7 Things to Avoid When Designing a Small Space


Designing a small space or home can be a trap for the unwary. Things you think you should turn out to be quite lovely in practice, while design choices you might think are good common sense can turn the room dark or cramped. Here are seven things to steer clear of when decorating a small room and what to try instead.

1. Painting all four walls a dark color

It’s true that sometimes a dark color can make a small, confined space feel paradoxically more expansive and bigger. However, what usually happens with small rooms is that four dark walls make the space feel like a dark and gloomy cave.

Instead, Do This: If you really want the drama of dark paint color on the walls, choose a single wall and paint it dark gray, navy, or even black while reserving the other three walls for a lighter tone. Be aware, though, that strong and dark colors might turn off potential home buyers, so if you’re contemplating selling your home quickly in the next several months, you might want to stick to a neutral palette.

2. Placing all furniture against the walls

It’s tempting to try to maximize the central space of a small room by pushing your furniture against the walls. That’s a mistake, as it often has the opposite effect of creating a sense of an even smaller, more crowded space.

Instead, Do This: Leave space to maneuver, but stagger your furniture placement and leave at least a few inches between each piece and the wall.

3. Installing dark, heavy curtains and window treatments

Maximizing the available light helps make small spaces feel bigger and brighter. Covering up the windows with heavy fabrics and coverings deprives the space of that invaluable natural light.

Instead, Do This: Look for lighter, sheerer fabrics, and save the blackout drapes for the bedrooms.

4. Cramming too much on top of horizontal surfaces

Small spaces need more creative storage solutions. That’s a given. But what often happens in small rooms is that the available surfaces become crammed with all kinds of objects from decorative things like picture frames and vases to everyday objects you use in the room. That’s especially true for kitchens and bathrooms.

Instead, Do This: Restrict the horizontal space to just a few things and add shelving on the walls. Additionally, research size-appropriate storage solutions to help corral smaller items out of sight.

5. Allowing for excessive clutter

One thing will end your quest for perfect interior design in a small space and that’s clutter. Smaller rooms and areas work to magnify “stuff,” so it’s even more important to keep the area clean and tidy. Think about the old maxim: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Instead, Do This: It’s still possible to explore your maxim a list design dreams. Choose a few larger pieces with complementary designs and color schemes, and make sure you have storage that suits the room’s aesthetic for everything that might contribute to the cluttered feeling if it’s out in plain sight. As a bonus, clearing out the clutter is a simple and easy way to stage your home for a quick cash sale.

6. Choosing complicated color schemes

Sometimes, a riot of color feels right in an interior space. But when that space is small, too many contrasting colors can make the space feel chaotic and closed-in.

Instead, Do This: You don’t need to stick to an all-white palette. That can make a small room feel institutional. Simply choose one neutral shade for the walls and a complementary trim. Add other colors judiciously by selectively curating art and decorative pieces.

7. Selecting only heavy furniture pieces

Big, heavy traditional furniture lines can look out of place in a small area if that’s all the eye sees. Heavy legs, solid backs, and dark wood tones can overwhelm any design style if the room isn’t large enough to comfortably host such significant pieces.

Instead, Do This: Mix it up! Look for lighter pieces like occasional chairs and end tables to create a balance in the room

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