Want to know how to make the most of your tiny room(s) and turn them into better living space?
Are there ways to make “tiny” seem larger? How do you make more storage space? And what about that “unfortunate architecture” problem? You’re in the right place to learn how to make your tiny room(s) WONDERFUL!
home sweet tiny home is a fact of modern life
and so it goes…
For a bunch of good reasons, the best choice for living space to meet your needs is a composition of very tiny rooms. Or maybe even just one, very tiny room.
As such, while any home might have a tiny room as part of the whole, sometimes a tiny room is the whole home.
“It’s a small apartment.Dorothy Parker
I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.”
tiny rooms have benefits
Stop thinking TINY is a bad thing. This will shift your mindset away from believing you have to fix it. Embrace your space as is. With clever editing, smart choices and double-duty-space-saver furnishings your tiny rooms can be comfortable and wonderful.
While it’s true that making the most of limited space needs considerable “thoughtfulness” it’s also true that in small rooms, you can get away with BIG style statements, that tried in a larger areas, would be overwhelming.
Obvious bonus: tiny rooms need minimal cleaning.
where do you start to make tiny rooms seem larger?
by decluttering and downsizing what you have now, you’ll be on the way towards an upgrade for your future standard of living, later.
Think of this as an unavoidable opportunity to weed out:
- unnecessary furniture
- assorted “old junk”
- Un-wearable, unloved clothing.
The truth is that all of us accumulate stuff that isn’t used or even needed anymore.
Somethings are easier to dump than others.
You may want to head over here for great guidelines on how to get the job done.
Wall color is a powerful tool
There is a pernicious Old Wives Tale (Otherwise known as a Bad Design Rule) that white paint makes a room look larger.
NO, it doesn’t. White paint color doesn’t have magical properties
What it will do though, is make a room seem brighter. The only other reason to paint a room white is if you really like white.
No judgement: color preferences are emotional and subjective. If white paint is the only way you want to go, for any reason, there is a way to make white, or ANY COLOR work wonders in a tiny space.
For starters: it’s always a good idea to minimize noticeable details. The less often your eye stops “to check something out” the broader the perceived expanse will seem to be.
To that end, paint the ceiling and walls the SAME COLOR. Use that color in a satin finish for doors, trims and moldings too.
You could paint the floor as well, assuming a BIG WHITE BOX wouldn’t look weird with the rest of your decor. The shell effect on all six surfaces makes the edges where the walls meet much less noticeable.
This shell game effect works WITH ANY COLOR, regardless of whether you paint the floor the same color too. Just sayin’…
You might find this article helpful…
How to use dark colors in tiny rooms
It’s counter-intuitive, but dark colors seem to recede, while light colors appear to advance. Surprisingly, medium or darker wall colors add to a feeling of comfortable enveloping warmth, rather than make the room seem smaller.
This fact can do tricks. You can make a room look lONGER (dark shades recede) or more sQUARE (light shades advance) with no demolition by painting two opposing walls accordingly.
While it’s true that a gloss finish highlights any surface imperfections, you might experiment with lacquer, semi-gloss or even eggshell finishes for the walls and ceilings anyway. The shine seems to blur the perception of room boundaries, which can make a room seem larger than it actually is.
Dark colors with glossy finishes are great because the sheen takes the edge off what might be otherwise murky.
What’s your favorite color?
A monochromatic color scheme is the most effective in expanding your horizons within that tiny room envelope.
The mind’s eye stops to register every change, particularly with color. Ergo, in a small space especially, minimizing the number of visual contrasts will be size enhancing.
You can use shades of the same color for the drapery and upholstery too. The key to making a one-color scheme look good is to vary the shade of the color to get lights, mediums and darks. Add a variety of textures such as reflective and/or shiny surfaces, contrasted with course textured fabrics.
For the most part, we would all like to use what we already have, rather than tossing everything out and starting over. But when/where you have a choice, try to confine yourself to two colors only and the rest of the coloration a mix of neutrals or natural materials.
Several different colors can read as too busy, regardless of what size room you have.
For more information on the effects of color and how to use color effectively, head over here…
what if a tiny room has “unfortunate architecture” too?
Wallpaper can do wonders. You can bring a low ceiling to new heights visually by using vertically striped wallpaper.
A patterned paper can disguise irregularities in old walls too. A hopelessly dinky attic room with sloping ceilings on all sides can be transformed by using a small patterned paper on all the walls, including the ceiling. The odd wall angles become more interesting than noticeable.
