10 Decorating Mistakes That Make Your House Look Smaller

The current trend toward smaller houses is a terrific development--it’s practical, thrifty, and good for the planet. But, outfitting a scaled-down home, one needs to plan carefully--a few wrong decorating moves, and the walls may feel like they’re closing in. For a pad that feels as spacious as it is stylish, avoid these common missteps.

  1. Too Much Furniture

    Shelving storage

    Zillow Digs home in College Station, TX

    Built-ins are the way to go in a small home – think about storage seats built to serve as a dining bench, shelving at the end of the hallway, or a custom storage wall in the living room. The fewer pieces of furniture you have cluttering your rooms, the more spacious your place will feel.

    Related: 10 Ways to Live Large in a Very Small Space

  2. Too Much Color

    Accent color

    Zillow Digs home in Anchorage, AK

    Forget rules that say that you should only use neutrals in a small space. The key to using bright hues is sticking to just one per room, and using them in small amounts. An accent wall or bright bedding can add a great pop of energy without overwhelming a tiny space.

    Related: 9 Shortcuts to Picking a Paint Color

  3. Too Much Clutter

    Uncluttered living room

    Zillow Digs home in Duvall, WA

    When you’re living small, you need to be ruthless about keeping it simple. To keep your home from feeling claustrophobic, pare down your collections to a few pieces you adore, invest in attractive storage pieces to hide your unsightly essentials (think: kitchen tools and toiletries), and train yourself and your family to pick up and put away toys, books, and other doodads after use.

    Related: 23 Insanely Clever Ways to Beat Clutter

  4. Heavy Curtains

    Window treatments

    Zillow Digs home in Bellevue, WA

    Let the sun shine in! If your home is short on square footage, welcome in the outdoors by using the most light-giving—and transparent—window coverings possible, while still allowing for privacy. Or, if your neighbors aren’t too close, use no coverings at all.

    Related: 7 Ways to Bring the Outdoors In

  5. Dim Lighting

    Sconce bathroom

    Zillow Digs home in Santa Barbara, CA

    Again, in a tight space, light is your friend. Augment overhead lights with sconces (which take up no floor space) hung at eye-level or some simple, slender floor or table lamps. Creating soft pools of light will help make the walls recede.

    Related: 8 Common Lighting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

  6. Chopped-Up Floors

    Area rug room

    Zillow Digs home in Dallas, TX

    When thinking about what should be underfoot, try to keep it as streamlined as possible. Your best option: Choose area rugs that match the flooring as closely as possible, and avoid lots of tiny scatter rugs – opt for a few bigger ones instead.

    Related: 10 Area Rugs You Can Actually Afford

  7. Ponderous Furniture

    Small dining room

    Zillow Digs home in San Francisco, CA

    We love hand-me-downs, but trying to cram in Grandma’s entire dining-room set, including the big brown china cupboard and the heavy buffet, is only going to make your place seem tiny and gloomy. It’s fine to mix in some special pieces, but for most part, furnishings should be scaled for your space and light on their feet (you should be able to see the floor under the sofa, for example).

    Related: 20 Insanely Easy Ways to Build Your Own Furniture

  8. Busy Wall Decor

    Dining room art

    Zillow Digs home in Wilton, CT

    If your house is lilliputian, edit your art and photo collection with a strict eye. Choose one or two bold items per room, and avoid those multi-frame “gallery walls,” which really need plenty of space to breathe.

    Related: 8 Things You Never Thought to Frame—But Should

  9. Overstuffed Entryway


    Zillow Digs home in Lake Oswego, OR

    To make your house look bigger, it’s important to stay organized, especially in the entryway, where first impressions are made. Whenever possible, opt for closed storage—use a basket for shoes, rather than shelves, and stash coats in a closet or slim wardrobe instead of on hooks.

    Related: 18 Inviting Entryways We Love

  10. Too Much Pattern

    Patterned rug

    Zillow Digs home in Water Mill, NY

    You might be tempted to match wallpaper to fabric to carpet in your tiny house—but too much of the same pattern in a small space can be crazy-making. Instead, use mostly solids with a few patterns thrown in for fun—and remember to keep the color palette limited.

    Related: 7 Classic Colors We Love to Live With

  11. See the House of the Week


    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!