Big Ideas for Small SPACES

A few depth-defying tips for creating the illusion of space in a smaller place.

Big IdeasIt can be a little frustrating to know your condo, villa or new smaller home does not have an abundance of space. Perhaps you have made a decision to downsize into a more reasonable space for the “empty nest” time in your life. Don’t despair; there are numerous ways to arrange and decorate your new home without giving up style and function.


Taking a close look at how the space in your new home is divided will be very important. If the total square feet is limited, be prepared to take advantage of all available space. Consider yourself fortunate if your home is designed with an open floor plan, because this will certainly give the appearance of more space. The perfect time to correct the flow of a floor plan is before you move in. Removing a wall or even a partial wall could be beneficial if the plan has most rooms closed off from each other. Another good use of space is to construct built-in shelving and storage.Wall cabinets and shelving take up very little floor space and, if built all the way to the ceiling, can add a feeling of more height to a room. Also consider adding architectural elements such as crown molding to draw the eye upward. Having large windows is especially helpful because they add light and openness to each area. It is great to have visible outdoor living space such as patios, decks and porches. This will visually extend your living area and actually be additional space to use for gatherings.


If you are in the retirement mode, or maybe just relocating to a smaller home, the first step is to eliminate old tired furniture items you don’t need and keep the pieces that have good lines and are basically in good condition. An interior designer can help with these choices and point out items that can be painted or reupholstered to save money on new purchases. It may surprise some homeowners to find out that you really don’t have to start over completely to have a fresh new look in the new home. Many furnishings such as upholstered chairs, tables and chests can be redone and used in various rooms.

Be very careful with new furniture purchases and take room measurements along as you shop for these items. Very large overstuffed sofas and many popular furnishings seen in local retail stores will not work in a smaller home and yet there is also no need to go really small. The proper scale will help make the layout more functional. Make a list of priorities before you start the shopping process, so that you end up with enough seating and important necessary pieces.

Manufacturers have recently started to notice the need for some furniture items to function in more than one way. You will find it helpful in a smaller space to have items that can be quickly moved to an adjoining room for another purpose or items that double as storage. Consider how you are going to use each room in your home and don’t be locked into the old outdated description of each area. A dining room is nice for parties and large gatherings, but how can you use it on a weekly basis and not just twice a year? This room could double as a craft room or home office by selecting multi-functional furniture items that blend well with your dining room furniture. A simple idea to consider would be to remove a few chairs and place upholstered chairs from the living area at the dining table when needed. A tastefully classic chair such as the Palma Chair by Lexington Furniture would look perfect in a living area but also very appropriate in the dining room. Look for the numerous large ottomans on the market that can be used as a cocktail tables and also double as seating. Do not hesitate to have one large piece in your room to create a focal point, such as an entertainment center. The interesting black and pewter design from the Liz Claiborne Arbor Hill Collection is a good example of a multi-functional piece that works in a small space. It is only 47 inches wide but very tall and allows lots of storage along with the television.

If the furniture style is kept simple and not too bulky, you will also find this is helpful in a smaller home. Glass top tables are great because they take up less visual space and even the reflection keeps a room bright and open. If your taste leans toward more modern styles, there are some exciting new products available on the Internet. Using your guest room as a study is possible with the use of today’s wall beds. Also, if you think you would like to have additional areas for dining, consider a table that rises from the normal cocktail height to a regular dining table height. Look on the Web site for several styles of these tables that expand vertically and horizontally.


With an open floor plan, try to use the same floor covering in at least two or three visible rooms to help keep the eye moving. This will create a flow to your space and keep the small rooms from appearing that way. Many homeowners are choosing hardwood or stone tiles for the entire first floor of their home to achieve an open look. Area rugs can be added to create cozy conversation areas or to distinguish each space.

When deciding on a color scheme, don’t take the easy way out and paint everything off-white. This is certainly one way to make rooms flow well into each other, but the main idea should be to select colors that blend well without sacrificing warmth and coziness. Consider some of the new colors such as sage, creamy yellows and earthy taupe and khaki. If you like bolder colors or dark tones, you may want to use these in bathrooms or separated areas such as bedrooms. Another idea that can add a little pizzazz is to paint the living room, dining room and foyer the same but add a contrasting accent wall in the living room.

As you complete the décor of a small home with fabrics and accessories, keep the look uncluttered. It is best to not have too many patterns in a small space and keep accessories limited to simple lines. Fabrics selected in solids, stripes, geometrics or tone on tone textures work really well. Lighting is very important for small spaces. Consider floor lamps, modern track lighting and wall sconces where there may be less space for tables to accommodate standard lamps. A designer secret to take advantage of for small rooms is the use of mirrors and large pieces of artwork. With careful choices, the wall accessories can make the room appear larger.

Hot tips for decorating small spaces:

  1. Remember that stripes add height.
  2. Keep windows uncovered as much as possible.
  3. Make sure all colors flow, especially in an open floor plan.
  4. Use mirrors to reflect and add a spacious feel.
  5. Furniture should not be oversized.
  6. Consider wall shelving and built-in storage.