How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger: 11 Small Space Decorating Ideas

If you have small rooms in your house or apartment, you know it can be tricky to make them feel comfortable and not crowded. These tips to make a small room look bigger will make it feel like you have more space than you do.

How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger
How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger

I love looking at interior design magazines, stores, blogs, show houses and pretty much anywhere else I can get design ideas.  The one issue I have with most of the beautiful rooms they show…they are all at least twice the size of any room in my house.

Over the years of trying to design my own (much smaller than designer) rooms, I have come up with some tips that I follow to make a small room look bigger.  I used a lot of them in my Den/Library makeover (a 10′ x 10′ room)…and I thought these might be useful for some of you as well…

Keep reading to find out how to make a small room look bigger.

Buy Furniture With Legs

Furniture with legs makes the floor space seem bigger - Photo by Laura Bendik Interiors | How to make a small room look bigger
Furniture with legs makes the floor space seem bigger

Photo by Laura Bendik Interiors on houzz.com

One trick for making a room seem larger is to show as much of the floor as possible.  Your brain automatically makes the assumption that more floor space means a bigger room…so anything that lets you see more of the floor area works in your favor.

That’s why furniture with taller, uncovered legs is a good idea for a small room.  Since you can see under them, more of the floor is visible.

“Leggy” furniture also tends to look less bulky which helps to make the room look less crowded.

Use Lucite or Glass Furniture

This glass dining room table takes up less visual space than a wood one would - Photo by In Site Designs | How to make a small room look bigger
This glass dining room table takes up less visual space than a wood one would.

Photo by In Site Designs on houzz.com

Along the same lines as the furniture with legs, using glass or lucite “see through” furniture lets you see more of the floor…which fools your brain into thinking that the furniture isn’t taking up much room.

In the picture above, the glass dining room table top and stainless steel frame both help to make the dining room table appear less “weighty” than a wood table would.

The large light fixture above the table also helps to distract from the small room proportions.

Lucite nesting tables are perfect for a small living room - Photo by Coveted Home | How to make a small room look bigger
Lucite nesting tables are perfect for a small living room

Photo by Coveted Home on houzz.com

In this living room, the clear nesting tables serve as double-purpose small room furniture.

Because you can see right through the tables, they don’t seem to take up any space at all.  And nesting tables are a great way to provide extra table area when it’s needed without taking up a lot of the room when it isn’t.

Install One Floor Covering

One floor covering looks bigger because there are no visual "speed bumps" | How to make a small room look bigger
One floor covering looks bigger because there are no visual “speed bumps”

Another principle of making a small space seem larger is to keep the number of surface changes to a minimum.

Every time your eye sees a surface change, it has to stop to register the change. That breaks the flow of the room which causes it to appear smaller.

When you use one type of floor covering for the whole floor surface in a room, there is nothing to break up the flow and your brain sees it as a bigger space.  This works regardless of whether you have hardwood floors, carpet or an area rug…as long as there is one flooring pattern covering the entire area.

Combine this with the first two tips and you can really increase the visual size of your room!

A large area rug also works as a continuous floor covering - Photo by Tiffany Eastman Interiors, LLC | How to make a small room look bigger
A large area rug also works as a continuous floor covering

Photo by Tiffany Eastman Interiors, LLC on houzz.com

This room uses the “one-floor covering” principle also but has an area rug that covers the entire floor with an all-over Greek key pattern.

With the “leggy” furniture and mirrors, the area looks much more spacious than it actually is.

Paint the Walls and Ceiling the Same Color

Walls, ceilings and moldings all painted the same color help to visually expand the space - Photo by Tobi Fairley Interior Design | How to make a small room look bigger
Walls, ceilings and moldings all painted the same color help to visually expand the space

Photo by Tobi Fairley Interior Design on houzz.com

As we saw in the previous tip, removing “stopping points” for your eye helps to expand the perceived room size.

Painting the walls, ceiling and moldings all the same color works on the same principle.  It provides a continuous surface and flow so your eye doesn’t stop to register where the wall ends and the ceiling starts.

Contrary to popular belief, this concept works with dark colors as well as light paint colors.  In some cases, dark colors actually achieve this better than light colors, because there isn’t much light variation between the flat surfaces and the corners, resulting in even fewer visual “speed bumps”.

