How to Make a Small Room Look Bigger

12 tips for decorating, furniture selecting, choosing paint colors, and utilizing function to make a small room look bigger. 

Even though our 1960 colonial has rooms much smaller than our brand new builder grade house did, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Because even though the ceilings aren’t nearly as tall, there are fewer cabinets, and it is the furthest thing from “open concept” as you can get, we’ve figured out so many small room decorating tricks to make each room appear to be much larger than it really is.

And then I realized, hey! I haven’t shared any of them!

(UPDATE: You can find more tips from the Simplified Decorating series here.)

making a small room look bigger

If you have spots in your home that you’ve been challenged with, I hope these small room ideas for tricking the eye can help. And if you look at the photos in this post and think, “That is not a small room,” you’ve officially been visually tricked. 😉

How to make a small room seem larger:

1. Use very light colors or very dark colors to give a room depth.

Medium shades can make a room appear smaller, but when you use bright whites and deep dark paint colors, you create contrast, which creates depth and the illusion of a larger space. (Our paint colors we’ve used are listed here.)

 

small kitchen ideas - use very light colors and very dark colors to create contrast and make a small room seem larger

 

2. Utilize hidden storage or multi-functional furniture.

We built this window seat for storing all of our TV components for that reason so that it would double as extra seating when we have company over. We use lots of baskets for holding chew toys for our dogs and blankets. If everything you use can be tucked in a designated spot out of the way, you eliminate clutter and give the appearance of space.

small living room ideas - utilize hidden storage and multi-use furniture to make a small room look bigger

3. Hang floor-to-ceiling curtains.

Hanging long curtains just below the ceiling that sweep all the way down to the floor is like putting stiletto heels on a room. Ceilings instantly look higher. I like IKEA’s the best because they consistently carry inexpensive 96″ curtains that are harder to find in other stores.

small room decorating ideas - hang floor-to-ceiling curtains to make a small room look bigger

4. Use a few larger decorative accents instead of many small decorative items

Lots of small knick-knacks tend to feel like clutter and make a room look smaller. Use the triangle rule and symmetry when styling vignettes on coffee tables, nightstands, dresser tops, and dining tables and limit decor groupings to 3 or 5 items. But you don’t need decor accents on every single surface of your home. Let a room “breathe”. See this post for extra vignette styling tips or you can see a video in my Instagram Stories highlights about it. 

use just a few larger decorative pieces instead of lots of small knick-knacks to make a small room look bigger

5. Display large-scale art.

If you have a small room and want to hang wall decor, opt for one large piece of art or a wall accent instead of a gallery wall of smaller items. If you really want a gallery wall with smaller pieces, limit it to the one wall and go simple large-scale on the other walls in the room. And it’s okay to leave some walls blank to prevent the room from feeling cluttered and overwhelming. (Here is some of my favorite large-scale art.)

small dining room ideas - display large-scale art to make a small room look bigger

6. Use a few lamps to spread light evenly around the room instead of relying completely on one overhead light.

Having multiple sources of light in a room can make the space feel more expansive. It’s really helpful in rooms that have limited natural light.

small living room ideas - use several lamps spread around a space to make a small room look bigger

7. Use rugs to define the spaces.

Area rugs help rooms feel finished and pulled together. But they can also create the illusion of more square footage.

small dining room ideas - use rugs to define spaces and make small rooms look bigger

8. Opt for a large statement piece of furniture.

It’s better to have a large sofa and 1 accent chair in a living room than 4 accent chairs. If you can fit a king sized bed in a bedroom, go for it. Our master bedroom is just barely large enough for a king-size bed, but it does make the room feel larger than a queen-size would.

small bedroom ideas - Opt for a large statement piece of furniture to make a small room look bigger

9. Buy furniture with exposed legs to make a space feel more open.

Chairs, sofas, and beds with skirts can feel boxy. But if you opt for furniture with exposed legs, it creates the illusion of extra room. (Here are some of my favorite chairs and beds.)

small living room ideas - buy furniture with open legs to make a small room look bigger

10. Place mirrors on dark walls that don’t get much natural light.

Hanging mirrors allows you to bounce light from windows and create the illusion of more square footage.

small dining room ideas - place mirrors on dark walls that don't get much natural light to make a small room look bigger

11. Declutter, declutter, declutter.

We try to make a habit of decluttering cabinets, closets, and any other rooms that start feeling too “full” every 6 months (typically around Daylight Savings Time) to prevent our home from being overcrowded. Even a large room that is cluttered will feel small.

small laundry room ideas - declutter and have a place for everything to make small rooms look bigger

12. Buy a visually interesting ceiling light fixture.

Incorporating ceiling lights with details draws the eye upwards and adds height to a room. (These are some of my favorite chandeliers, flush mounts, and kids’ lighting.)

small playroom ideas - buy a visually interesting light fixture to make small rooms look bigger

 

Do you have any other tricks you use for making your rooms feel expansive? I’m sure there are plenty more, but those are the ones we usually stick to. And they WORK!

