Small Space Design

By: Janice Clements

"I have a small home and am hoping you can give me some tips for how to make it look as spacious as possible without it feeling empty." Tara of Newmarket writes.

Making a small space look spacious Tara, is about creating visual space. The trick to achieving space is just this: keep it simple.

Start first with a good de-clutter of your home.  Too much stuff can make any room feel cramped and messy.  Pack away excess books and remove small tchotchkes and collectibles to storage.  Commit to displaying no more than 3 of the items you collect at one time in each of your rooms in order to keep the clutter at bay.  Rotate favourite items in and out of your space, allowing for a look that is always interesting and allows for regular cleaning and dusting. 

Take down all artwork and photos from walls and store them away for future use.  Walls decorated with numerous small pieces of art can create visual clutter.  Instead, hang one large piece of art on the wall across from the entrance to the room to create an impactful focal point. 

Introduce mirrors as art to your home.  Perfect for a small room, mirrors add visual space and interest without adding clutter.  Mirrors bounce much needed light around a home and reflect the areas in adjoining rooms, adding to the perception of openness. 

And while we're discussing using light to your advantage, lighten up the colours you select to add to the feeling of spaciousness in any space.  If you want colour in your home while remaining neutral, I suggest trying Sherwin Williams Bungalow Beige (SW7511) to lighten up dark walls while ensuring not to white wash the space.  I recently used Benjamin Moore Ice Fog (CSP-575) that proved to be a wonderful, bright grey that modernized a small bathroom while adding a hit of crisp colour. 

A monochromatic colour scheme will always make your space feel large and less cluttered, so layer your paint selections, fabrics, throws and pillows with tonal variations of the same colour, adding drama with dark accent coffee and end tables.  Wood tables are always an option, but transparency helps open spaces. Glass tables with dark metal frames will virtually disappear into the furnishings around them, creating visual space and offering a classic, timeless look.  Consider a coat of matte grey or black spray paint to update an old shiny brass table frame if you’re looking to re-use one you already own.   

You need not replace all your lighting to add light to your space.  Simply swap out heavy draperies or light blocking shutters with sheer window coverings to allow for as much natural light as possible. 

Augment existing lighting by swapping out a centre light fixture for some flexible track lighting.  Look for a fixture that has 5 or more heads or shop at a specialty light shop to purchase a track fixture that offers the option of expanding the system to allow for as many lights as you need.  Track lighting averse?  Know that this type of fixture allows for an adaptable light scheme where wall-hung art and special furnishings can be highlighted with their own spot of light.  Track lights are a good solution for homeowners who don't want to invest in pot lights and for homes or offices where recessed lights are not an option (spaces with concrete ceilings).  Select a white track with small heads to ensure the fixture blends into the ceiling colour.

Scale down furniture sizes in the interest of optimizing your spaces.  When replacing furniture, avoid sofas and chairs with large rolled arms and high backs.  Opt for upholstered pieces with arms that are 3 or 4 inches wide and optimize the amount of space available for seating.  Don't crowd a bedroom with a bed that's too large and where possible, hang cabinets and shelves on walls, using the height of the room to give the impression that the space has a large footprint.

Avoid large bulky trims and mouldings that will visually shorten a room.  A chair rail with a light paint colour above the rail and a darker colour below is an outdated wall treatment.  If you're intent on mouldings, consider a tall, large-scale "picture frame" detail (without the chair rail) that adds height to a room and architectural interest to your home.  Paint the mouldings the same colour as the walls (making the baseboards a shade lighter than the walls) to create a cohesive, timeless look.



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