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14 clever ways to make small rooms look bigger

Want to make a small home feel bigger? Lisa Salmon seeks some tricks of the trade.


(Alamy/PA)

Many people live in compact or ‘bijou’ homes and would love a bit more space. If moving or extending simply aren’t an option, however, could you at least make your home look and feel bigger?


“There are a multitude of clever tricks to create the illusion of space in a smaller room, and they don’t have to break the bank,” says Sarah Lloyd, interiors and paint expert for Valspar.


Here, Lloyd and fellow interior designers outline cheap and easy ways to make rooms look bigger…


1. Use light paint colours


“Lighter shades of paint will help reflect light around your home and make it feel larger,” says Ryan McDonough, interior designer at Myjobquote.co.uk. “Whites, creams, and pale greys work well for this. Sticking to just one shade in each room will also help to enhance the space.”


Light walls and un-obscured windows help create an illusion of space (Alamy/PA)

Darker paint can highlight outlines and shadows, drawing the eye into the corners of a room and giving the impression of a smaller space, explains Lloyd. “Brighter walls are reflective and create an airy, open vibe,” she adds. “Soft whites and creamy colours are the perfect paint palette to maximise your space, and going lighter on wall trims and mouldings make walls appear further away.”


2. Paint skirting boards white


This can help create a clever optical illusion, explains Lloyd: “It makes the walls look further away, and takes very little time or cost to do.”


3. Include pops of colour


You don’t necessarily have to shy away from colour altogether, however. “Pops of colour against a lighter, neutral base can create a more aesthetically pleasing room, without making the space look overcrowded. So look for cupboards, countertops, seating, and other pieces of furniture or décor in your favourite shades,” says Chris Dance, director and head of design at InHouse Inspired Room Design.


“To keep your interiors feeling calm and sophisticated, choose just one aspect to add colour to and look for slightly more muted tones, like cherry reds, forest greens and navy blues, instead of bright primary colours.”


4. Go for feature stripes


Painting stripes on a feature wall is an interesting way to change the perception of a space – and allows for some individuality, says Lloyd. “Pairing colours effectively is important here,” she adds. “Vertical stripes in soft colours make ceilings look higher, and horizontal stripes make rooms appear wider, so they’re great for compact spaces.”


5. Scale back furniture


Although it’s tempting to push furniture against walls to give yourself as much room as possible, nothing makes a room seem smaller than having all your furniture against the walls, Lloyd warns: “Leaving space either side of sofas and cabinets creates a lovely sense of roominess.”


And if you’re buying any new furniture items, look for slimmer, less chunky designs, she advises. “Opting for thinner legs and less-bulky pieces lets light flow through the gaps and gives the impression that the furniture takes up less room.”


6. Fix the TV to the wall


Wall-mounting your TV saves precious space (Alamy/PA)

Lloyd suggests: “Installing a television on the wall looks modern and prevents taking up any precious floor space.”


7. Use the same flooring throughout


McDonough says you can create flow by using the same flooring throughout your home. “This will make a big difference in how large your home feels,” he promises. “Laying flooring boards is a great idea, and adding rugs can help create a more cosy feel, without having an effect on the visual spacious look.”


8. Ditch the drapes


Curtains block views of the outside and can make rooms seem more insular – even if they only cover part of the window, says Lloyd. “Installing blinds or shutters guarantees privacy without seeming too imposing, and if curtains are a must, choose a pole that extends far beyond the edges of the window so the view isn’t blocked,” she advises.


In addition, try using sheer fabrics where possible. “Lighter colours such as ivory and cream will seem almost translucent in a sheer material, and accentuate the room without overpowering it,” says Lloyd.


9. Maximise light


Dance says one of the main criticisms of small rooms is they can appear dark and stuffy. Where possible, ensure there’s enough light and ventilation. “This will help create a brighter, fresher space that’s more pleasant to be in,” he says. “Once you’ve let in all the natural light you can, identify any remaining dark corners and add lamps or LED strips to brighten them up.”


10. Use mirrors


Mirrors help reflect light (Alamy/PA)

McDonough says mirrors help reflect sunlight around the room. “A couple of large leaning mirrors against a wall can make a big difference in how big the room seems,” McDonough explains. “If you want to enhance the view and ensure as much light as possible is reflected, artfully place your mirrors so they reflect a window and the outdoor view.”


Dance suggests hanging a large feature mirror above a fireplace, or on a wall that’s perpendicular to a light source: “This not only gives the illusion of more space, but also helps reflect the natural light coming in from one angle, helping it shine into other parts of the room.”


11. Add reflective materials


Glossy tiles and other high-shine materials can help maximise the effect of a mirrored-style wall, says McDonough. “This will bounce light around the room and make the space seem much larger, more open, and airier,” he says.


Dance adds: “The mirroring method also extends to other furniture items — pieces made from polished wood and shiny metals can help bounce light around and make your small room appear larger.”


12. Clear clutter


Curate countertops carefully (Alamy/PA)

A small kitchen, for example, will benefit from clear countertops and surfaces. Dance suggests: “Then add a few carefully chosen ornaments or pieces of artwork to draw the eye towards these clear surfaces. Adding more décor may seem counter-intuitive, but it works because the space won’t be too overloaded with visual stimuli if everything else is neatly tidied away.”


13. Keep the floor clear


One of the best things you can do in a small home is to keep the floor as clear as possible, says McDonough. Try adding floating furniture, such as nightstands and shelves, to keep the ground clear, he suggests.


14. Use vertical storage


Dance says vertical storage techniques – including wall-mounted cupboards, floating shelving, ceiling racks, and other units that don’t rely on floor space – will maximise dead space on the walls. “By choosing vertical storage solutions over freestanding storage, you’ll have more room at ground level and the area won’t feel as cramped,” he says.

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