Drop any tips you have in the comments.

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12 tips for decorating, furniture selecting, and utilizing function to make a small room look bigger. #smallroom #smallroomlookbigger #decorating

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23 Comments

  1. My biggest thing for making it look bigger not cluttered comes from my boyfriends parents. When I first went to there house immediately I thought wow did they just move in orbit where is all there stuff ? They had a coffee pot and 1 kitchen utensil holder and a shelf with a ton of chickens on it and that was it (for the kitchen anyway) and so much cointer tops it was weird ! But as my messy habits drive me crazy I tried the nothing on the counter and it worked it was actually easier to find things when not on the counters and was super easy to clean up after cooking and it made my whole house look neat and tidy and before it looked disastrous even with an open floor plan but the kitchen is visible throughout the living areas so i understand why it would make everything else messy looking and small

  2. Paint the room white! We all know of white’s reflective qualities. It opens up a room, making it feel airy and light, calm and serene. Painting the walls and ceiling the same shade of white only enhances this cloud-like effect. And it serves to blur the boundaries between wall and ceiling, causing your eye to travel up, essentially making the ceiling seem higher. Finally, in small spaces that can quickly become cluttered looking, white is a good choice because it simplifies a space and emphasizes the architecture.

  3. I paint the entire house the same color – since you can see most of the house from other spaces it creates a continuous visual path for the eye. I usually paint the ceilings a bright reflective white, and the walls are an off white that picks up ambient color. Then the floors are neutral but spectacular. Then I build color with the furnishings and art, I add light fixtures and accessories. My tastes are very eclectic so for example my kitchen/dining area is black, white and filled with lots of greens and browns. My bedroom is very calming but has bright art and lots of textural fabrics. We are about to complete an huge remodel, it’s getting exciting.

  4. Lauren, thank you so much for these wonderful tips. Who don’t have at east one small room to two, or three that you wish it was lager, to at least appears that way, thanks to you, I have a room tat I will be using your tips to improve its looks. I also love the idea how you and your family decluttering, I got to give this a try. Thank you , as always.

  5. I loooove all this advice!! We live in a 1970’s ranch with a very unusual floor plan, but we have vaulted ceilings. Seriously, it’s weird and I always have a hard to making it seem warm, yet open. You’re a genius, girlfriend! I’m going to walk around the house now and see what I can fix…which I’m sure is A LOT! Ahhh!

  6. Boy do I have small rooms. I think you wrote this one just for me. I really need to remember to decorate with larger pieces and less is more.

  7. Great post! We’ve all had those what to do with small roon moments. You’ve come up with wonderful ideas.

  8. You are so amazing how you can style a home so beautifully and affordably!!!

    I do have to ask where you got your beautiful tote bag hanging next to your laundry room. i’m looking for a new bag and I can’t take my eyes off of that one!!!

    1. You’re so sweet, Dawn. Thank you! I got it from Target, but it was a couple of years ago, so I believe it’s been discontinued.

  9. Painting walls, woodwork, ceiling 1 light colour, floor as close a match as possible makes room much bigger. If entire home same it looks really big.
    Then use diff furnishing, picture colours in each room.
    My small flat is dove grey – walls, ceiling, floor & woodwork except doors which are Chocolate brown.
    My tiny one bedroom flat looks so airy. Each room is themed to somewhere special to me & late SO.
    Bedroom Paris – dove grey/chocolate with white furniture, pale pink curtains. Dove grey valance & white bedspread. Cushions in pinks, cream, white, pale grey
    Kitchen Tuscany – dove grey/chocolate with yellow, red & green though floor here is terracotta tiles.
    Bathroom Cornwall – dove grey/chocolate blues, pastel green, pink, yellow, cream
    Living room Our first home – dove grey/chocolate, Wooden furniture, green, gold, red, black
    Hall (foyer/mudroom) – New Forest – dove grey/chocolate, greens, browns, heather, red, yellow
    Apart from my bedroom all other rooms pick up on each other and so although small rooms and doors closed it still feels light and airy. Use your curtain, lamps & mirror tips.

  10. I just love all your suggestions to visually enlarge our rooms! Good job! I have lots to do…one day at a time.

  11. Recently found your blog and was inspired by your laundry room. We’re in the downsizing of life and recently moved out of a two-story 3500 sqft to 2300 one story new build. My first room to tackle was the laundry room. I don’t have a window but was awe struck by the SW Slate Tile color. At first – yuk! But after buying a sample and seeing in on the wall it was a winner! I even copied your peg board idea/baskets! I’ve had more compliments on this room! Storage solutions have been a big issue and still after 3 months trying to figure things out – especially in the kitchen. My poor husband – he can never find where the forks are! LOL Keep up the great work.

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