Take Advantage of Windows

Lots of natural light from windows makes a space look larger - Photo by kimberly peck architect | How to make a small room look bigger
Lots of natural light from windows makes a space look larger

Photo by kimberly peck architect on houzz.com

Lots of windows make a room feel bigger because the view through the window gets included in the room space.

Not all rooms have such dramatic windows as this loft, but make sure the windows you do have are part of the focal point in the room.  In this case, the windows are pretty dramatic on their own, but the large silver curved floor lamp duplicates the shape of the windows and makes them even more of a focal point.

Making windows a focal point helps to expand the space - Photo by Colleen Price | How to make a small room look bigger
Making windows a focal point helps to expand the space

Photo by Colleen Price on houzz.com

In this living room, the whole seating arrangement is set up to have all eyes on the windows…and definitely, helps to expand the space visually!

Add Large Mirrors

A large mirror reflects light to make the room seem larger - Photo by Michael Abrams Limited | How to make a small room look bigger
A large mirror reflects light to make the room seem larger

Photo by Michael Abrams Limited on houzz.com

Similar to windows, mirrors help to make a small room look bigger by expanding what you see.

If you can also reflect the light from a chandelier or other light fixture in the mirror, you’ll get a double impact…more of a view and more light in the room.

Venetian style mirror over the sink reflects the hallway art
Venetian style mirror over the sink reflects the hallway art

In this tiny bathroom, the large mirror over the sink reflects the scene painted on the hallway wall outside the door.

Having a view from “outside” acts like a window to make the room seem larger.

Mirrored doors on a storage cabinet reflect light back into the room
Mirrored doors on a storage cabinet reflect light back into the room

My mother glued mirrors on to the front of a storage cabinet in her living room where it does double duty. It makes the room look bigger and provides a handy place to keep the vacuum cleaner out of site!

Install Built-ins

Using Built-Ins takes up less space in the room - Photo by Alex Findlater Ltd| How to make a small room look bigger
Using built-ins takes up less space in the room

Photo by Alex Findlater Ltd on houzz.com

Speaking of built-ins, they are the next way to help make a small room look bigger.

Built-ins such as these bookcases and benches take up less physical floor space than free-standing furniture would.  So in this case, you not only get the illusion of more floor space, there actually is more floor space!

Bonus room built in shelves and window bench provide storage without taking up a lot of room
Bonus room built in shelves and window bench provide storage without taking up a lot of room

In my home office, the built in shelves and window bench also provide a ton of storage which helps to clear clutter…which also helps the room to feel larger.

Built in with legs and reflective surfaces helps to visually expand the space
Built in with legs and reflective surfaces helps to visually expand the space

When my mother made over her office (a really TINY room), she made this built-in wall unit (from IKEA kitchen cabinets!) which combines multiple “how to make a small room look bigger” tips at one time.  It provides the function of a built-in…and also has legs and mirror surfaces.  A perfect solution for a small room!

Use Benches

A built-in bench allows the table to be pushed closer to the wall | How to make a small room look bigger
A built-in bench allows the table to be pushed closer to the wall

Similar to the built-ins concept, benches are an actual space-saver that are great for small rooms.  They provide more seating space than a conventional chair would and take up less floor space.  Using a built-in bench on one side of the dining table allows the table to be pushed in closer to the wall.

Benches on both sides of the table free up space for a larger table | How to make a small room look bigger
Benches on both sides of the table free up space for a larger table

In my dining “nook”, having 2 benches one on either side of the table gives me enough room to use a larger table (a plus for me since I love to entertain!)

Place Furniture On An Angle

Placing furniture on an angle gives you more floor space to work with - Photo by Maria Killam | How to make a small room look bigger
Placing furniture on an angle gives you more floor space to work with

Photo by Maria Killam on houzz.com

Speaking of physical space arrangements, placing furniture on an angle in the room helps to open up the floor space.

The diagonal line from corner to corner will always be the longest space available in the room.

If you can arrange your furniture along these lines, you will usually end up with more open floor space.  People will have more room to move around the room, and it will look larger.

Pulling some of the furniture away from the wall also helps to prevent the “lined up” look that can make the room feel crowded.

