sconces feel luxurious, but if you don’t already have (or want to install) the electrical hook ups there are plenty of plug-in options on the market. I often use them over a desk or end table to keep the surface area clear. I just ordered a pair for a client project to use above their nightstands! I can't wait for everything to be delivered so I can share this room transformation with you guys. These clients are amazing and their bedroom design is going to be soooooo good!

7. Seriously, less is more

My best space saving tip is to learn to live with less. So often, we spend our time and money on organizational solutions for items that we maybe pull out and use once per year, if that. There is something very appealing to me about a more minimalist lifestyle, and giving your home some room to breathe. I love the quote by William Morris that says "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". I've been working really hard this year to purge the things we no longer love or need, and to be much more selective about what I bring into our home. Anthony is on board for the most part, except when I tried to get him to pair down our record collection. I was really impressed with how small the pile was he was setting aside to keep, until he told me those were the ones I was allowed to donate... He lets me do whatever I want with the rest of the house though, so he deserved to win that one. 

What are your best tips for making the most of a small room?

I would love to hear new ideas and what's working for you! Join the conversation on Instagram or Facebook!