5 Ways to Maximize Your Small Space

Small spaces get an unfortunate bad rap these days with large open-concept living becoming so popular and desired. But there are some simple tips to not only pull off the charming look of a small space, but also to make it function big.  Here are my top 5...

1 | Go Vertical

When you're working within a small space, the one thing you generally don't have much of is floor space. Obviously you'll want to maximize the floor space you DO have, but don't forget about the space beyond the floor!  A great way to do this is to use the height of your room for function and style!  While you most definitely should maximize the furniture and flow of the floor, going vertical really can help you create more room for your furnishings...or just more room to breathe and move around in!

My favorite way to do this is to add floor-to-ceiling storage.  Using a tall bookshelf or storage cabinet, even floating shelves that stack well above eye level creates functional areas that would otherwise be unusable.  If adding a new storage unit isn't in the budget, you could add baskets above existing bookshelves or storage units to extend the function of those pieces.

The PAX wardrobe system from IKEA is a fabulous example of this.  It comes in a couple different heights depending on your ceiling, two depths (in a tight space, I'd opt for the shallower 15" deep unit), and a few different widths to fit whatever space you're working in.  Plus, the many shelf, drawer, dividers, and other accessories available makes it completely customizable inside, which makes it a versatile piece.  It's categorized as a wardrobe but can be used as a kitchen pantry, extra bedding storage, game cabinet, office storage, etc.

2 | Use Mirrors

You've likely heard this one before, but mirrors can be a great way to make a small space--or any space, for that matter--appear and feel larger than what it actually is.  But, there are a few tricks I like to use to really take advantage of a mirror's capabilities.

Place a mirror opposite a window to not only capture the reflection of the depth of the room, but also the extension of what's beyond the window!  This also reflects the natural light, which also can help visually enlarge the space.

Another way to add light in your space by using mirrors is to reflect a light source such as a lamp or light fixture.  Even reflecting a light-toned wall, piece of art, bookcase, etc. can add some brightness in the mirror's reflection.

If a window or light source isn't an option or priority in your space, any item or area that you particularly like and want to draw attention to would be a great option. Just keep in mind that whatever you're reflecting in the mirror will become accented, so try not to reflect anything uninteresting or visually unappealing like a blank wall, drab artwork or furniture, etc.  Since most mirrors don't have an overabundance of color, reflecting a colorful piece of art, patterned curtains, floral arrangement, or other items that contain color really can help reinforce your color scheme.

Consider the angle in which you'll see the reflection.  The most obvious placement of a mirror may be on the opposite wall of what you want reflected, but if you never see the mirror from the direction of where the reflection is happening, then perhaps another placement of the mirror would be better.

Size of mirror can also make a huge difference in a small space.  Instead of a series of small mirrors that has the potential to appear cluttered, opt for a larger mirror that spans a good portion of a wall so that you get the uninterrupted effect of the reflection.

3 | Scale Some Items Up

While this seems counter-intuitive, sometimes making small spaces seem bigger is about tricking the eye and mind into seeing the space bigger.

A small space is usually no place for oversized furniture, BUT it sometimes works well to choose an item or two to scale up to make the space feel and function larger.  Just because a space is little doesn't mean it can't function big. A good place to start is to think about what furniture pieces really need to function well...items that you may use multiple times a day and that would be a pain in the butt to be too small or non-functional.  The first items that come to mind would be a sofa, end table, desk, and other 'main' furniture pieces in certain rooms. Don't be afraid to play with larger scaled pieces that not only function well, but also look proportionally appropriate next to other furniture pieces and within the space as a whole. Just be a little careful with tall, bulky pieces that are placed in the center of the room (ie: coffee table) as taller pieces have a tendency to cut up the open feel.

Another visual trick you can use is to enlarge windows and heighten ceilings simply by hanging curtains higher and wider than just outside the window.  Hang curtains a few inches below the ceiling and have them hang just above the floor, while stretching them several inches outside the outer edges of the frame.  This will draw the eye up and make your room appear taller.  In some rooms, this can have dramatic impact!

4 | Double Up!

This tip should probably be at the top of the list because it has the potential to gain you so much square footage and crazy amounts of added function.  Double up your spaces and items within your area and you might be amazed at how well your small OR large space functions!


Could you combine a spare bedroom and a home office?  Laundry room with a bathroom?  Combining functions in separate rooms can essentially give you more rooms in your home...and who doesn't think that sounds appealing?!


Storage ottomans, storage benches, baskets that double as end tables, trunks that work as coffee tables, etc.  These pieces not only give you the function of storage, but also are functional surfaces for daily living.  This really is where it's at if you're looking to declutter and add storage and functionality to ANY space!

5  | Colors/Patterns

OK, so you've probably heard that dark wall colors make a space feel small so light colors are a better option for small spaces. I would say that's true to a certain extent, but there are other factors to consider such as how you want the space to feel within its function.

If I had a small little corner in my house that I wanted to be used as a relaxing reading corner, for example, I wouldn't care as much if it felt smaller because I really would be after a warm, cozy atmosphere.  In that case, I'd tend toward a deeper, rich color on the walls.

Another scenario where a darker color would work well is if you either have lots of windows or natural light or have plenty of light finishes already in your space such as white trim, light cabinetry, light furniture, etc.  If everything else was light-toned, then perhaps a darker color on the walls would be a nice contrast.

I actually think a small area can be the PERFECT space to add a punch of color or interest.  Places like a small foyer, breakfast nook corner, or any little niche space within a larger area are the perfect opportunity for some bold color or pattern because in small doses, those bold statements don't become so overwhelming and overpowering.  Design is an art and each person has their own style and preferences, but I challenge you to think about adding a splash of interest and surprise into your space!  You yourself might be surprised at how well it works! :)

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