My husband and I live in, by most people’s standards, a small house. Minus the sunroom and basement, it’s listed at around 1200 square feet. In comparison, that’s smaller than the first apartment I rented in D.C. (Which to be fair was huge!) But with a three-year-old, a cat, and a baby on the way, it feels like we’re busting at the seams. And I’m a minimalist so that’s saying something! Quite frankly, our 1940s colonial wasn’t built with any storage and it’s starting to show. One day we will move. But until then, I still love my little house, and here are a few tips I’ve learned to make a small house feel bigger. Because maybe you’re feeling a little squished lately too!
How to Make a Small House Feel Bigger
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1. Pursue Minimalism.
Okay. I know you maximalists are shaking your head at me right now. You love your stuff! But hear me out. I’m not saying you have to become a full-blown minimalist. Just pursue minimal-ish. Start reading up about it. Start decluttering…slowly if need be but faster is better. Start donating. Start sorting. Start removing stuff from your home you don’t use or love. The fact is, any space will look and feel larger with less stuff in it. It’s science! I think. But it’s definitely true. If you’re trying to cram anything and everything into a small space you are going to feel squished in. Let go and spread out.
And don’t you worry, I have plenty of resources for you.
- The Minimalist Home: A Room by Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life
- 4 Steps to Declutter and Organize Your Entire Home (My post)
- How to Find Your Organizational Style
2. Use light paint colors.
My husband and I toured a house the other week (a beach house no less) that painted almost every wall either a dark forest green color or a dark maroon. The house itself was just under 4,000 sq ft so it should have felt large but instead felt very closed in and dark. If I had been their realtor I would have told them to paint every wall white before trying to sell, but I digress.
Light bounces off of light colors but goes to die when it hits dark colors. That’s not to say some people haven’t painted a wall here or there dark and it’s looked fabulous, but it has to be strategic. And it almost never works in an already small space. Besides white walls, I also love Sherwin Williams’ Seat Salt and Watery colors. So light and airy and pretty!
3. Use mirrors.
I love mirrors in my home and not because I’m vain. Similarly, light bounces off of mirrors and reflects back into a room. Mirrors can also make any room look twice as large as they reflect the room itself.
4. Open your windows!
Not literally, but that’s also a plus too. Just make sure you don’t cover them. It always drives me nuts when I see a bedroom where someone has placed the bed in front of the window. I get it, sometimes it’s necessary because of space but otherwise, it makes no sense. Let that natural light come in! Also, don’t cover your windows with heavy curtains, and if you do use curtains, keep them open when possible. Personally, I love easy pull-down shades that can be pulled down when you need privacy, but otherwise, are easy to open and let that natural light in.
5. Let your furniture breathe.
What I mean by this is: do not pile stuff on top of dresses or tables or side tables, and do not shove stuff under them either. I have a huge love of furniture with legs, probably because it helps create that light and airy feeling. Shoving stuff on top of or under only makes a room look more crowded and like you’re bursting at the seams. Again, let go of stuff if need be but let your furniture breathe. 😉
6. Scale down your furniture.
Furniture should be proportionate to the room it sits in. Ever see a gigantic sectional in a small room? It looks…stuffed. Yes, I know seats are important but you can add appropriate size seating to a room without going overboard. Going back to the beach house my husband and I toured, these people also loved HUGE bulky furniture. Again, the rooms were large but they looked smaller because of the heavy furniture placed in there. Not good for resale value. Not good for aesthetics.
7. Emphasize vertical lines.
Vertical shiplap, wallpaper with vertical stripes, and tall mirrors. What do all of these things have in common? They all help a room look taller than it is! It also creates the illusion of movement, keeping your eye going up-up-up instead of stuck in one place.
8. Clear pathways.
This is similar to minimalism and decluttering, but deserves its own point. Blocked walkways or dead-ends in a room make it look smaller. Do not place furniture in front of or too close to entrances or exits. Keep clutter at bay so people feel like they can walk around freely (Maybe even get rid of that coffee table everyone keeps tripping over!) A room cluttered with furniture or stuff only adds to the claustrophobic feeling.
9. Keep a cohesive design.
Going back to that beach house AGAIN. Not only did they paint most rooms dark colors, but every wall that wasn’t painted was plastered with wallpaper. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a wallpaper enthusiast. But it has to make sense and you can’t be mixing patterns that don’t below together. These people plastered walls with huge birdcage wallpaper, their closets with floral wallpaper, their CEILINGS, and textured wallpaper, and their bathrooms with hot air balloon wallpaper. Nothing was cohesive and instead of the wallpaper adding dimension to the house, made it feel like a funhouse at the carnival. One where you leave very dizzy and a little sick.
If you have a small place it’s best to keep the whole house or color, or at least similar light colors. Cohesive and light equals spaciousness, even when there isn’t much real space. And if you’re tight on budget, here are 4 Ways I Decorate on a Budget.
For more inspiration, check out one of my favorite books, Welcome Home: a Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting.
10. Keep it simple.
Light colors. Less furniture. Less stuff. You get the point by now. Keep the rooms, and design, simple and you’ll soon find your space doesn’t feel so small after all.
What’s your favorite tip to make a small house feel bigger? Make sure to also check out my post on 8 Design Styles To Turn Your House into a Home.
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Star Traci says
This is actually timely for me. My husband and I had our 1700 ft beach home damaged in the great Texas freeze of February. We are, therefore, living in a 320 sq ft trailer that we are making into a tiny home. While that is much smaller than what you are referencing, a lot of these tips are very helpful to remember.
my house is not big so I can definitely use these tips, I love the look of mirrors so I’ll add those
Such great tips! Finding the right sized furniture for a space is so essential.
I love these design elements to add to even the smallest area to make it feel roomy. Love the idea of adding mirrors, both decorative and functional.
Nadalie Bardo says
I find that even just painting one or two walls white REALLY opens up a space!