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Think big for small home spaces

Decor: Combinations of furniture, color and accessories make a difference

Posted: October 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Use of light colors and furniture set away from the walls makes the room look larger. A table with legs also enlarges a room.

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For those of you who have had to downsize your living accommodations recently, or those who will one day own a mansion but, currently, are working their way up from closet to studio apartment — and even for those who have plenty of space, except for that certain small space in the middle of it — combinations of color, furniture placement and décor items can make all the difference.

They can visually turn small spaces into larger ones and thus make you feel like you’re livin’ large. 

If you search the Web for tips on decorating small spaces, you will certainly come across versions of the information provided here.

But here we give you the added benefit of ideas from Decorating Den Interiors corporate, flavored with some suggestions from Marie Stewart, the interior designer/owner of our local franchise of Decorating Den.

Those cozy spaces
“Economically scaled,” or smaller homes, can present big decorating opportunities. Bungalows, ranch-style homes, townhouses and condominiums offer the decorating challenge of using available space efficiently and beautifully.

Just be sure you don’t short-change your decorating tastes because your spaces may be a bit smaller.

First of all, consider selecting furniture that is scaled to your room size.

Smaller-scaled furniture can make a small room seem a great deal larger.

In a living room, for example, you may want to choose the cozy look of coordinating love seats instead of a larger sofa and chair combination.

Sofas with open legs, such as Chippendale or Queen Anne, take up less visual space.

But be careful not to have a room that’s “all legs.” Balance your open-legged pieces with solid ones, perhaps a small skirted table or an enclosed wood table.

“You can also stay with slightly larger upholstered pieces, but without arms,” Stewart said. Armless furniture helps create an airy, unfettered look, giving the illusion of more space. “Be creative,” she added.

Staying away from coffee tables and opting for glass-topped tables are good options to consider because the eye continues to travel through a glass surface, giving your room a more spacious feeling.

Lighten up
Since pale, softer colors tend to recede, the lighter the wall and floor colors, the larger a room will seem.

However, if your room features a lot of natural light, you could actually be a bit more adventuresome with your color choices — and add a little more drama to your walls.

Traditionally, it’s common in smaller rooms to paint ceilings lighter shades than the walls.

This actually helps to give the impression of visually taller walls or a higher ceiling.

Patterned carpets or light background wall coverings will also help give a smaller room a feeling of depth and visual interest.

Reflect on it
Adding a framed mirror, or even mirroring an entire wall, can visually double the room size. But be sure to note what the mirrors will reflect. If it’s an eyesore, you’ll double that, too.

Ahead with the bed
To save space in a bedroom, use only one bold piece of furniture. This will add character without filling things up.

This piece could be your bed’s headboard, accented with attractive stencils. And you could continue the theme by stenciling your design on accent pillows, as well.

“Instead of using typical headboards, try making your own. You can attach them directly to your wall and save even more space,” Stewart said.

White in the bath
Deep-hued sinks, toilets and tubs can appear dramatic in a larger bathroom, but create a feeling of claustrophobia in a smaller one. Instead, you might use classic white and incorporate design features in the fixtures to give a sense of style.

“But keep your large fixtures simple,” Stewart said.

Bathing your room in white creates an illusion of boundary-defying expansiveness. White walls, draperies, furniture, accessories and rugs allow the eye to roam freely over surfaces, stopping only at points of contrast.

Dark accents anchor the space without constricting it. The white surfaces also bounce light, increasing the sense of spaciousness. A large window can also enhance that roomy feeling.

Stewart said, “White is simply less confining, and keeping the white consistent through the space really will give the illusion of more space.”

Open up
Where you place your furniture can open up a small room. In the living room, you might place a rug in the middle of the room. The rug will act as an “island,” anchoring the furniture. You might also let your sofa “float” in the middle of the room so the room can be accessed from all sides. You could set a coffee table in front of the sofa and, maybe, a TV stand against the wall beyond that. All of this fools the eye with an effect of “space.”

It’s always a good idea to start a design project by sketching a floor plan, which can give you a fresh perspective of the room and allow you to see more potential in it. Pattern and color can go a long way in small rooms as well.

“This is a perfect example of when to call your local interior designer,” Stewart said. “You’d be surprised by how many varied functions there can be in a small space, when needed. Your designer will have the know-how and access to the specialty products needed to make it work.”

Storage and color
Closet space is usually at a minimum in small condos and apartments, so put your small furniture to work. You might place inexpensive wicker ottomans under the windows.

You can store throws, unused pillows, board games and movies in these.

You can add color with bright boxes on bookshelves, in which you can store smaller items. Or you might use a colorful rug, or even purchase a cheap chair and paint it a bright color.

One of the many benefits of smaller rooms is that you will always feel cozy and comfortable in them. So take a few of these ideas into consideration when you create the inviting, warm and expansive look you want in your own small space.

Call Marie Stewart at Decorating Den Interiors at (661) 310-3774. Her email is Visit for more information.


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