Interior Design Tips for Small Spaces. In this blog, I share practical tips to create the illusion of space in your tiny home without sacrificing style and functionality.
If you’re living in a small house or apartment, you know how challenging it can be to get the most out of your home without compromising style and functionality.
I have always lived in small apartments, so over the years, I’ve learned a few interior decorating tips to create the illusion of space while getting maximum style.
Whether you want to create more storage, maximize natural light, or simply make your home feel more spacious, these practical interior design tips for small spaces will help you achieve your goals.
So, let’s dive in!
Creating the Illusion of Space
The ultimate goal in a tiny home is to create the illusion of space by tricking the natural eye.
Even someone unfamiliar with interior design notices that vaulted ceilings make a small home feel spacious, and bright neutrals create an open, airy feeling regardless of the room size.
Using simple design techniques will make your small home feel spacious, comfortable, and inviting.
1. Reduce “Visual Noise”
“Visual noise” is designer lingo for clutter.
Clutter can be too many decor accents filling up surfaces or functional items that must be put away.
This clutter will quickly shrink a space and makes it feel smaller.
Proper storage is one of the easiest ways to maximize a tiny room.
You may be surprised how decluttering instantly creates the illusion of more available space.
20/80 Storage Rule
In The Interior Design Handbook, Ramstedt discusses the 20/80 rule for storage. Around 20% of your items should be visible, while 80% are behind closed doors.
Before I learned this rule, almost all the furniture in my living room was in open storage.
Even my TV console had glass doors, so everything was visible.
Keeping the 20/80 guideline in mind when designing a room will help you choose furniture and calm your room instantly.
In a small floor plan, try to incorporate double duty furniture pieces that are useful but also add extra storage space.
For example, a bedside table with drawers, a coffee table that expands in size for eating or game night, or sofas and storage ottomans that double up as storage.
2. Anything Visible is Decor
We all have those functional things in our homes that we leave out for convenience.
MyQuillian, the author of The Cozy Minimalist, says that anything left out visually in our homes is a decoration.
So, that orange toaster on the counter or the PS4 console is now part of the decor.
Nothing is wrong with keeping these items out in the open; just know it will influence the room’s vibe.
If you don’t want something impacting your design, put it behind closed doors.
3. Proper Scale of Furniture
When designing a small space, the most important thing to consider is the proper scale of furniture.
In a nutshell, scale is how objects relate to their room and other things in the space.
Choosing furniture that is too large for your space can make it feel cramped and cluttered while choosing furniture that is too small can make it look empty and unfinished.
The biggest mistake we make in small homes is choosing furniture and decor that is too small.
This is especially problematic with seating.
We often do not have adequate seating to make a room functional for everyone in the family.
When designing a room, always start with the seating first!
Once you nail the seating, getting the correct scale for other furniture will be much easier.
For example, start by selecting the sofa and accent chairs.
After that, you can select the coffee table, side tables, etc.
One design trick is to take everything out of the room while testing furniture options.
While that seems like a lot of work, you may not realize the sofa is too small because other elements in the room, like artwork, curtains, or side tables, balance it out.
You can create a cozy, functional space that feels comfortable and welcoming by choosing appropriately scaled furniture.
4. Avoid Bulky Furniture
Before you go out and buy that lazy boy recliner, remember that while bigger furniture can make a space feel larger, you should avoid heavy-looking pieces.
Opt for items with a slimmer structure and less padding while remaining comfortable.
For example, go for something with a lower profile back and slimmer arms when looking for a couch.
Don’t feel obligated to use every item of furniture you own. It’s okay to sell things or put them in storage.
Opt for furniture that adds unique style instead of filling the room.
5. Reflective Surfaces
Reflective surfaces can be a great way to make a small home feel more spacious and bright.
Mirrors, shiny metal finishes, and glossy surfaces can all help to bounce light around the room, creating the illusion of more space.
In a small home, every square inch counts, so incorporating reflective surfaces strategically can make a big difference.
For example, placing a large mirror on a wall opposite a window can reflect natural light and bring it deeper into the room.
Similarly, incorporating metallic accents in furniture or decor can catch and reflect light, adding a touch of sparkle and depth to the space.
