UPDATE 5.7.20 : During this time of quarantine we're spending lots of time in our "small spaces". I thought it would be a great time to revisit these easy tricks to do a quick refresh on your small space! This time of year, although it is my favorite, always reminds me of what little space we have in our house and it kind of drives me nuts. We’re getting our tree this weekend and, while I’m excited to decorate and for Bea to enjoy it this year, I am secretly dreading trying to make space for it and living in a state of disarray for the next few weeks. I need to come up with a better system for the holidays…once I figure out what that is I will share it with you guys.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some tricks that I have accumulated over the years for making my small spaces more comfortable and guest-worthy. So for any room in your house that feels a bit cramped, here are 6 simple tricks to make them feel a little roomier. I promise that some of these are super easy and some you can even accomplish this weekend – before your in-laws arrive for the holidays…
1. Switch out your light bulbs or lampshades. Lighting is super important for any size room, but it’s particularly important if your space is small. Trust me, you don’t want your room to be small AND dark or, even worse, small and so bright that your guests feel like they're about to get a root canal.
Ideally you would have all of your rooms flooded with natural light like the ones in Pinterestland but that’s not reality for most of us. But even doing something as simple as changing your light bulbs can make a huge impact on the look of your space. A few months after we moved in to our house we had dimmers installed (this is a MUST for everyone – have I ever mentioned my obsession with good lighting and dimmers??) we had to switch to dimmable bulbs throughout the house and the difference the new bulbs made was HUGE. DUH!! Why didn’t we do that sooner? The bulbs that were there from the previous owners were not good; they gave off a bad fluorescent glow but for some reason we lived with that sad lighting for months and months. We finally switched to bulbs that gave off warmer light and the whole downstairs looked bigger and more welcoming. Overwhelmed by bulb choices? Lindsey Adelman, an industrial designer who specializes in light fixtures, recommends the dimmable white A-19 LED light bulb.
If your light bulbs are good to go, consider switching out your lamp shades or adding a small accent lamp or floor lamp. I actually have that floor lamp in the photo above and it’s awesome because it comes with a dimmer switch and that shade gives off nice diffused light.
2. Add a mirror. This tip is an oldie but a goodie. Now that you have a perfectly well-lit room, bounce that light around. This brass round mirror from Target is very pretty and a great price. Also, when you’re considering art for the space, if you don’t get a lot of natural light in the room, you may want to skip a canvas piece and instead go for a framed print with glass so that it bounces light rather than absorbs it (I talk more about this tip in this post).
3. Discard, discard, discard. If you find that you have no where to put all of your stuff and your space is cluttered, chances are that no amount of organizing or trips to the Container Store will solve the problem. You have to discard. Now is a great time to declutter before you get inundated with yet more stuff. The best part? Decluttering costs you nothing and it can make a huge impact on your space.
If you are one of the few people on the planet who have not read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out. It will truly help change your mindset about how you approach your stuff and help you let go of what you don’t need. Green Drop will come pick up the stuff you don’t want and donate it.
4. Opt for furniture that takes up less visual space. Generally, for small rooms you should try to stay away from big, bulky furniture that takes up a lot of visual space (for a small room you should use small furniture). Pieces like the acrylic coffee table in the photos above and below are great because they practically disappear and take up almost no visual space. Also go for “leggy” furniture, which take up less space visually. Balance your leggy furniture with a couple of small “solid” pieces – like the pouf in the photo above or the wicker chair and planters in the shot below – to add some variety and keep things interesting.
5. And while you’re at it…choose furniture that does double duty. Think end tables that can double as stools. Benches that open for storage. Ottomans that double as coffee tables. In fact, as I was writing this, Emily Henderson published this post on 33 ottomans that can double as coffee tables – get out of my head, Emily!!! Double duty furniture means you can quickly pull up some extra seating for guests while stylishly storing your air mattress at the same time.
6. Paint. Nothing freshens up a space like paint. It’s true that painting a small room dark will make it feel smaller, so if you want to make your cramped space feel less so, then opt for a light paint color and keep the palette low contrast. I love the little white kitchen in the photo below.Notice how they skipped the toe kick and used mirrors as a backsplash? Those choices along with the all-white color palette make this kitchen feel bright and spacious.
If you have some bulky pieces of furniture and can’t part with them, you can try painting them the same color as the walls in your room (assuming these are not beautiful heirloom pieces, obviously) so that they don’t compete for the space and recede into the walls.
I hope you find at least one or two of these tricks helpful even if right now you cannot imagine how you’re going to get everything done on your list.
Have a great weekend, everyone! xx