My friend and her guy just bought a small condo in Denver. She confessed that she's a little nervous about decorating and furnishing a small space - especially when this isn't their "forever home" and they'll want the flexibility to take any purchases to a future home. So I thought I'd round up some of my best small space tips.
1. Use regular size furniture - the temptation is to go for small pieces to fit in more furniture, but the result can feel too dainty and cluttered, sort of like a dollhouse. Use fewer, larger, and more efficient pieces. Also don't cheap out on rugs - a too-small rug will effectively shrink the room. Get it as big as you can. 8x10 is a safe purchase even if you'll move in two years.
2. Multi-use pieces are really key. Dressers are great - you can use the top as a bar or TV stand, and the drawers can be good for all kinds of storage (photo albums, spare linens, dvd's... you name it). Benches or small stools make great coffee tables (add a tray) but can stand as extra seating when you have company (I also like them tucked under a more traditional coffee table or console). A few pieces that can be easily picked up and moved around like that are really helpful.
3. I always (always!) like a mix of "bases" in a room - legs, skirts, or solid bases make for an interesting mix in furniture. However, in a small room I like the biggest pieces (sofas, chairs, casegoods) to have legs so that you see more of the floor (seeing the floor = perception that the room is bigger). Skirted tables are awesome though because you can hide things underneath, like a basket of winter gloves and scarves.
4. Hidden storage! I mentioned dressers, but also armoires, bookshelves with doors or drawers at the bottom, baskets on shelves, or even a wall of simple closet-type storage can help the clutter disappear. Clutter makes spaces feel smaller. Hide. It. Away. (or get rid of it, but that's a different post!).
5. Paint. People swear by painting spaces white... or painting them dark. Which is confusing, right? Here's what I think - spaces with great daylight will look larger and airier when painted white or a light color. Spaces that don't get good natural light will still look kind of dark and small, so painting them a really dark (flat) color embraces the cozy - and the dark colors make it hard to define where the corner of the room is, which can make the walls feel more expansive. Optical illusions, man.
6. Color scheme. Sure, you can go crazy with a wild color scheme and still have a totally charming and beautiful small space. But if your goal is to help the home feel larger, limiting the color scheme can be an easy way to do so. Neutrals plus a color can be a safe way to go. P.S. This is also smart if you're thinking of moving in the next two years - keeps things flexible.
7. Lucite and glass. Remember how I said seeing more floor makes the space look bigger? I love lucite and/or glass pieces for that purpose. One less visual barrier as you look across the room.
8. Use the vertical space. I don't mean strap some kind of garage organizing device to your living room walls (standards, people). But walls are often an untapped storage resource. Bookshelves (mounted or cases), armoires, and hutches all use wall space to their advantage. I'd also definitely add wall sconces (hardwire OR plug) into your lighting scheme, as it frees up or eliminates table space. Side note: Wall storage is also very handy in small kitchens, like moving knives out of a drawer and onto a magnetic strip.
Those are my tips for decorating a small space to feel bigger. Hope you're able to put them to good use!
Image from Lonny Mag.