5 Design Tips for Small Homes
Simple ways to make a small space feel roomy
Living in tight quarters can try anyone’s patience. It’s harder to find quiet and privacy, and tempers often run high, especially with kids—but there are things you can do to make your home feel more open, without knocking down walls or doing any drastic remodeling. Here are a few optical tricks and design strategies to make your home feel spacious.
1. Show off your walls and baseboards
This tip takes advantage of the way your brain perceives space. Any room will feel larger if you can actually see all four walls, because it increases the room’s visual depth—so do everything you can to expose them. This means removing the skirts from beds and couches to reveal the baseboards, reducing the number of pictures and posters you hang, and picking shelves and end tables with a slim profile and narrow legs. Removing cabinet doors can do wonders to open up a kitchen or bathroom; just unscrew the hinges, sand them down, and repaint.
2. Make the most of natural light
Unsurprisingly, the best antidote for a home that feels claustrophobic and cave-like is to let some light in—but since prolonged direct sunlight can cause damage and drive up your cooling bills, use color, texture, and mirrors to make the most of the indirect light your rooms receive. Deep, rich colors will soak up the light and make rooms feel cramped, so stick with light, breezy colors for your walls and flooring. Your living room can feel much more open with the addition of a large mirror, and you can create the illusion of visual space in your bathroom with textured wallpaper or spackle.
If your room still feels a little dim in the daytime, try sheer curtains instead of blinds; they’ll let a lot more light in, while still providing privacy and protecting your wood and carpet from sun damage.
3. Make efficient use of wall space
Many homes feel confining because everything is on the floor—house plants, storage, lighting, etc.—leaving the home’s abundant vertical space wasted. Whenever possible, swap out nightstands and bookshelves for wall-mounted shelves. Instead of a floor lamp, install a sconce. Instead of a potted plant on the floor, install a hanging planter in the corner. For extra credit, you can open up rooms even more by building interior shelving right into the wall, or a recessed medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
4. Avoid space-hogging furniture
Not all furniture uses space in the same way. For starters, a single, large couch is a much better pick for a limited living room space than a lot of smaller pieces. Also, couches and loveseats with rolled, squishy arms tend to take up more space than slim, rectangular designs. If you’re okay with cleaning a little more often, a glass or translucent coffee table can also help open up a crowded living room by increasing visual depth. The best furniture choices for small homes are multi-purpose: foldouts, storage benches, modular end tables, sectionals, etc.
5. Draw the eye upward
This goes along with making use of vertical space, but you can also use light and color to increase the prominence of all that visual space, even if you aren’t using it. A tasteful paint line or wall stickers running along the ceiling can draw the eye up and make a room feel taller. Place your art and other hangings just a little bit higher than normal; it will bring people’s vision up. You can also hide some simple Christmas lights behind your shelves or kitchen cabinets to brighten up the room and create additional space.
6. Create multi-purpose space
Modular, mobile furniture and storage can make it easy to convert rooms for multi-purpose use. A Murphy bed and a wheeled computer desk are all you need to create a home office/guest bedroom. With some modern sectional furniture designs, you can actually pack your couches away in the closet to create a dining area for entertaining. To create a private space for homework and study, set up room divider screens in a living room or bedroom—it’s not a perfect solution, but having a specialized, private space for schoolwork can make a big difference in focus and attention.
About Mike Freiberg
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.