From paint colors to furniture arrangements, these tricks will open up a pint-sized space in no time.

By Caroline Biggs
August 13, 2020
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Ask any interior designer and they'll tell you the same: The wrong layout and furnishings can make an already cramped space appear even smaller. "When designing a small room, it's important to pick pieces that are appropriate in scale to the space," says Molly Kidd of Light & Dwell. "Don't buy bulky furniture for a small room." Along with appropriately scaled furniture items, a little trompe-l'œil goes a long way when outfitting a pint-sized space. "With the right paint colors, focal points, and décor accents, you can create the illusion of a much larger space," explains Carneil Griffin of Griffin Direction Interiors.

Looking for more ideas on how to make a tiny room in your home look and feel bigger? We asked a few of our most trusted interior designers for advice and here's what they had to share.

Use light paint to open up the space.

According to interior designer Nicole Gibbons of Clare, certain paint colors can instantly make a small room feel larger. "Bright, airy colors, such as a warm, off-white like Timeless, will reflect more light and make it feel more spacious without looking sterile," she explains. For subtle color, she suggests a breezy, blue-green hue like Headspace, to help brighten up a small space while creating a calming atmosphere. "Another great tip is to paint your ceiling a nice bright shade of white to really open up the space," she adds. 

Arrange furniture accordingly.

While it might seem like pushing all the furniture against the walls will open up small space, Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design says it actually does the opposite. "Floating furniture in the middle of a room and defining it with an area rug or overhead light fixture, allows the entirety of the square footage to really be utilized," she explains. Additionally, Griffin recommends investing in low-profile pieces, or simply removing the feet of your sofa, to create the appearance of more wall space.

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Break up larger pieces.

Instead of employing large-scale furniture in a small space, Gillian Segal of Gillian Segal Design suggests using several small pieces to create balance. "Focus on a few smaller-scale pieces, like a love seat and two small occasional chairs, instead of one massive sectional," she says. "Having a variety of furnishings looks more interesting and creates the illusion of more space. Also, make sure to leave breathing room between the pieces—nothing makes a space feel smaller than to have each piece crammed together."

Keep visual clutter to a minimum.

A small space will feel even smaller when overloaded with a bunch of clutter, which is why Anne Carr suggests keeping décor accents to a minimum. "If you clutter a small room with too many visuals, it will look busy," she explains. "I also don't recommend using a lot of patterns in a small room, unless it's a powder room, for the same reason. You can use different fabrics if they are solid in color, but stay away from busy prints."

Mirrors make a big difference.

When all else fails, Segal says you can always count on mirrors to make a small room seem bigger in a pinch. "Mirrors reflect light and create the optical illusion of more space," she explains. "This doesn't necessarily need to be in the traditional form of a hanging mirror; you can also line the back of bookshelves with mirrors, or find furniture with a mirrored finish, for a similar effect." 

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