Working with limited space can be a challenge, but taking advantage of some small space tips can make a big difference in how your room is perceived. You don't have to settle for design mediocrity. A small space can have a lot of style!
When I purchased my current home (not shown) I knew there would be some work involved to update it. At roughly 800 square feet of living space, it was a small home by most standards.
The ceilings on the first floor were slightly lower than normal height. The front door opened into a narrow, gloomy hallway that led to the small combination kitchen-dining area. The kitchen area was so small I wondered where a table and chairs would even fit.
After a month of remodeling, updating and rethinking the layout of the space, my vision of what the little house could be was becoming reality.
With some thought and imagination you can do some exciting, functional things with small spaces. As you develop the interior design plan for your small house, apartment or loft, consider the following small space tips to maximize the perception of space:
Expand the View
With professional guidance, reduce unnecessary walls to create more open, flowing space. Consider creating partial walls or pass-through areas as a way to create more openness in the floor plan.
Ideally, you should be able to step into your house, see through the immediate space and partially into the next one. The sense of intrigue draws your eye toward the far room and invites you in to explore the larger, attached space.
This small space tip may not be relevant in the case of many apartment interior design or loft interior design situations, paticularly if you live in a leased property scenario where structural changes are not allowed. For home owners, though, it could be an option.
A word of caution, however. Always consult a construction professional before removing any walls or structural elements. Load-bearing walls and support architecture are critical to the structural integrity of your home. Removing even one load bearing element can have serious consequences. Let a construction professional be your guide.
Unify the Flooring
Use one style of flooring through all adjoining rooms on the same floor of the house. This creates a greater sense of continuity and connectedness, especially if your floor plan is small and generally open in nature.
I found this was a perfect solution for my small home because the living room and kitchen areas merged into each other. When I purchased the house, I found the previous owner had divided the space with carpet in the living room zone and vinyl sheet flooring in the kitchen zone. It left a very obvious line in the middle of the open space which was unsightly to say the least. It just had to go!
I had the existing carpet and vinyl removed and laminate wood flooring installed throughout the entire connected area (shown above). I love the results! The spaces now visually flow together and create a greater sense of expanse in an otherwise small house. I think this is one of the best small space tips to consider.
Coordinate the Color Scheme
Paint the areas of the house that seamlessly flow into each other a common color scheme. Visually connected rooms will feel larger if they have a common color scheme tying them together. Define individual spaces using area rugs, furniture, art work and/or perhaps an accent wall color if the architecture provides a distinct wall space to accommodate it.
I think a common paint scheme is of great value when it comes to small space tips. It costs relatively little compared to the results you can achieve with it.
Install Recessed Lighting
Recessed lighting creates a greater sense of height in areas with lower than usual ceilings. These fixtures don’t physically intrude on the space. The pools of light they create will add warmth and sophistication to your design scheme. Set all your lights on dimmer switches to create just the right amount of light for the mood of the occasion.
Utilize Multifunctional Furniture
Versatile furniture pieces can be used as extra seating and much needed extra storage at the same time. A storage ottoman is a great example of this particular small space tip. It could do triple duty as a coffee table, storage and extra seating. And don’t forget the small, pull-out sofa that can be converted into a guest bed when needed.
Consider a love seat instead of a standard, full length sofa in addition to smaller scale chairs when purchasing furniture. Large, overstuffed furniture can overwhelm a small space. Minimize doesn't mean doll house size furniture, though. It's important to get the scale right for the specific room you are working with.
Look for unique or oddly shaped areas that might be good locations for built-in cabinets or display areas. Recessed wall areas such as lighted niches, for example, provide decorative and storage space without intruding into the main living area.
Is there an alcove that might be well suited for a built-in window seat with storage drawers or shelves underneath? Storage is always at a premium in a small house. Look for any opportunity to create multi-functional areas of interest.
Consider a Murphy Bed
This is a type of bed that folds up against the wall when not in use while being stylishly camouflaged as built in cabinetry, or another similar feature. Taking advantage of this small space tip could allow your bedroom to double as a home office.
If you have some carpentry skills, you could save some money by making a murphy bed yourself. There are plans available on the web.
Use Mirrors and Glass
Mirrors and transparent decorative items help to create a sense of space. A mirror’s reflection tricks the eye into believing there is a window to additional, adjoining space. Don't overlook the importance of this tool among the key small space tips.
Transparent items create a sense of greater openness. Consider glass topped tables, clear acrylic chairs, and glass fronted cabinetry while minimizing the use of heavy, dark, wooden objects.
My previous residence, an apartment, had a galley kitchen with absolutely no windows. By placing a window shaped mirror (complete with little wooden, fold back shutters) above the sink, I was able to achieve the sense of looking into adjoining space while I did the dishes. The view in the “window” (mirror) was actually the dining table area.
Employing this small space tip helped me maintain a social connection with my guests in addition to enhancing the perception of space. It was amazing how much difference it made in opening up the small room!
Reconsider the Curtains
If you have nice windows with attractive moldings why not show them off by avoiding curtains and opting for some natural bamboo blinds or soft roman shades for privacy and texture instead?
The absence of curtains will result in less intrusion into the space. A nice window treatment that sits within the window frame could be the perfect solution.
If curtains are important for the look you want to achieve, fabric that is similar to the color of the walls will feel less intrusive on the space. The greater the different between the color of the wall and the curtains, the more the curtains will visually intrude upon the space.
To increase the perceived size of a window, consider mounting the curtain rods higher above the window frame (close to the ceiling) and further out from the sides of the window frame. The visual effect will be a taller, wider window than actually exists. I’ve found in my experience that this technique works very well. It’s one of my favorites.
Here are some small space tips you can use in specific rooms:
• Shallow, wall mount cabinetry (storage)
• Over-the-toilet cabinetry (storage)
• Shower caddy
• Trundle bed (compact, yet expandable in special situations)
• Murphy bed
• Desk/dresser combo (multi purpose furniture)
• Closet system
• Combination range hood and microwave (efficiently combines two appliances and saves counter space)
• Built-in-the-wall pantry (utilizes the shallow space within the wall for canned good storage)
• Corner banquette (built-in eating area to make more efficient use of corner space)
• Install floor tile on a diagonal (diamond pattern) to increase the sense of floor expanse.
• Large checkerboard floor patterns in general can create an illusion of greater space in a room.
• Paint the ceiling a lighter color than the walls to increase the sense of height.
With bit of thought and a bunch of creativity, the challenges presented by small spaces can be overcome or at least minimized.
Don’t be limited by traditional ideas of decor, especially in a small house or apartment. If you have a lovely set of dinner china but don’t have room for a china cabinet, make an arrangement of plates on the wall or utilize a display niche in the living room. Who says the china has to be in the kitchen? It could be displayed as art.
Remember to think outside the box (or china cabinet) and take advantage of small space tips like these to enhance the perception of space in your small house, apartment or loft. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve.