8 Classic Ways to Make a Small Room Look Big

Plagued by tiny rooms? It's a common problem, especially in older houses, but employing a few simple tricks can help you make do with a room of virtually any size. More so than the dimensions of the space, what truly matters is how you make use of the square footage available. Click through to see eight impeccably designed rooms, each with a valuable lesson in small-space planning to impart.

  1. Seeing Double



    Mirrors aren't just for checking your hairdo. Hanging one ranks among the best methods to make a small space feel considerably larger. For maximum effect, position the mirror opposite a bright window to bounce light back into the room, so it seems bright and airy (though it may not, in fact, be either). Another approach is to cluster a group of framed mirrors: You get the same result but with visual interest, to boot.

  2. Scale It Back



    One of the most common mistakes in decorating is to fill a room with furniture that's too large for the space in question. Opt instead for smaller-scale pieces, ideally ones that can serve multiple purposes. Before making any purchases, use masking tap to mark out the footprint of the furniture you're considering. It's one thing to read the dimensions on paper; it's another thing to see how much space would actually be occupied. 

  3. Up, Up, and Away



    Low ceilings are notorious for making rooms of decent feel nonetheless cramped. Combat that effect by making the most of the vertical space. Decorate with accents like long curtains and pendant lights—anything to draw the eye upwards.

  4. Lighten Up



    The prevailing wisdom is never to use a dark color in a small room. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, that's still good advice. A safe play is to go neutral with light paint colors and furniture. Remember, neutral doesn't have to be boring—play with different textures and pops of accent color.

    Related: 21 "Expert Picks" for Fail-Safe Colors

  5. Leave Room for Rugs



    Never underestimate the power of optical illusion. A well-placed floor rug, for example, creates a room-within-a-room effect. Where possible—such as under a dining room table—lay down a rug so as to emphasize that borders the floorcovering. Don't ask me why, but somehow that really works to make the room appear more spacious.

  6. Let Stripes Be the Star



    Paint horizontal stripes to make a room look more expansive, vertical stripes to make it look taller. Yes, the risk is that your space might come out resembling a circus tent. To counteract this, choose low-contrast colors, such as gray and white or beige and brown.

  7. Don’t Overcrowd



    Knickknacks quickly crowd a room. Clear out the clutter, selecting only a few statement pieces to add interest and draw the eye. Also, trade bulky curtains for window treatments that are more streamlined. Indeed, mere inches count toward executing the illusion, and exposing more of the wall can help you achieve the desired result.

  8. Fade Away



    Choose furniture with glass components: You get the functionality needed without contributing to the visual heft of the room. For instance, forgo a heavy wood coffee table in favor of a glass-topped piece.

    Related: 16 Style-Setting Coffee Tables You Can Make Yourself

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