Views / Design Centre

How to make a small room feel large

New homes are getting smaller and smaller, so adhering to a few good design rules can help you live just a little bit larger.

I can’t imagine better advice to dispense to anyone who’s moving, renovating or sprucing up their place than these golden rules of small-space decorating. They’re timeless and hold true for any space you might live in. Here are my top four rules:

Tones and colour

  • Keep tones of flooring, walls and furnishings similar so the eye roams without interruption between light and dark shades.
  • Cooler versions of a colour (every colour has a warm and cool side) tend to reflect more light, therefore making a small space feel larger.
  • When the width of the ceiling is smaller than the height of the wall (as in most small condo lofts), then paint the ceiling the same colour as walls; it will make the room appear wider.

Use of mirrors

  • You may have heard that mirrors can visually expand a space. The secret is to use them to widen, not lengthen, a room, so always hang a mirror on the long wall, not the short one.
  • To bring light into a long, narrow space, stand a floor mirror 90 degrees to a window; it will reflect the window and direct the incoming light deep into the space.
  • Never be afraid to stand a side table, chair or plant in front of a large mirror to add drama and depth, especially in foyers and bedrooms.

Creating a monochromatic colour scheme allows the eye to travel without interruption. A floor mirror helps reflect another window into the room. Oversized Leaning Floor Mirror, $1,100, potterybarn.com

Scale of furnishings

  • There is an art to creating the illusion of large-scale furnishings in a small space. Try incorporating large-scale items that don’t take up much floor space — art, console tables, footstools, area rugs and curtains are all perfect contenders since they don’t fill a room with their volume.
  • The 2/3 proportion is your best friend when layering items in a room. The coffee table should be 2/3 the width of the sofa, the sofa should be 2/3 the width of the rug, and the art should be 2/3 the width of the sofa.

One makes a footrest, two make a bench in the foyer or at the end of a bed. A classic style icon that fits a modern or traditional interior. Hudson’s Bay Company Point Blanket Ottoman, $395, thebay.com

The need for storage

  • Storage is a practical need when decorating a small space. Try to incorporate it into every element of your space. Add an extra shelf one foot above floor level in a closet — this will offer up another row of shoe storage. And another shelf at the very top of your closet is great for storing out-of-season clothing.
  • Look for furniture that incorporates storage, folds down or offers double-duty to offer flexible alternatives in a smaller space.

Wall-hung shelving and containers help to keep vanity areas organized. Although made for herb gardens, this plant container system is perfect for brushes and other beauty accessories. SOCKER plant pot with holder, $29.99, ikea.ca

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