by Megan Glenn
Are you thinking of selling your house or condo, but you’re worried space seems too tight? Stop fretting! The rise of the tiny house movement means even the smallest of dwellings have become not only marketable, but fashionable. And armed with the knowledge of some basic techniques for creating the illusion of space, there’s no reason you can’t provide open, airy designs that will have potential buyers wowed.
Furniture that Fits
You may think that the best thing to do to make a small space look big is to empty it, but designer Kristie Barnett says an empty room gives buyers no sense of scale, and that she’s seen sales fall through simply because the client assumed furniture would not fit.
The trick, instead, is to get rid of overstuffed furniture and to choose one large piece that will be the central focus of the room. Judge every other item against this piece and ask if it serves a functional or design purpose. If the answer doesn’t come easy, get rid of it.
Opt for smaller, streamlined pieces, such as switching out that sectional sofa for a loveseat. Furniture that sits lower to the floor creates an illusion of space — think midcentury modern — and it is often more effective to group furniture on one side of a room or to create space between wall and furniture. When items are pushed against walls around the room it creates a cramped feel.
Experts also suggest placing taller items away from doorways so as not to visually close off the space upon entering. We tend to track a room from left to right just as we read, and incorporating horizontal elements that encourage us to track that way smoothly makes the room feel larger. Items that make our eyes bounce around the room tend to make the space feel smaller.
Keep It Light and Open
The first rule to increasing a sense of space is to de-clutter rooms. Clear surface tops and take down family pictures, store away extra pillows, and get rid of freestanding pieces that clutter the floor. You may need to consider gathering possessions and unnecessary furniture to keep in storage until your house is sold.
A second vital aspect of space is accenting natural light. Windows should be as open as possible to allow maximum light in. Instead of curtains, you might use blinds. If you must use curtains, hang the rod high and wide so that they can be opened to reveal the entire window.
A third trick to maximizing light is to incorporate mirrors into your design. A mirror placed across from a window not only reflects light back into the room, but enhances the illusion of larger, airier space. The effect can be increased by choosing furnishings that have chrome, polished metal, or mirrored trim. And when it comes to furnishings, show some leg. Air and light beneath your pieces only increases the sense of openness.
Finally, when it comes to actual lighting, get rid of the single overhead fixture which tends to dim the perimeter of the room and make it feel even smaller. Opt instead for strategically placed lamps that cast light into all areas of the room.
Decorate with Space in Mind
If you want to create an illusion of openness, paint walls in lighter, brighter colors. Most designers suggest shades of white, but you can choose a bolder color for one wall as accent. If you choose to do so, adding a few matching decorative touches such as pillows or artwork enhance the sense of unity and space.
Fabrics and materials can also contribute to our visual assessment of a room. Avoid heavy fabrics and dark bulky wood pieces. Linens, voiles, and tulles are better choices for keeping your space feeling open and light
Another suggestion is to carefully consider artwork and other decorative pieces. Minimize art, opting for one larger focal piece that is more neutral in theme. Remember that you’re showcasing the space, not your belongings. And for decorative pieces, a good rule of thumb is that anything smaller than a cantaloupe makes surfaces seem cluttered.
One last consideration is what to do with floors. Some designers recommend that you don’t include rugs at all. If you do decide to incorporate them, choose smaller rugs and orient them to define functional spaces within the room.
Make It Multifunctional
One way to make your rooms feel larger is to suggest their multi-functionality as you decorate. Stage a small den as a space that can double both as home office and as dining area. Choosing stackable furnishings and foldaway leaves can keep the space open while still suggesting multiple uses. A small bedroom with a murphy bed can act both as sleeping space and as an office, reading space, or work area.
Outdoor Space as Another Room
Don’t forget to take advantage of any outdoor areas on your property. A balcony or patio can be decorated to suggest a reading area, an eating space, or even a relaxing place to get work done. Even if the space is small, you can choose streamlined, folding furniture to suggest a dual space for grilling and entertaining or for settling down to serious business.