many people, small space decorating has become a part of everyday life
by choice. For others, downsizing may not have been the first choice but
is the reality.
And, the choice to live in a smaller home is becoming a preference to more people as well. Who needs all that space anyway? :)
If your small space is wide open and is fortunate enough to have 9 foot wall heights or more, your interior design job just became a little easier.
Older homes tend to have more walls and individual rooms vs. an open space, so the challenge can be greater. I happen to love the charm of a vintage home, though, so am torn between the nice open living/dining/kitchen area and the unique construction details that come with an older residence. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to live in both types of homes.
If you are a homeowner and have the ability to literally move windows, walls and/or doors, here are a few relatively simple ideas for you.
Always obtain the opinion/services of a professional to make sure you keep the integrity of the structure intact and follow local building ordinances and codes.
If you need to gain closet space in a bedroom or den, take an existing
window space, cantilever it out a couple of feet to create a closet (make the space larger of course by removing the drywall and studs as needed). It is a simple method for adding storage to a room without literally creating an addition to the home.
2) Gain natural light plus an additional entry by removing a window and installing a doorwall/sliders.
3) Combine two separate rooms/spaces by removing an interior wall, or by creating a doorway between the two.
Here is an example. My parents have lived in the home they built in the early 1970’s. It had a separate living area and family room, so they installed a set antique french doors to create a tie between the two rooms. Result? It looks great and makes the two rooms appear more as one large space.
4) Create the appearance of more space by adding natural light with skylights. A small space that suffers from minimal windows can become ‘larger’ with the installation of a skylight. This works particularly well if the space has studio or cathedral ceilings.
Those tips for small space decorating are well and good, but what if you don’t have the option of pulling out the sledge hammer?
Idea #1 - Paint
walls a light overall color to maintain the spacious effect in small
space or home. Dark colors can make a space feel smaller, and will also
create a cut-up look if the colors change from room to room or wall to
If you want to use multiple colors in a space, make the selections soft shades such as these shades from Sherwin Williams:
These colors would live together beautifully and maintain the spacious feel needed.
Use Ceiling White on ceilings, and if they are 9 ft. or higher, use a satin or eggshell finish to reflect some light down into the space, a great idea for small space decorating.
Having made that statement, I am going to contradict myself and say that if you have a very small, separate space such as a powder room, guest bath or den...go ahead and select as bold of a color as you wish. I would keep all of the walls the same color, and the ceiling finished as suggested above. But, other than those two guidelines, have fun with the space.
Avoid cutting the walls in half with wains coating and a light/dark color combination. If you choose to use a wood trim, bead board, etc., keep all of the colors complementary and in light shades.
Idea #2 - Set the foundation for small space decorating with light toned floors.
Whether you have carpet, tile, wood, laminate or vinyl, the preferred selection will be light to medium tones. And, keep the flooring consistent throughout the main living areas of the home.
For example, avoid this scenario:
A 4’ x 5’ slate entry leading into living room with wood flooring, leading into a tiled kitchen.
Those three elements visually cut up the
space. If possible, go with all wood floors in the area to make things
flow from one space to the other.
Idea #3 - Furnishings in small space decorating should reflect the same scale. I have worked with clients who try to put a massive sofa and loveseat into a small living area, and they leave no space for any other functional furniture much less walking space.
Sometimes the furniture HAS to work because the client can’t afford to go out and buy something new. That’s okay. I suggest that we take one large piece out of the room and use it somewhere else in the home, then work with what is left.
In the example above I would remove the loveseat and put it in a den or guest bedroom. Then, use the sofa and one accent chair for seating, no coffee table, one or two end tables and that is it for the furniture.
Don’t lock yourself into the thought pattern that says, “I have a set of end tables and coffee table that match, so I must use all of them in this room.” Or, “The sofa and loveseat came as a pair so I must keep them together.” Not.
the existing furniture that makes sense in the space. Period. Use the
remaining pieces in other rooms, store them, sell them, or give them
The same thought holds true when decorating small spaces if the furniture is the appropriate scale for the petite room. You have to know when enough is enough, and remove any unnecessary pieces.
Think of it this way: Keep the function of the room or space in the forefront, and use just enough furniture and accessories to meet that function. Anything else may end up looking like clutter.
Idea #4 - Simple window treatments are the order of the day in small space
decorating, avoiding over dressing the windows in scads of fabrics,
drapings and heavy cornices.
If you use fabric panels, a valance, etc., keep the choices to lighter colors and textures. For example, select a light beige cotton weave curtain panel over a dark brown velour panel.
Wood blinds, faux or real, mini blinds, duette shades, roman shades...these are all options that provide privacy when needed and can also be opened up to be minimally space intrusive.
A simple valance or side fabric panels can provide some softness and complete the window treatment without overtaking the space.
Idea #5 - Use strategically placed artwork and accessories to add drama, and possibly create aa focal point. Small space decorating means embracing the ‘less is more’ philosophy, particularly as it pertains to the accessories and finishing touches.
a piece of artwork, a mirror, wall decor, a few family photos (notice
that I suggested a few...), and use those pieces to finish off the space. As
with the furnishings in a small space, if you clutter up the walls with
too much ‘stuff’, you’ll make the room actually look smaller.
So, use a light touch, be thoughtful with placement, and you can create a beautiful, small space that lives large.
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