15 Sneaky Ways to Make a Small Space Look Larger


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Can't afford more space? From a strategically placed mirror to the right paint color, smart design ideas can fool the eye and create the illusion of space. Here are 15 decorating tricks from design experts Robin Baron of Robin Baron Design; Amy Bell, owner of Red Chair Home Interiors; Michael Berman of Michael Berman Ltd.; Patricia Davis Brown of Patricia Davis Brown Designs; Jaclyn Lambert of HireAHelper; and Rachel Laxer, founder of RLI Interiors. They can help make the most of what you have, whether it's a house with small rooms or a studio apartment.

Mirrors are popular with interior designers for good reason: They reflect light, visually expand the space, and can even create the illusion of a window.

In a small area such as a studio apartment or dorm room, one of the best ways to "build up" is to loft a bed, creating room for a couch or just open space. In a closet, fit a dresser in the empty space between the hanging clothes and the floor and add wall shelving.

Instead of putting nightstands on either side of the bed and finding a spot for a large, bulky dresser, homeowners with small bedrooms can use a pair of small dressers (or one dresser and one writing desk of a similar size) in place of nightstands. Alternatively, mount a couple of shelves to the wall instead of taking up floor space.

A footboard sticking up in the middle of the room stops the eye. Choosing a bed with only a headboard creates more visual space.

Dump the china cabinet in favor of a sideboard topped with a wide, framed mirror. Try topping the sideboard with a pair of lamps for added atmosphere.

This goes beyond a sofa bed. Consider using an ottoman with a tray on top in place of a coffee table; it can double as seating. A trunk or chest can serve as a table and provide storage. Choose chairs and small accent tables that can move around the room as needed.

Installing casing around doors and windows can make a big impact in a small space. Increasing a 4-inch base molding to 6 inches, as is common in newer construction, goes a long way toward updating an older property. And consider adding crown molding, which neatly trims the room at the ceiling, and painting the wall a different hue. All this can fool the eye into perceiving a larger, grander space.

Hanging kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling makes the room feel taller. Create this illusion without the expense of replacing smaller cabinets simply by adding a two-piece cornice crown molding up to the ceiling.

Don't overwhelm a small space with excessively detailed or decorated materials. Start with light-colored walls and solid fabric on furniture, then add punch with accessories such as pillows and wall art.

Make a room appear larger by putting different shades of the same color paint on the walls, baseboard, trim, and ceiling. Use different textures, as well.

Don't be afraid to put an oversize piece in a small space such as a studio apartment or single-room rental. A large mirror, for example, can ground a room even if it's grand and ornate.

Mixing and matching furniture from different eras can make a small home or apartment feel interesting and whimsical.

Elaborate wallpaper or textured fabric can make a room feel closed-in, but it can also draw focus to one feature wall or perhaps the ceiling in a bedroom. These wall coverings can safely go on all the walls in a small powder room or cozy dining room.

Respect the architecture of a room and let elements such as arches and columns help define the space. Add shelving in odd nooks and treat a great view out the window as a work of art.

Many people choose rugs that are too small for the space. A larger rug makes a room look bigger and more elegant and provides breathing room for all the furnishings.

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