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Home & Garden

How to Live Large in a Small Space

Local designers share their best tips for maximizing a minimal footprint with decor.
By D Home |
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How to Live Large in a Small Space

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Just because you live in an apartment or tiny bungalow, that doesn’t mean your small spaces can still be big on style. Designers share their techniques for how to maximize a minimal footprint. 


“I downsized to 1,350 square feet, so I live this! Hidden storage and multifunctional furniture, but most of all: edit, edit, edit!” —Carrie Barron, Carrie Barron Interiors

“When it comes to designing, sometimes to move forward, you have to go back and edit to make a meaningful visual statement. This is not to say the process is meant to be painful—only that streamlining is central to creating a setting that radiates beauty, comfort and the feeling of well-being.” —Betty Lou Phillips, Betty Lou Phillips Interiors

“Less stuff, better stuff.” —Mil Bodron, Bodron/Fruit

Use Visual Trickery

“‘Seeing beyond’ is a favorite concept—openings align with windows so you have as long a view as possible. I like reflecting natural light with metallic, highly polished, or mirrored surfaces. A long sofa can make the space flow well.” —Kathy Adcock-Smith, Adcock-Smith Design

Make Every Surface Special

“Make sure you address ceiling treatments—they can add so much character to a small space.” —Sam Sano and Joslyn Taylor, SWOON

Draw the Eye Up—and Out

“For low ceilings we always use a gloss finish if possible and take curtains to the crown molding or
the ceiling to give an illusion of height.” —Pam Kelley, Pam Kelley Design

“Make the rug as simple and large as possible. A properly sized rug will draw your eye out and expand the room.” —Cameron Drinkwater, Cameron Drinkwater Interiors

Be Mindful of Your Palette and Patterns

“Use one upholstery fabric on all upholstered items.” —Alice Cottrell, Alice Cottrell Interior Design

“I like to start with a large single piece of art and use that as the inspiration and color palette for the rest of the small space.” —Dona Rosene, Dona Rosene Interiors

“Monochromatic wall colors throughout the house really helps one space transition into the other.” —Pam Kelley, Pam Kelley Design

Employ Multi-Purpose Pieces

“Almost every piece of furniture needs to be multi-functional. Tables that self-store leaves or convert from square to round with fold-under leaves, storage ottomans, coffee tables with drawers and shelves all help with storage, which is usually a challenge in small spaces. Kitchens with baseboard roll-out drawers for wine bottle or cookie sheet storage, built-in cutting boards over trash receptacles, and hidden storage below countertop in an island at the sit-down counter location.” —Suzy Childress, Childress Interiors, Inc.

Nail the Scale

“Start with a furniture plan! Draw out the size of the pieces and where they will go before you shop, otherwise the scale and proportion will be off. And in a smaller space, it will be much more noticeable.” —Mary Anne Smiley, Mary Anne Smiley Interiors LLC

“Don’t go too small with your furniture! You don’t necessarily have to have an apartment-sized sofa if you live in an apartment. Small pieces draw more attention to a small space. Make sure you get normal size pieces—like an 84-inch sofa—so you can take it with you when you move into a larger home.” —Emily Larkin, EJ Interiors

“Go bold! Using larger-scaled pieces always feels better than trying to scale down for a space.” —Philip Vanderford, Studio Thomas James

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