Using the same patterned fabric on the upholstered furniture, window coverings and walls can look terrific. A tiny room becomes a magical space with no apparent boundaries.
even the tiniest room can have great features
The perceived shortcomings of your tiny room can be annoying, BUT don’t NEGLECT to play up any good features, such as a fireplace, great views or even beautiful molding.
You may be surprised by how special a tiny room can seem.
You might want to head over here for pointers on making the best use of “natural assets”, tiny room or not.
Ingenious storage Is key to living well in small spaces
- Put drawers in and under everything possible. Use pocket doors. Build storage to fit alcoves, nooks and crannies. The end walls of long narrow rooms are often a good possibility too.
- Be counter-intuitive. Standard counter height is about thirty-six inches. Can you manage with a lower counter height? The lower the counter, the greater the illusion of a bigger space. In the same spirit, floor to ceiling cabinets are room-size killers because the ceiling surface is reduced.
how precious is closet space?
Closet space is sacred to most of us because it always seems we don’t have enough. BUT, if it doesn’t feel too blasphemous, consider whether you can gain valuable extra space by knocking out one or two of them. How clever can you be in finding other locations for storage?
Otherwise, if you tear up at the prospect of killing a closet and the closet in question is at least thirty-six inches deep, you’re in luck.
- The back twelve inches can be fitted with adjustable shelves, (think shoes or maybe seasonal storage)
- The front twenty-four inches can be dedicated to hanging clothes.
- Extra credit for using two clothing bars at different levels. You can hang double the number of your shorter items like shirts, jackets and skirts. Pants too, if you drape them over the hanger cross rod.
your furniture can do double duty
- A sofa can be your bed too.
- The sofa can also be used as a divider between dining or desk areas.
- Your bed can be a sofa/divan when back pillows are stacked three deep.
- The dining table is also your desk.
- The coffee table is also your dining table, if you add a few floor cushions.
- An open bookcase used to divide an area also provides storage as shown above.
Multi-tasking is your mantra for small space living.
use “see through” furniture
Minimize “visual blockage”. Furniture with legs and metal-framed tables with glass tops are good choices.
Lucite, plexiglass and real glass are the best “there’s no there, there” solutions.
“Floating” pieces” such as a free-standing vanity in the bathroom have the same effect.
Furniture on long and/or thin legs create more open visual space by allowing light to show underneath. A sofa with long or thin legs is especially effective for this.
Don’t use Too many items with long/thin legs or Your tiny Room Will Appear “Nervous, Ungrounded” AND tiny.
Use Mirrors where possible
They are magical for making a tiny room seem larger. The trick is to hang them in places that reflect something of interest in the room.
- Hang a mirror to reflect a window. The natural light coming though the window will be doubled, as will a great view.
- Bonus lighting: “shiny pops” and extra sparkle from metal or crystal accessories are brilliant in more ways than one. They enhance the notion that your small space is actually a private jewel box of wonder.
What size furniture is best?
You might think the only right answer would be “small scale, of course”.
But maybe not…
There are actually TWO schools of thought on furniture size in small spaces.
one school says use furniture Proportional to the size of the room
This is particularly relevant if you need to have several items in one room for the sake of multi-tasking. A studio apartment is a prime example of this.
Here are a few standard measures to look for:
- Narrow sofa depth is 32”-40”. Sofas can be found at only 28”deep and still be very comfortable.
- Standard sofa length is about 84” but there are other options.
- There are also “apartment length sofas” at 72”.
- Love seats are only 60” wide and can seat two very well.
the other school suggests using very few pieces on a larger, more dramatic scale.
You can even pare down to ONE VERY LARGE ITEM with a couple of supporting players in the form of a small table or chair as needed.
A big bed in a tiny room makes a big impact AND makes the room seem bigger in a wonderful way.
area rugs are very useful
Area rugs can help demarcate different spaces within a room. It’s important to get “right sized” though.
Tiny rugs in tiny rooms look very sad.
Rugs of different patterns are fine as long as the colors coordinate. You can also use two of the same rug, side by side to delineate different areas such as a living area from a dining area. If you are planning for a lot of artwork, fabric patterns, strong colors, etc., this is a method to both delineate and give you a “calm foundation” for all the excitement later.
