Design tricks to make a small space feel bigger

September 14, 2011

It is possible to live large in small spaces, you just have to know how. Basic design tricks can help any room look and feel bigger than it is. ¶The easiest and least expensive way, according to designers, is to clean, organize and declutter. Then, they suggest the following: utilize vertical space (extend shelves and cabinets to the ceiling), pick furniture that is multi-functional, hang curtain panels high above the window, keep color palettes and flooring consistent, consider built-ins and pocket doors and use lots of mirrors (they will reflect light and visually expand a space instantly). ¶But specific rooms require distinct solutions. We’ve asked 17 local experts to break it down for us, so we can get the most out of our snug spaces.

Kitchen

1. “Make sure to use the tallest upper cabinets that you can. Take them to the ceiling.”

— Shanon Munn

2. “Use cabinetry panels on appliances such as dishwashers, dish drawers, trash containers and refrigerators to streamline the look.”

— Catherine Jordan Connon

3. “A built-in bench that doesn’t require moving can solve a tight seating situation in a kitchen.”

— Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey

4. “Unify with color. Think monochromatic cabinets, countertops and appliances.”

— Dana Tydings

5 “Mirrored backsplash tiles.”

— Lisa Montague

6. “Remove the upper cabinet doors. Use the same material on the backsplash as the cabinet backs so you visually increase the space.”

— Skip Sroka

7. “Continuing the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling in a small kitchen can also make it feel taller.”

— Lauren Liess

8. “Anything you can keep out of sight, or off the counter, will make the kitchen seem less cluttered and larger.”

— Matthew Swingly

9. “Open shelving is a great way to open up a kitchen so that it doesn’t feel so compact, plus it’s easy for house guests to help themselves.”

— Kathryn Ivey

10. “White or light-colored cabinets can make a space feel larger. Cabinets with glass fronts add to making the space feel more open.”

— Charles Almonte

Living room

11. “Eliminate the big, rolled arms on sofas and chairs. This takes up lots of space and looks inflated in a smaller room. Try low-profile arms or straight, more modern arms; use tight-backed cushions.”

— Catherine Jordan Connon

12. “Take the skirts off of upholstered pieces. Try two smaller cocktail tables over a larger coffee table.”

— Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey

13. “Instead of a coffee table, use a small ottoman with lockable casters. This way you can have a table with a tray or a usable seat.”

— Tracy Morris

14. “Use one or two pieces of large-scale furniture and art instead of filling the space with small pieces; it will seem larger and less cluttered.”

— Lisa Montague

15. “Go with a coffee table that feels barely there, such as Lucite or glass.”

— Lauren Liess

16. “Round furniture and rugs take up less space and visual weight.”

— Rachel James

17. “Have a color scheme that runs throughout the space. Don’t try to go for a different look in every area. Connect each space.”

--- Mary Douglas Drysdale

18. “Nothing makes a small space feel smaller than a ton of small accessories. Select fewer larger items.”

— Erin Paige Pitts

19. “Move furniture away from walls. This way, the eyes go around the room and don’t get stuck on any particular point.”

— Iantha Carley

20. “Custom-cut a room-shaped area rug to visually enlarge the room by taking your eyes to the edges of the room.”

— Shanon Munn

Bedroom

21. “Put beds on risers and make a bedskirt long enough to cover the risers. The risers allow you to store taller items like suitcases and storage boxes under the bed.”

— Kathryn Ivey

22. “Hang sconces and swing-arm lamps over the bed if your bedside tables are small.”

— Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey

23. “A simple shelf on the side of the bed can look very modern and serve as a place to put your glasses, book or coffee without requiring a bedside table.”

— Matthew Swingly

24. “Eliminate footboards. They can visually cut up the space.”

— Lisa Montague

25. “Murphy beds are back and look great. You can add lighting and storage in them, too. When not in use, they look like built-in cabinets.”

— Rachel James

26. “In lieu of large bedside tables, I would do a small table, something light, like Lucite and pair it with swing-arm lamps.”

— Erin Paige Pitts

27. “Maximize closet space with a closet system.”

— Lisa Montague

28. “Get rid of the traditional big dresser. I often use two smaller dressers as nightstands.”

— Lauren Liess

29. “Add a large mirror, which always makes a space look bigger.”

— Margery Wedderburn

30. “Double-duty headboards. A sleek white bookcase can store both your books and bedside necessities and serve as your headboard.”

— Dana Tydings

Bathroom

31. “Mirrors. Install mirrors as large as you can.”

— Skip Sroka

32. “For small bathrooms (not powder rooms), I prefer lighter color schemes for walls and floors, but one could have an accent color on the ceiling. Hermes orange?”

— Nestor Santa-Cruz

33. “Tile the entire bathroom, floor to ceiling. This creates continuity, which is key in small spaces.”

— Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey

34. “Use a bold wallcovering. Look for a widely spaced pattern to trick the eye into believing the walls go on forever.”

— Dana Tydings

35. “Install a shelf over the toilet for more counter area. Two or three are even better.”

— Skip Sroka

36. “Glass shower doors visually expand the room. But if you need a quick fix, hang your shower curtain to the ceiling. It will make the space feel taller.”

— Lauren Liess

37. “In my own small bathroom, I use two shower curtains rather than one. I keep them open while not in use. It looks like draperies and hides the faucets from view. Hang them high for a more dramatic effect.”

— Nestor Santa-Cruz

38. “If you have a pedestal sink, having a simple skirt made to go around the pedestal to the floor provides great storage. You can put bins or baskets under the sink to store toilet paper and other toiletries.”

— Kathryn Ivey

39. “Instead of a small medicine cabinet . . . I make an [inset] floor-to-ceiling medicine cabinet.”

— Mary Douglas Drysdale

40. “Painting the walls and the ceiling the same color gives the illusion of a larger space.”

— Iantha Carley

Storage

41. “Think both vertically and horizontally. I like the idea of a small chest over a larger chest of drawers.”

— Nestor Santa-Cruz

42. “Look for nonstructural walls for built-in opportunities that don’t take additional space.”

— Catherine Jordan Connon

43. “I love the under-bed laminated glider drawers from Ikea. I store toys in one under my son’s bed and linens under my bed.”

— Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey

44. “Study the rooms in your house. Is there an area that is not being used at all where you might be able to add a closet? Is there space near the kitchen that could become a pantry?”

— Margery Wedderburn

45. “Put more shelves inside kitchen cabinets. Same with closets.”

— Skip Sroka

46. “Skirted tables flanking beds or sofas can hide a lot. I like to do very tailored skirted tables over the tops of filing cabinets.”

— Matthew Swingly

47. “Install a file cabinet insert in a kitchen cabinet to file papers and mail.”

— Lisa Montague

48. “Go up to the ceiling with shelving or cabinets.”

— Kathryn Ivey

49. “Recessed lighting as opposed to table and floor lamps.”

— Rachel James

50. “I like taking the unused area under the stairs and create storage there. You can have drawers made that can store a lot of folded items.”

— Erin Paige Pitts

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