Big solutions for small spaces
Less is more
When there's too much to look at, any room can feel "busy." Removing clutter will instantly make a space seem larger. Start by taking out anything decorative and non-essential, add back a few select pieces, and stop before it feels "done." Having a friend assist you, one who has no emotional attachment to your stuff, can help you resist the tendency to overdo it.
Big over little
Although placing big furniture in a small room seems counterintuitive, one large piece that matches the style and scale of the room works much better than several smaller pieces. A plush sofa that comfortably seats three takes up less space than three upholstered chairs. A sleek storage cabinet can hide all your media and clutter behind doors.
Ceiling the deal
When two different expanses of color meet, the eye sees a demarcation line. If your walls are one color and your ceiling is another, you've created a visual break. Either paint your walls and ceiling the same color for a seamless transition, or choose a ceiling color two to four shades lighter than your walls to reflect light and draw the eye upward. In either case, your ceiling will appear higher.
Most of us automatically push pieces against the wall when we furnish a room. But anchoring furniture to the walls can result in an awkward space, especially in a small room. When you float the furniture away from the walls, you create a more spacious feel. You also establish walkways around the perimeter, which make for better traffic flow through the room.
Good day sunshine
The biggest trick to visually enlarging a room is to let in as much natural light as possible. Avoid heavy curtains, valances, or any light-blocking window treatments. Instead, choose sheer white curtains, translucent Roman shades, or light-colored matchstick blinds that fit inside the window frames. The easiest way to increase light? Keep your windows sparkling clean.
Shades of the same
High-contrast patterns on a wall or sofa can visually shrink a room. By using a monochromatic color scheme, you'll open up the room and create an airy feel. Stay with lighter shades in soft colors, keeping in mind that pale blues and greens will make a room feel more soothing while warm tones will enliven a space.
Pop goes the color
There's plenty of room for color in a small space, but it should be restricted to accent pieces or soft furnishings that you can easily switch out when seasons or styles change. A bright color positioned against a neutral creates a sense of depth and adds energy to a monochromatic color scheme.
Reflect on it
Mirrors are a quick and simple way to add light to your space. Select large rectangular or square mirrors in clean-lined frames, and position them on the wall opposite your windows to maximize incoming light and visually extend the room. Even a shiny silver lamp or vase can reflect light and lift an otherwise dull corner.
See through it
Any item you can see through has less visual weight than a solid item of the same dimensions. That's why a glass topped dining or coffee table is ideal for a small room. A spindle-back chair provides seating without sacrificing visual space, and a metal folding tray table or small pedestal table used as a side table will "disappear" against a large and comparatively solid sofa.
What lies beneath
Don't overlook potential storage areas underneath beds, sofas or upholstered chairs. Specially designed storage cases can hold media items such as DVDs and CDs, off-season clothing, blankets and linens, and shoes. This hidden real estate is much too valuable to leave to the dust bunnies.
Linda Lowen is a freelance writer in Syracuse, New York.