Small Space Decorating Ideas (How To Make A Small Room Look Bigger)

If you have small rooms in your house or apartment, you know it can be tricky to decorate them so they don’t look crowded. Whether you are decorating your living room, office or bedroom, these ideas on how to make a small room look bigger will help it feel like you have more space than you do.

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 interior design ideas.

But 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 decorate my own (much smaller than designer) rooms, I have come across some tips that make small rooms look larger.

So if you’re struggling with this problem too, hopefully you’ll find some of these ideas helpful.

Note: Some images below are from houzz.com and cannot be pinned due to their copyright restrictions.

1 | Paint Everything The Same Color

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One paint color makes a small room look bigger because there are no visual “speed bumps”.

It provides a continuous surface and flow so your eye doesn’t stop to register where the wall ends and the ceiling starts.

This is one of the major principles of making a space seem larger: 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.

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 of those visual “speed bumps”.

So…no…painting your room a dark color isn’t going to make it look smaller.

2 | Use Gloss Paint

Using paint that has a sheen to it causes more light to reflect into the room, and helps it to feel bigger.

This is especially true of dark colors.

If full-on gloss is a little too much for you, try going for an eggshell finish instead.

As an added bonus, these types of paint are also easier to clean.

3 | Hang A Large Scale Wallpaper Pattern

Similar to using the same paint color throughout the whole room, a repeating wallpaper pattern keeps the eye moving, which makes the the space seem larger. 

And if you can get matching curtains, even better!

4 | Put Up A Scenic Mural

Installing wallpaper that portrays a scene around the perimeter of the room expands the view almost like a window.

A picture like this one has a foreground and background that looks like a horizon, giving the illusion of more space.

5 | Hang Curtains Close to the Ceiling

Hanging curtains close to the ceiling makes the walls and windows look taller.  

In a small space, increasing the “volume” by making the ceiling feel higher will also help to make the room feel bigger.

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

6 | Make Windows A Focal Point

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 ones you do have are part of the focal point.  

In this case, the windows are pretty dramatic on their own, but the large silver curved floor lamp repeats the same shape and draws even more attention to them.

7 | Don’t Block The Light

Blue and white bedroom with curtains that extend past the window

If you don’t have large windows, make the most of the natural light you have by installing your curtains so they extend past the sides of the windows.

That way they make the window look larger and they don’t block any of the light (or the view) from outside.

8 | Take Advantage Of A View

For rooms that have a view, incorporate it into your room.

In this living room, the whole seating arrangement is set up to have all eyes on the windows.

With a good view of the outdoors, you don’t even notice the size of the space.

9 | Hang A Large Mirror

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.

Small living room with mirrored doors on a storage cabinet to 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!

10 | Pay Attention To What Is Reflected

Venetian style mirror over the sink in a small bathroom reflects the hallway art

The next one of our ideas to make a small room look bigger is to pay attention to what you see in your mirrors.

The best way to expand your space is to hang your mirror where it will  reflect a view out of a window.

But if that’s not possible, try to position it so you can see something pretty in it.

In my guest bathroom, the mirror over the sink reflects the scene painted on the hallway wall outside the door.

Which acts like a window to make the room seem larger.

11 | Bigger Is Better

When it comes to artwork (and even furniture), a few larger pieces are better than a lot of little pieces.

It seems a little counter-intuitive, but having too many little things just makes the room look cluttered and feel claustrophobic.

Small living room with large patterned area rug

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 room feel bigger than it is.

12 | Use One Floor Covering

Small office with wood floors

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

Using only one type of floor covering works on the same principle. (Are you starting to see a common pattern?)

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.

13 | Get A Large Area Rug

Which leads us to the next tip: If you are using an area rug, make sure it is big enough.

It should cover most of the visible floor space.

Along with the “leggy” furniture and mirrors, this area rug helps to make this room seem more spacious than it actually is.

14 | Pay Attention To The Flooring Direction

Flooring installation direction diagram

If you are installing new flooring that has a direction to it (like the planks in wood floors), pay attention to which way the pattern is pointing.

It will make that direction of the room look longer.

In a long narrow room, install the flooring width-wise to make the room appear wider.

Living room with an area rug with stripes

The same thing applies if you have an area rug with stripes.

15 | Buy Furniture With Legs

One trick for making a room seem larger is to show as much of the floor as possible.

Your brain 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.

16 | Use Clear Furniture

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.

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.

17 | Install Built-ins

Installing built-ins is 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!

18 | Provide Extra Storage

Small home office with built-in shelves and a window bench

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

Small home office built in with legs and mirror surfaces

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 space-enlarging tips at one time.

It provides the storage function of a built-in…and also has legs and mirror surfaces.  

A perfect solution for a small room!

19 | Use Benches

Dining room with a bench built in on one side

The next one of our ideas to make a small room look bigger is to use more benches.

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.  

A built-in bench on one side of the dining table allows the table to be pushed in closer to the wall.

Dining room table with benches on both sides

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!

20 | Place Furniture On An Angle

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 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.

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

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15 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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