Matching rugs of the same size work best as long as the two areas are more or less of equal proportions. Otherwise, different size rugs will be more interesting.
wall-to-wall carpeting: old school with benefits
A Love/Hate relationship:
It LOOKS old fashioned and not in a good way. It isn’t that interesting either.
BUT… It’s wonderful for living ON.
It’s particularly delicious for:
- Playing with kids, pets or any other body.
- Your bare feet will be happy when you get out of bed every morning
- AND SO ON…
In terms of practical design application, carpeting grounds and unifies a room visually because of its broad expanse. It will lend the illusion of greater room proportions.
A good hedge position between “old school” and “modern application” is to have an area rug cut and finished from a roll of broadloom carpeting. Leave a 6-12″ perimeter of flooring around the room. Presto: an extra big area rug with all the benefits of wall-to-wall carpet.
Added bonus: you can take it with you when you move.
don’t overlook the value of good lighting
We tend to under-light our homes with too few light sources. Or worse, over-light with blindingly high wattage, with the same too few light sources.
You probably noticed that not enough light sources were used in either case.
YET, truth be told…
A great lighting plan will make your home feel more comfortable, be more efficient and look TERRIFIC.
Arguable point: an “ugly” room almost always turns out to be poorly lit.
While saving space and paring down is essential, don’t opt for recessed lighting ONLY and think this will be all the lighting you need. For starters, recessed lighting tends to look more Commercial than Homey. One lonely ceiling mounted fixture is really more sad than helpful.
More importantly, no one looks good under either type of lighting because of those pesky shadows.
Recessed lighting and its sibling, track lighting, were originally designed to be used in museums as spotlights on great art or wall washers. For these purposes, they are excellent choices, both for museum and home.
Otherwise, the best use for recessed lighting is low level ambient lighting to erase dark corners. Same with that one lonely ceiling mounted fixture too. Use dimmers, so you have lighting options.
Along with using lamps on end tables where possible, standing floor lamps and sconces won’t take up much space BUT will DEFINITELY earn their keep.
They go a very long way towards showing your home in the best light, literally.
You might find this article helpful…
A few extra small tips that can make a difference too
Every little detail you incorporate can build up to what you might call “compound design interest”. Do what you can, where you can and that “tiny room that should have been a closet ” will become your sweet little spot called HOME.
- Work those walls. Install shelves in corner spaces and hang up as much as is reasonable, like the pots and pans or bedside lighting.
- Larger pieces of furniture should be low slung and lean. As such, they give the impression of more “air space”. Think twice about a high backed wing chair.
- Round or oval side and coffee tables serve best in tiny rooms where bumping into things is normal.
- Use pairs where you can. Symmetry and balance help small spaces look unified and less chaotic than having one-off pieces of everything, everywhere.
Make all your choices deliberate
There is no such thing as random accident chic. Whether your home is space deprived or spacious, thought must be given to all aspects of building the home design that’s perfect for you.
Every gesture you make should be considered. You’re better off with a few larger pieces of furniture rather than several iffy small ones. Edit as much as possible and find containers of some sort for the small indispensables.
When in doubt, rotate your favorite things in and out a few times a year. When they rotate back in, it’s like seeing old friends who have been away on extended journeys.
Good Housekeeping 101. Be meticulous, not only in your choices, but (it must be said) with your housekeeping too.
Clutter is never a good look.
Over To You…
I’d love to know what you think...
Was there a tip that was especially helpful? Hopefully, you found a little inspiration and maybe even resolved a long standing quandary brilliantly!
are there other topics you might be interested in?
Setting out to create the best version of beautiful home design, tailored especially for you, has a lot of potential questions built in. Please let me know. I’m here to help.
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about the author
Cindy Bergersen is a professional design consultant turned full time writer about home design: what is it, how it woh9rks and how to make it work for anyone.
Nearly 30 years experience as a design consultant to private clients in addition to consulting with clients for well known, high end furniture retailers proved to be invaluable training.
In 2010, Decoding Decor won a $1000 cash prize as one of four editors top pick for best content from Demand Media, the largest media content aggregate in the country, with access to over 45 million articles.
She is both passionate and committed to sharing her experience and knowledge to help anyone, to help themselves to a beautiful, comfortable home, without feeling confusion or overwhelm about where to start and how to proceed.
She lives in New York City with Olivia, The Cat. When not writing for the Library, she can be found cycling though Central, Riverside and Hudson River Parks, watching way too much film, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.