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Clever tricks to make small rooms feel larger and lighter

Posted: 14/09/18 Clever tricks to make small rooms feel larger and lighter

Whether you have a small room you’d like to improve the functionality and looks of or live in a smart but space-challenged apartment, there are lots of clever ideas you can use to create an amazing transformation. Guest blogger Lucy Searle, Editor-in-Chief of, shares her insider secrets. 

Lucy Searle, editor in chief,

1. Ensure you’re maximising natural daylight

Any room that’s flooded with natural daylight is going to feel brighter and therefore bigger. Start by questioning whether any accessories – from photos to plants – sitting on the windowsill are reducing the amount of daylight that can enter the room. Are your window frames and windowsills painted a pale shade? They needn’t be white, but the paler the paint colour, the more daylight they will reflect back into the room. Also, are there large, tall or dark pieces of furniture next to the window that block or absorb daylight?

Finally, but most importantly, are your window dressings blocking out daylight? Pale-coloured curtains and blinds that allow daylight to filter through will obviously make for a brighter room, and are the best choice for north or east-facing rooms that get little direct sunlight. Darker fabrics can work, however. The trick is to ensure the curtains can be pulled back beyond the window frame when open (which not only allows in daylight, but will make the window look bigger, too; the downside is that you might need to order longer curtain poles). The same goes for blinds – if they can be pulled open as much as possible, they will allow more light into the room.



2. Consider the room’s purpose

We all have a room at home that’s a bit of a dumping ground for everything from paperwork to bags destined for the charity shop (eventually). Leaving these rooms without a proper purpose will mean they constantly look and feel cluttered. So, ask yourself what you need. A dedicated home office? A dressing room to relieve a small bedroom of large pieces of storage furniture? A hang-out space for children?

Whatever your requirements, consider your storage and furnishing needs really carefully – if you can build bags of well thought-out storage into your new room’s transformation, you’ll not only make it useful, smart and spacious-feeling, you may well free other rooms of clutter, making them feel larger, too.

Home office desk


3. Pick a colour scheme that works in small spaces

Small rooms can take dark paint colours on walls; deep, inky shades in floorcoverings; and moody tones in furniture upholstery, but this will make the room feel cosy and cocooning rather than spacious and bright. So, if you really want your small space – whether a compact living room, a narrow hallway or even a useful but tiny utility room – to feel larger, the best way to do so is to use pale tones that complement each other.

That needn’t mean white, however. Pale, warm, earthy tones are very much on trend for 2018/19 – Dulux has just chosen Spiced Honey as its Colour of the Year. The upside of these shades for everything from walls to furniture? They make a room feel inviting and warm without compromising on the light reflected, so you get the best of both worlds.

Neutral sofa


4. Add interest with pattern – but cautiously

When you’re trying to make a room feel larger, it can be tempting to stick to light-reflecting, pale plains for wallcoverings, upholstery and window dressings, accessories and rugs. However, a combination of plain fabrics can result in a room that somewhat lacks character. The solution? To add pattern, but with care.

So, if your room is busy, busy – perhaps a home office that the entire family uses – introduce pattern just in the odd accessory, whether a cushion cover or two and a co-ordinating vase. If the room is easy to keep neat and streamlined, you can be more adventurous, perhaps bringing in a pattern in your curtains or in a rug.

Which pattern to choose? With florals or graphics, the smaller the print, the busier the effect (not ideal in a small space). Larger repeat prints can be overpowering in a small room, however, so go for a mid-sized motif over bigger areas, such as on a sofa or for window dressings, and introduce much larger or smaller motifs over less impactful surfaces, such as cushion covers. To co-ordinate or go eclectic? Co-ordination is easier on the eye, so if you’re furnishing a smaller room to make it look larger, creating a complementing colour scheme is the way to go.

plain and patterned fabrics


5. Use vertical storage to free up floor space

In a small room, wall space is highly valuable, so choosing tall, floorstanding storage or wall-hung storage will help you make the most of clutter-busting opportunities. A few things to consider: wall-hung pieces allow you to see more floor, which creates an impression of a larger space; storage (or any furniture) on legs has a similar effect; tall, thin storage furniture, such as the modular unit shown below, takes up little floor space, helping your room to feel larger; open storage, if kept neat, can make a room feel larger than if you choose pieces with solid doors.

hall or boot room storage


6. Create a focal point to draw the eye

Just as it’s vital to give a small room a function, creating a focal feature within the space is vital to its success. This might, in a larger room, be a fireplace or a huge bay window. In a smaller room, you have to be more imaginative. This may mean creating a feature wall with a pretty wallpaper, hanging a large mirror or creating a gallery wall with favourite photos or artwork. Or, you could create a focal feature with a good-looking, beautifully styled coffee table (see below) – or even an eye-catching floral display in the centre of a dining table.

upholstered coffee table


7. Pick furniture with hidden storage

Furniture that can double up as storage is useful in large rooms, but essential for making smaller rooms both functional and clutter-free. So, before you buy that coffee table you’ve fallen in love with, could you find one that has drawers, a shelf or a lift-up lid with storage hidden beneath instead? Could that box room become a useful spare bedroom if you picked a bed with storage hidden in drawers underneath (see below)? Will a footstool with bags of storage hidden under its upholstered top be more useful than one without? The answer to all those questions is: yes…

upholstered divan bed


8. Use mirrors strategically

We all know that mirrors reflect light and can make a space look larger, but did you know they can perform all sorts of clever tricks perfectly suited for making a small room feel bigger and brighter? Large mirrors will obviously make small rooms look more spacious, but a gallery wall of shapely, vintage mirrors can perform a similar trick while adding textural interest and character. Putting mirrors behind pretty accessories, such as in this bathroom, will create a good-looking reflection; put them behind pendant lights or lamps and the impact of the light cast in the room at night is doubled.

Is your room naturally dark, north-facing or perhaps your windows are small? Placing a mirror on a wall adjacent to the window rather than opposite will have the biggest effect on maximising the light reflected back into the room.

bathroom furniture and mirrors


9. Choose flooring for its light-reflecting properties

Just as light walls and ceilings stretch space visually in small rooms, so do pale-coloured floors. Pale floorboards are a practical option, and you can easily add warmth, colour, pattern and comfort with a rug. Carpet is a good alternative in rooms that see little foot traffic, such as bedrooms. Want a patterned carpet? Laying one with stripes will make the room look longer or wider – depending on the direction the stripes run. Choosing tiles for a bathroom? Large format tiles on the floor, particularly if laid diagonally with grouting that matches the colour of the tiles, will make the room feel wider and longer.

occasional upholstered chair


10. Accessorise to unite your colour scheme

A well-rounded colour scheme that’s carefully co-ordinated will be easier on the eye than one that’s unmatched. It will also make your finished room look smarter and more cohesive – all of which helps it to feel calmer, and therefore neater and more spacious. This doesn’t mean going for an exact match for wallpaper, window dressings and accessories (very 1980s); instead, look to work with one main room colour (here, it’s grey); add the first accent colour in decent proportions (here, it’s green); then a secondary and tertiary accent colour in smaller proportions (here, it’s yellow and purple).

These cushion colours (see below) make for a surprising mix – in other words, they aren’t natural colour partners like green and yellow are, for example. But, because they’re all of a similar strength and tone, they work really well together, creating an interesting but incredibly subtle contrast. Similarly, there’s a combination of motif sizes in the cushion covers, but none shouts for attention more than the others; once again, subtlety wins out to create a scheme that’s restful and easy to live with.

rectangular and square cushions


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