Don't Make These 7 Mistakes in Small Spaces

For years it seemed like large houses were all the rage with builders, decorators, and even homeowners. These days, however, there's been a shift in perception as more and more people aim to scale down their square footage and challenge themselves to live large in a smaller space. Doing so requires creative ideas and a strong will to discern what to keep and what to let go—not such an easy task for many of us.

There are definitely advantages to living in a small space as opposed to a large one. The idea that you have less to clean and maintain is tantalizing for many. After all, in a small space, you are forced to focus on quality over quantity, and surround yourself only with things that you really love and that truly serve a purpose. Not to mention, you’re automatically encouraged to stay close to those with whom you live.

Many designers, especially in cities where space is at a premium, specialize in bringing the best small space ideas to fruition. Maximizing storage potential, and creating the illusion of space with lighting, color, and furniture placement are all key. Here, three experts reveal common mistakes homeowners make when designing a small space and offer their advice and ideas on how to avoid them.

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  1. Thinking Small


    Instead of choosing a petite rug or a junior-size sofa, go big and bold with a few statement pieces like a dramatic lamp or art, suggests Janet Lee, author of Living in a Nutshell and founder of the blog "A few over-scaled pieces placed in key spots can maximize the feeling of space even in the smallest rooms," she says.

  2. Dark Walls


    "Don't paint all the walls of a small room a dark color or it will feel like a cave," points out Claire Middleton, author of Secrets of Small-House Living . A better idea? "Try putting the dark color on just one wall and painting the others a light, coordinating shade. Or simply stick with a brighter color for the entire space."

    Related:  10 Color Picks to Set Any Mood in Your Bedroom

  3. Too Much Clutter


    Holding onto too many possessions creates a cramped feeling in small spaces. "My advice is always, 'If you don't love it or use it, lose it!'" says Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness and founder of the blog "Purge regularly. Even 15 minutes of organizing a day can make a big difference."

    Related:  16 Sneaky Storage Ideas

    Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

  4. Blocking Natural Light


    "Instead of keeping windows covered up, bring in natural light whenever possible," Claire Middleton urges. When installing curtains, avoid hanging them at the same level as the window trim, she advises. "Position rods or hardware up near the ceiling and your room will seem taller and more spacious," she reports. "And plan for curtains or drapes to open right to the edges of the window."

    Related:  8 Bright Ideas to Boost Natural Light

    Zillow Digs home in Santa Barbara, CA

  5. Lining the Perimeter of the Room


    It may seem a natural inclination to push furniture against the wall to maximize floor space in a tiny room, but Janet Lee has found that doing so tends to make already cozy interiors feel even more confined. "Placing the sofa even a few inches away from the wall will create a little breathing room and make the space feel larger," she observes.

    Related:  An Expert Reveals the Rules for Arranging Furniture

    Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

  6. Lackluster Lighting


    In place of a single overhead fixture, Janet Lee suggests multiple sources of ambient light to enliven small spaces. "First fill the space with soft light from floor lamps or track lights angled to bounce off the ceiling, then mix in task lamps and pendant lighting to accent work, play, and rest zones," she says. As a finishing touch, "add a glow factor from reflective surfaces."

    Related:  The 9 Best Lighting Picks for Your Bedroom

    Zillow Digs home in Scottsdale, AZ

  7. Overlooking Potential Storage


    Maximizing space is the key to uncluttered rooms, but not everything needs to be stored in a closet, cabinet, or drawer. "Think outside the box," Donna Smallin Kuper counsels. "Use a magnetic strip on a kitchen wall to hold utensils or hang a shoe-bag over the back of a door to organize pantry items, cleaning supplies, even belts and socks."

    Related:  9 Creative Uses for the Back of Any Door

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