Small rooms are a common complaint of city homeowners, but in fact their very limitations can provide a spark for creativity. The many solutions for making a small room appear larger often require innovative touches; and having less furnishings can help focus the mind. A small room doesn’t have to be dark or crowded but can be just as unique, stylish and inviting as any other space.
Painting walls a pale colour is one of the most obvious pieces of advice for making a room appear larger, but this makes it no less valid. Any soft pastel tone will accentuate the light, but according to colour experts sourced by Elle Decoration, pale greige and pale blue-green tones, as well as clean white, tend to be most effective. White gives the sharpest finish, and any coldness can be eliminated by intruding warmer tones in artwork or other features. For an alternative wall treatment, renowned London-based interior designer Katherine Pooley suggests ‘pearlized plaster wall finish or light silk or textured wallpaper’ as this ‘will help extend the room’.
In addition, there is also a narrow pallet of dark tones that are surprisingly effective in small spaces. This is because they give a less definite view of the walls, blurring the boundaries of the room. However, stick to simple clean tones such as dark navy or almost-black. ‘Hale Navy’ or ‘Black Bean Soup’ by Benjamin Moore are two popular choices for achieving this affect.
Furthermore, many interior designers are now challenging the traditional view of white skirting boards and plasterwork. "By painting the walls and trim the same paint colour, your ceilings appear to be taller, since there are no breaks in the trim," explained Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas Interior Design. This theory of continuity can also be applied to the decoration of adjacent rooms, as it helps multiple spaces be viewed as one entity.
Living Room By Hackett Holland and Suzy Hoodless
Hanging artwork and mirrors can also influence how large or small a room appears. Ashley Redmond, interior designer at Decorist suggests “Use one oversize piece of art to make a wall feel bigger. About 70 percent of the wall should be covered by the art to make it really impactful so that your eye sees more art than white space.” A a small room can also be an ideal place for a gallery wall, provided this is curated in a restrained manner. Feature artwork of similar colour tones to avoid overwhelming the area.
Mirrors can also be a very effective tool for enlarging a space. Katherine Pooley says ‘Large mirrors in small rooms work well as long as they are positioned cleverly and with the architecture and furniture layout in mind.’ Ensure mirrors reflect the maximum amount of natural light, dispersing it around the space.
Not all rooms are endowed with large windows, so make the most of what you have by allowing as much light as possible to radiate through the frame. One solution is to ensure your curtains don’t obscure any of the window. Kimberly Winthrop, interior designer of Laurel & Wolf suggests “Hanging the drapery rod as close as you can to the ceiling and having the rod extend out 6 to 12 inches on either side not only makes your room look taller, but it also makes your window look bigger.” The style of curtain will also have an effect. Opt for a fabric that is either sheer or close to the wall colour as this will create a connection with the wall itself.
Celebrity interior designer Jeff Andrews suggests a less-is-more approach to furniture in a small living room. "You need to pare it down to things that you like looking at…The idea is not to over decorate, so for me, in a smaller room I like to use larger scale pieces of furniture, but less pieces."
However, one of the worst mistakes you can make in a small living room is to purchase a sofa that is too large. Choose a sofa with a shallow base that sits on feet rather than close to the floor. Avoid large arms or unnecessary height.
Regarding tables, seek styles that feature reflective surface such as glass, polished metal or acrylic, and with a soft curving shape rather than rectangular. Both these aspects will help break up the outline of the table. Also, consider an original approach to their positioning. Having small side tables dotted around the room rather than one large one in the centre will help free floor area.
Clever storage can help you make the most of a room. Wall mounted solutions are a great choice- think lateral floor to ceiling shelves or cabinets. It’s good to use a mixture of both open and closed storage so you can display enough items to add character, but not so many it creates clutter. Consider having something made to order to fit in any alcoves created by the architectural elements of the room. Living Room by Collett-Zarzycki
When considering hard flooring, either very dark or very pale colours will accentuate the space. Your choice should be influenced by the amount of light in the room, the wall colour and the mood you want to create. For wood floors, opt for long wide planks laid in line with the longest wall of the room. (Try Floor Seasons for beautiful oak flooring.) Similarly, if you are laying tiles, go for a large size. Simplicity is the key. Using the same flooring throughout your home is worth considering as it will help open up the space.
Rugs are the perfect way to define separate areas in a room without creating an obstruction. At Bazaar Velvet, we advise placing rugs just under the front legs of the furniture to create a connection between the two objects. Alternatively, treat a rug in a similar way to wall to wall carpeting, opting for a large size that reaches almost to the walls. This draws the eye to the edge of the room making it appear bigger. In regards to style, avoid heavy shaggy textures or busy patterns. A pale neutral rug, with perhaps a subtle abstract design is the perfect companion to a small room.
Find out more about how to choose a rug to compliment your space in one of our helpful guides, or browse our of collections of beautiful contemporary hand knotted rugs.
Design and Colour Guide and Size Guide coming soon!