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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
More Small Space Decorating Ideas You Might Like
- How to fit 5 functions in one small multi-purpose room
- How to make your ceilings look taller
- Small bedroom makeover on a budget
Have comments or questions on how to make a small room look bigger? Tell us in the section below.
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This post was originally published on April 16, 2020 but was updated with new content on February 16, 2023.