When done well, small rooms can feel like cozy, Zen-like retreats. But often when you have to fit all your worldly possessions into one tiny space, the results can feel cramped, claustrophobic, and anything but restful.

 Some conscious effort is needed to achieve the former.

The good news is that the key to great small-space living might be easier than you think. It all comes down to tricking the eye into perceiving more space by using three simple concepts: scale, light, and movement.

1. Use Big Furniture but Use Less of It

Furniture for small spaces is all about proportions. Basically, if a piece brushes up against the walls of the room, either up and down or sideways, it’s too large. To create a sense of space, always leave a little air in between the sides of your furniture and the walls.

People always try to cram a lot of small furniture into small rooms, but to make a small room look bigger it’s best to use larger pieces of furniture, but fewer of them. 

Large upholstered seating looks lighter and creates a sense of space when on raised legs. Avoid anything too boxy. 

2. Keep a low profile

Furniture that is lower to the ground tends to create a feeling of space in a room simply by the fact that they leave more space above them.

In the bedroom, choose a loft bed or even try a pallet bed. In the living room, there are loads of mid-century pieces that provide a low to the ground effect. Or, if your tastes run more toward the romantic and ornate period, 19th-century furniture also has a low profile. 

pallet bed

low profile sofa

3. Show some leg with furniture

Creating the illusion of more space is all about creating a sense of openness and movement. Furniture that is streamlined allows light and air to flow not just over but also under and around it, so that it appears to float in space. Again, think mid-century modern pieces, which are both low and leggy.

4. Invest in multi-functional furniture

Let your furniture do the hard work for you, by investing in pieces that either double up as storage or can easily be hidden away to maximize floor space. Consider nesting tables. 

Ensure everything has its place and stays in its place. Keep small items like remote controls in storage baskets or boxes, avoid excessive accessories, and don’t allow things like newspapers and books to lie around on tables. 

Hidden storage coffee table

Hidden storage coffee table 

5. Mirror, mirror on the wall

It's one of the oldest tricks in the book, but for good reason. Hanging a mirror on the wall in your living room can help to give the illusion of more space and will reflect light, creating a welcoming and bright room.

Mirrors are great for reflecting light and creating the illusion of more space. Placing a large mirror near or across from a window is always effective.

Another technique is to choose a focal point and then angle a mirror or two towards it. It will create the illusion of depth. While a series of small mirrors look great, generally speaking, it’s better to use large mirrors when trying to make a small room look bigger.

6. Emphasize the vertical.

From tall shelves, to the bare hanging bulb, using one piece that emphasizes the vertical space in the room will increase the sense of openness. It also enhances the feeling of movement and flow.

7. Emphasize the horizontal.

It all boils down to creating a sense of movement. Like the leggy furniture that creates a sense of dynamism, or the mirrors that reflect light and a view back into the room, anything that causes your eye to travel around a room in an intentional and orderly fashion will make it feel larger. (It's said “international and orderly” because a cluttered room with lots of distracting elements will also cause your eye to travel, but in a haphazard fashion.

Adding a clever accessory such as a horizontal striped rug can help give the illusion that a space is wider than it actually is, helping to make your living room feel bigger at minimal cost.

8. Clear the way.

With furniture and accessories blocking the view into a room and out to open spaces, a room will look cramped. By moving furniture out and away from walkways, you'll open up the space and make it feel larger.

9. Use breezy, light Fabrics.

If possible, avoid heavy materials and fabrics that absorb light and weigh your room down. Linen is a perfect example of a lightweight material that will increase the sense of airiness in the room.

Keep it simple and have fun.

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