However, it’s important not to overdo it with reflective surfaces, as too much shine can be overwhelming and even create glare.
It can also create a slippery, sleek look in the space, making it feel unwelcoming.
As with any design tool, balance is key!
6. Adequate Lighting
In a small home, proper lighting can help create the illusion of space and make the area more open and inviting.
When choosing lighting for a small home, it’s essential to consider the size and layout of the room and your lighting needs.
For the majority of homes, there is a lack of adequate lighting.
That overhead light just doesn’t cut it!
It’s important to include overhead, task, and ambient lighting to create a layered effect that adds depth and dimension to the entire room.
For example, using a combination of floor lamps, table lamps, and wall sconces will allow your room to be well-lit no matter the time of day.
You should also consider how to maximize the natural sunlight in your home.
Natural light not only makes a space feel larger, but it also positively impacts our mood and well-being.
Window treatments are an excellent option to control the natural light in your home.
For example, sheer curtains in your living room will not be functional but will let in the most light.
On the other hand, black-out curtains serve a practical purpose in a bedroom to keep your room dark for sleeping.
Choosing the proper lighting for your small home allows you to create a comfortable and inviting space that feels open and bright, no matter how small.
7. Accent Wall
Creating visual interest is a great way to create the illusion of space because it draws attention to a specific aspect of the room.
One method is to create a feature wall using bold paint, oversized art, or built-in bookshelves.
Adding a wall treatment around the room, like wallpaper, vertical stripes, board and batten, or vertical shiplap, will add texture while drawing the eye up.
Another option is to choose a statement rug, throw pillows, artwork, or unique furniture to draw attention to a specific area of your home.
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8. Create Defined Zones
In small apartments and studios, all life happens in one main room.
It’s easy to feel like there’s no distinction between the kitchen, office, and living room.
Creating defined “zones” is essentially making imaginary boundaries within the room.
For example, use an area rug to define the living room area.
Try shelves above a desk to make it look like a built-in unit, or use bookshelves to create a more defined living and bedroom space in a studio apartment.
9. Choose a Color Pallete
Picking a set color palette or color story for your entire home will create a cohesive feel.
Select 3-4 colors you love and stick to them throughout your home.
Keeping a set color theme makes the design seamlessly flow from room to room, making your home feel larger.
Paint colors are an affordable and easy way to create a focal point and “wow factor.”
They are also the best way for renters to add a personal touch!
Most people know that light colors make a small space feel larger.
Light colors work so well in a small space because they reflect the sunlight more effectively. As we learned earlier, reflective surfaces help create an illusion of space.
The goal in a small home should be to reflect as much light as possible.
While white walls may seem boring, neutral colors can also create a bright and airy backdrop so that you can add bold colors to the other elements of your decor.
You may think darker colors would have the opposite effect in a living space.
However, used properly, they can make a room feel expansive and interesting.
Smaller rooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or a library/reading nook are perfect for dark colors.
Recently, designers have been utilizing monochrome paint for homes.
This has a very luxurious and high-end effect in a tiny space.
Stoffer Homes has some of the best examples of using dark colors in small areas of the home.
10. Maximize Floor Space
When it comes to a small home, every inch of floor space counts.
Luckily, there are plenty of strategies to maximize your square feet.
One way to create the illusion of more floor space is by choosing furniture with exposed legs or frames.
Visually, furniture with exposed legs takes up less volume because you can see the floor, making the room feel larger.
For example, I chose a coffee table with an exposed base in my living room. This help balances my slipcover sofa, which takes up a lot of volume and floor space.
In addition, another strategy is to take advantage of vertical space by incorporating wall-mounted shelving, tall bookcases, or Murphy beds.
This frees up floor space and adds visual interest to the room.
Finally, consider how you position the furniture.
Try to position your furniture to create long expanses of flooring.
For example, instead of positioning your sofa in the middle of the room, which cuts off a long visual line, put the sofa against the wall so you elongate the room.
Designing a small space can be challenging, but with careful planning and creative thinking, creating a beautiful and functional interior is possible!
Remember to keep it simple, stay organized, and use every inch of space to your advantage. The right approach makes even the smallest spaces feel like a luxurious retreat!
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