Small-Space Decorating Guide

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Moving into a small apartment or room can be challenging when it comes time to decorate. The key is to create the illusion of space, making the area feel more expansive than it actually is. There are many tricks and ideas for accomplishing this; the more you incorporate, the better your finished look will be.


Color is the base of your room and will go a long way to opening it up. To make a small space feel larger, use light and bright hues. Pale blues, greens, creams and even pale grays work particularly well. For the molding and trim, try using a color that’s a shade or two lighter than the walls. Using color on the ceiling can create the illusion of height, which makes the room feel more spacious.

Beyond the walls, consider a monochromatic color scheme throughout the room. Choose varying shades of your base color for furniture, area rugs, curtains, etc. The uniform color will make the room seem endless.


When it comes to furnishing small spaces, less is absolutely more. The fewer pieces you have in the room, the more open it looks. Living with less doesn’t have to mean doing without, however. Choose pieces that have multiple functions to get the most out of your space. A pair of small storage cube ottomans makes a great coffee table while giving you a place to stow infrequently used items.

Size also matters. There are two ways to go: Purchase furniture with a smaller scale or get one or two large pieces. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Instead of a sofa, try placing three or four arm chairs around a round table. Or you can set up a couple of lounge-type chairs facing your entertainment center. Built-in bookcases/cabinets make use of more available space without crowding the floor. One thing to avoid: very tall furniture (unless you have vaulted ceilings). Tall furniture will make the room feel cramped.

decorate small spaces

Choose furnishings with open arms and exposed legs to let light through. This will help to make the room feel bigger. Tables with clear Lucite or glass tops will do the same.

The way you arrange your furniture is important, too. Resist the urge to put everything up against the walls. Set up your room with the furnishings toward the center. Empty space around your furniture will open things up. You can also arrange pieces on an angle rather than straight. For example, instead of placing your sofa parallel to the front door, try placing the arrangement at a 45-degree angle to it. This leads the eye from corner to corner, which is often the longest part of the room.


A bright, airy room feels more expansive than a dark one. Keep this in mind when decorating a small space. Natural light opens things up the best, so consider window coverings that let light in or leaving windows unadorned if privacy is not a concern.

Recessed lighting allows you to properly illuminate your place without lamps, which can interrupt the flow of the room, making it feel smaller.

Artwork, Etc.

What you put on your walls (and how you put it there) is as important as what you put on the floor. Again, less is more here. Try putting up fewer pieces, but make them bigger. If that’s not possible, unify your artwork by using matching frames and mats. The idea is to draw the eye to the walls and away from the center of the room.

Keep the floor as clear as you can. Use furniture and shelving to display your treasures, even the larger ones. More open space on the floor translates into a more expansive feeling.

Odds and Ends

Rounded shapes, such as round tables and round area rugs, lead the eye more gracefully around the room than square or rectangular versions; this will make the space seem larger.

The two most important things to remember when you have a small space: neatness counts and avoid clutter at all costs. The more “stuff”, the more crowded and cramped the room will feel.

A minimalist look, with its sparing use of accessories and accents, is more open visually. There’s less for the eye to stop on, which makes the space seem larger than it is. Having a lot of décor around the room only emphasizes the actual size of the space. Keep it simple for the best effect.

Even if you don’t have a lot of items in your room, magazines, clothing and other castoffs will also crowd it. Keeping things neat and orderly will help you avoid making your room feel overly full and therefore smaller.

You don’t have to incorporate all of these tips, but the more you put these principles to work, the bigger a difference they can make. Ultimately, it’s about how the space feels to you; your home should always be a reflection of your personality and taste.

This article was written by Megan Gordon for, an online resource for moving information, products and coupons.

Last Updated: January 29, 2013
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