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Small Space Design Tips to Make Your Home Feel Bigger

Most people wouldn’t CHOOSE to live in a very small space, but lots of us do! It’s a reality of city life that you’ve got to compromise between your needs and what you can afford. Compact apartments can be tough to decorate without feeling cluttered and cramped. But if you’re discouraged with the interior design in your small space, read on! We’ve got tips and tricks for you to make your little home feel, well, less little. Let’s get to it.

Go high with decor

Use that vertical space! Many apartments have a lot going on at the floor level, but not much in the height of the space - and this really feels cluttered and constricted. A tall bookshelf/cabinet that goes all the way to the ceiling will not only hold all your books, but it’ll show off the height of your ceilings too. You can also add shelving to any high-up wall space that’s available (even in the closet) to give the impression of more space.

We wrote an entire blog post about using vertical space, so check that out for more ideas! These tips are awesome because they make your rooms appear taller, giving a more spacious feel to the entire space.

Choose pieces with legs

Furniture with legs feels lighter and less blocky, which lets your eye “travel” through the space easily. This is especially effective when the legs are lighter than the piece itself, like with this table:

If the legs were thick to match the wooden slab tabletop, the table would feel super dense. Instead, these thin legs lighten things up quite a bit! If you need bigger pieces in your small home, like a table that will seat several guests, this style of leg will help keep the space from feeling overcrowded.

Embrace the see-through

Transparent materials like glass or acrylic are great for small spaces. They really increase the flow of light and make a room feel larger and more open. You can find see-through options for chairs, tables, and even countertops! They’re really beautiful and unique, and they also leave your other items (like rugs) visible so you can showcase their style. We utilize clear furniture with our design clients all the time for exactly these reasons!

Trick the eye with mirrors

Hang mirrors in your living room or anywhere in your space that’s feeling a little cramped. You’ve probably seen this effect lots of times, like in stores and gyms. Mirrors make the light bounce all around the apartment, making it feel brighter and twice as big! They can be inexpensive, too, so they’re a great value for a space-enhancing effect. Mirrors are HUGE for interior design in Portland because in the gray winter months we need all the light we can get.

Pick proportional lighting

It’s very important to choose lighting that’s at the correct scale for your space. A small room with a single, overly bright light will feel even smaller because the light casts lots of shadows and doesn’t flow in the room correctly. To fix this, make sure that the different areas of each room have lighting that Goldilocks would approve of: not too dark, not too bright, but jusssst right.

Create a focal point

Seeing a pattern with these tips at this point? They’re all about creating a visual flow across the space - that’s because when there’s a sticking point for the eye, it usually makes the room feel unbalanced and cramped. However, you can flip this around by intentionally making a focal point that draws in your vision as you take in the space. This could be an architectural detail (like a large window or fireplace) or a design detail (like an art piece or some extra special furniture). All you have to do is leave this space unblocked so that it can speak for itself, and if needed add small embellishments to help it stand out even more. Then boom, you’ve got a focal point!

Use length in your drapery

Extra long drapery, going from the floor to almost the top of the ceiling, gives a luxurious feel and makes your space seem WAY taller! We love employing this one for our interior design clients. There are three keys to hanging curtains this way:

  1. Go as high as possible (two to four inches below the ceiling)

  2. Go wider than your window (six to ten inches outside your window frame)

  3. Let the drapes completely touch the ground (or even better, spill onto the floor by an inch or two)

Can’t say it enough: we love this. Try it. You’re welcome.

Don’t go wall-to-wall

A very common mistake is to automatically place furniture like sofas and chairs all the way against the wall. If you’re dealing with a small room, don’t you want to maximize floor space?.... Well, actually, no. Pushing these pieces into the room by a foot or more WILL make the room feel bigger every time. Same goes for rugs - instead of reaching from one wall to the other, make sure they leave some unexposed floor on each side to let things “breathe.”

Keep the clutter away

Really, the biggest thing you can do to make your home seem bigger is to fight off the ever-present danger that is clutter. Here are some of our top suggestions:

  • Use vertical stripes for a lengthening effect (it’s an age-old fashion tip for a reason!)

  • Keep your counters and surfaces clear when possible

  • Get multi-functional pieces, like furniture with hidden storage, to hide items when they are not currently in use

  • Follow the Cantaloupe Rule: only display decorative items larger than a cantaloupe! (This may seem strange, but your room will totally look less cluttered)

  • Don’t try to show off all your earthly possessions at one time - either store some and rotate them periodically, or try to say goodbye to things that aren’t needed.

Hire a professional

Yep… had to go there! When you want to get the best results, you can’t beat working with an interior designer. Transforming small spaces into comfy, stylish homes is literally our calling. Check out our design packages and see which one is right for you! We would love to incorporate our trademark Portland interior design pizzazz into your rental.

Want more tips like these?

We pride ourselves on being the small space experts, and we LOVE to help renters with interior design. Sign up for our mailing list to get our most current tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox!


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