The 10 Commandments of Designing Small Spaces

Some people look at designing small spaces as a huge challeneeg to overcome, but with just a few designer tips and tricks, your space will look cover-of-Architectural-Digest-ready!

1 Lightening Up Your Small Space⠀⠀⠀⠀

First, move everything out of your room and declutter! A great place to start with decluttering and lightening up your small space is to get rid of anything that feels heavy – drapes, carpets, and instead, replace them with lighter materials both in color and in material. This will not only make your room feel more spacious, but you’ll also have an emotional release of letting things go.

2 Choosing Color Palettes and Patterns

One surefire way to open up your small space is to op’t for a bright, light color palette, but we love color so much and break that rule all the time and, when done correctly, can still achieve the same desired results: Another option is to op’t for a monochromatic palette, whether light or dark. Or, if you simply cannot help yourself from including prints and patterns (we’re guilty!), a small space is perhaps a good place to get more matchy matchy with your walls, floors, and furniture, so everything blends.

3 Sourcing Furniture for Optimal Storage⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

When looking for furniture, find pieces that are adaptable, have storage, and are multi-functional, like coffee tables or couches with storage, for example. You might also want to forego furniture with legs, and consider furniture that sits low to the ground. This will also make the space appear larger and free up wall space and make your ceiling appear larger. Which brings us to our next point…

5 Thinking Vertically for Added Design Drama⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

This is a great tip for every room, but especially for small spaces: Use wasted wall or door space by storing vertically. Hanging drapes as high as possible trick the eye into thinking the room is taller than it is. If you have limited space but still want some drama, paint the ceiling a dark contrasting color, like indigo, black or something bold like berry. It will help your space feel expansive.


6 Lighting Your Small Space⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

If there is something you can add a LOT of in a small space, it’s lighting. Hopefully there are windows which allow for natural light to flood the space. If not, that’s okay too: More opportunity to layer your light sources by adding a chandelier, table lamp, and accent lighting. Utilizing a chandelier as your small space’s signature statement piece will draw the eye upward and anchor the space. We often write about the design magic of including mirrors in a space– this is especially true of small spaces. Mirrors are a great way to bounce light around a room and make the space feel much larger.

7 Sectioning Small Spaces

Creating design moments, or vignettes, in a small space can be a challenge because you don’t want your space to feel like a storage closet, but when done correctly, they can help you lean into the coziness of a small space. One way to achieve the desired coziness while still maintaininng the desired open effect is to include sectional seating, to optimize the corner space, and more stools and ottomans over chairs, and open-shelving or glass-front bookshelves or room dividers.  

8 Playing With Scale when Designing Small Spaces⠀

You might not have the space for a large-scale sofa, but you have all the wall space for a giant painting or full-wall mural or mirror or a giant plant or chandelier. (Bonus tip: A staggered gallery wall can give a small space the illusion of greater depth!) Mine your small space for opportunities to go big!

9 Forgoing Convention in Your Small Space

Just because you have a some seating and need a table does not necessarily mean you need a conventional coffee table -- think outside the box for solutions: In this study from our Bond at the Beach project, space was limited and lounge seating was more important so we opt’ed for a couple of small cocktail tables that are easily moved if space needs to be freed up. Think about modular, portable, small-scale options, rather than traditional pieces. ⠀

10 Extending Viewpoints Outdoors (Or Down the Hall) when Designing Small Spaces

Your sightline always goes to the windows and doorways so if your space has them, use them! Get creative with the view just outside the small space: include interesting architectural details like extending the flooring, or complementing rugs, etc.

If you like this post, check out our lighting tips to take your small space to the next level!