Hang Curtains Close to the Ceiling

Hanging curtains close to the ceiling makes the walls and windows seem taller - Photo by Erika Bonnell Interiors | How to make a small room look bigger
Hanging curtains close to the ceiling makes the walls and windows seem taller

Photo by Erika Bonnell Interiors on houzz.com

Hanging curtains close to the ceiling makes the walls and windows look taller.  In a small room, increasing the room “volume” by making the ceiling feel higher will also help to make the room feel bigger.

Using co-ordinated fabrics also helps to draw the eye around the room | How to make a small room look bigger
Using co-ordinated fabrics also helps to draw the eye around the room

Similarly, in the original version of my master bedroom, the curtains go all the way to the ceiling and expand past the edges of the windows to make the window seem larger.

Repeating the fabric in multiple places around the room also helps to keep the eye moving, which makes the room look larger.

Floor to ceiling window treatments help the ceiling look higher
Floor to ceiling window treatments help the ceiling look higher

I use this trick in pretty much every room in my house. I think the curtains look better this way even in larger rooms.

Bigger is Better than Smaller

A few larger pieces of furniture, art and accessories look less crowded than a lot of little ones - Photo by Karen B Wolf Interiors, Associate ASID | How to make a small room look bigger
A few larger pieces of furniture, art and accessories look less crowded than a lot of little ones

Photo by Karen B Wolf Interiors, Associate ASID on houzz.com

Last but not least…a few larger pieces are better than a lot of little pieces when you are trying to make a room look larger.

This works for artwork, accessories, and furniture.  It seems a little counter-intuitive, but having too many little things just makes the room look cluttered and feel claustrophobic.

How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger: 10 Small Space Decorating Ideas

The same goes with patterns. The large patterned rug in the other half of my mother’s small living room really commands your attention and makes the area feel bigger than it is.

Hopefully, these small space decorating tips will help you get your rooms feeling bigger than they are, too.

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How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger
How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger
How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger: 10 Small Space Decorating Ideas

More Small Space Decorating Ideas

How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger: 10 Small Space Decorating Ideas

Do you have any other tips to make a small room look bigger? Tell us in the section below.



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13 Responses

  • Great article thanks heaps for letting us all enjoy your information and I know that I will be using some of your ideas for my small unit thanks once again take care of yourself and I look forward to more things from you Debra

  • I’m going to moving into a 1,100 apartment and love the cozy with light colors look with sage decor accents.
    Can you give me any ideas on very comfortable couch color and fabrics?

    • Hi Lyn…without knowing your design style and room requirements, it’s a little hard to make suggestions. I can tell you how I choose. Because I have cats, I like to use fabrics that don’t pull, like velvet and microsuede. They’re also very comfortable to sit on. For the color, I suggest going one of two ways – 1. get a neutral color that goes with everything (eg. white, cream, grey, black) or 2. if you have a favorite color that you love to decorate with (and you know you won’t get sick of), you could also go with that. Hope that helps!

    • I like very cozy decor, shag rug,cozy couch,you know the room where you walk in and you think, wow this is so ‘homey’! I love some farmhouse decor but not pics of horses.
      I love the color shag and/ or “shabby chic” but not wanting a real light color couch, as have 3 under age 3, grandkids!!

  • I believe the smaller the room the lighter the colors should be. A pastel colors or white , tan, just light colors open up a room & also gives it a clean fresh look. Then add decor with darker colors.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Kim! Light colors and pastels often give a room an airy look which can help to make it feel bigger, so it’s definitely a good option for a small space.

  • This is the best blog I’ve seen so far on how to maximize a small space! Every other blog just talks about paint and mirrors. Some of your tips are inexpensive and easy to to incorporate. Thanks!!!

  • I live in a small Cape Cod, 1200 Sq. Ft home. One of the things I do to fool the eye into believing our house is bigger than it is, is to keep the amount of furniture to a bare minimum and not too big. If it’s over stuffed or has too many details, like prints on the upholstery it can make a small space appear smaller than what it is. Use things like throw pillows with different textures and patterns to lend interest to a room. I also like the idea of “bare” spaces.

    • Hi Mary. I agree…leaving some space and not overwhelming the room with too many details will help make it feel larger. Thanks for the great tips!

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