How to Make the Most of a Small Space

by | Dec 3, 2020

tiny houses

Living in a small space comes with its challenges. Small spaces tend to get more cluttered, and it may seem harder to decorate. In order to make the most of a small space, you have to think smarter and be creative. There’s a lot you can do to the space to make it more inviting and appear brighter and larger. Changes to the layout of the furniture can have a huge impact on the flow of the room as well, so this is something to consider if you are redecorating.

Tiny house trend

Australian’s love their McMansions, and we’re still building some of the biggest houses in the world in many parts of the country. With so much emphasis on keeping up with the neighbours, it might come as a surprise that house sizes are trending downwards. We’re more and more likely to consider an apartment or small home than we were five or 10 years ago.

The growing trend is towards urban consolidation, where people prefer to live closer to the city and amenities. This has driven the boom in apartments being built in and around the city fringes. Check out this article from Your Investment Property Magazine that details the types of properties we prefer, and what’s driving this shift.

Choosing furniture

Oversizing furniture is one of the most common mistakes I see being made in small spaces. If an item is too big for the room it’s in, then it will look and feel cluttered and busy. When buying or replacing furniture, ensure that it’s appropriately sized for the area.

Try to stick with a few key pieces and choose furniture that fits nicely in the room while still giving you plenty of space to walk around and be comfortable.

In our home styling service, our qualified interior designer will work with you to design a concept, select a colour palette that will work, and choose furniture and soft furnishings that suit your lifestyle.

Opt for multi-purpose furniture

If you’re working in a small space, it’s a great idea to use furniture that has multiple uses. For example, an ottoman or coffee table which also has a built-in storage compartment. This helps to reduce the number of items that you need in the room and also helps to keep your space from becoming too cluttered.

Ottoman with built-in storage, blue and white pattern

Select the right sofa style and size

As mentioned above, the scale of furniture in any room is key to its success. If you have a large room, and you don’t fill it with enough furniture, it will feel unbalanced and uninviting. The same applies to small rooms. You want the room to feel cosy and balanced, and be a space where you want to spend time. Therefore, picking the right size lounge or sofa is very important. It’s usually the biggest piece of furniture in the room, and the one you use the most!

I suggest taking measurements of your room, and then taking your tape measure with you when you’re shopping for a sofa. You need to avoid the temptation to put lots of stuff in a small space. The height of the lounge is also important. Get a lowline lounge if you can, as this will give the illusion of more space. Another tip is to use a lounge with no arms, as this will make the room look larger as the furniture is less chunky.

I encourage clients with small spaces to get a matching ottoman that doubles as a coffee table or chaise. This allows you to use it for extra seating when you have guests, but also use it as a table for putting your feet up when you’re lounging at home on your own.

Select a lounge colour that is going to match the rest of the décor in the room. A light-coloured sofa will help to make the room feel light and bright. However, this is not always practical if you have small children or animals in the house!

Use lowline furniture

Again, lowline furniture such as TV units and shelving also help to make the room look larger and more open. All the overhead space available in your room will make it look brighter and less cluttered.

grey sofa with cushions and a metal framed coffee table with glass top

Create the illusion of space with glass

A rounded table will take up less space than a square or rectangle table. Also, using a table with a glass top rather than a solid wooden one gives the illusion of more space as you can see in and around the table. The glass also reflects the light giving the room a brighter and more open feel to it.

round glass dining table with white wire chairs, charcoal wall with large artwork

Making the most of your small space

Install sliding doors

Where possible, it’s a great idea to use sliding cavity doors. They save room and allow you to use the limited space available to you more efficiently. They’re great for the bedroom, bathroom, and wardrobe doors. Sliding doors take up a lot less room when they are opened as they slide into the cavity in the wall. This gives you the ability to utilise the wall space and area surrounding the doorway for furniture or art.

Mount your TV

TV mounted on the wall, lowline tv entertainment unit

It’s surprising how much bigger your room will look without a big, bulky TV unit in it. Having the TV mounted to the wall opens up the space below the TV, giving the illusion of more room. Just remember to hide the cables and run them through a conduit or feed them back through the wall. This keeps them safely away from the kids and out of sight.

Use built-in storage where possible

If you’re looking at installing shelving, build it into the room and take it all the way to the ceiling. This elongates the space and naturally takes the eye up, which makes it feel bigger. I like to have doors on at least some of the shelves, so you can hide away things that aren’t worthy of display. As much as I love an open shelf, in a small space, it gets filled very quickly. 

formal living room with burnt orange armchairs and built-in cabintry

In a small kitchen, paying a little more for custom cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling is definitely worth the investment. You can put all the things you only use occasionally up the top, and out of the way. This adds an enormous amount of storage to any small kitchen.

In the bathroom, incorporating mirrored shaving cabinets and recessing them into the wall will add a huge amount of storage.

You can read my previous blog post on decluttering to learn how to part with unnecessary items.

Use the vertical spaces available

As mentioned before, taking your shelving all the way to the ceiling adds a massive amount of storage that would otherwise be wasted.

Another thing I have recently done in my bathroom is to pitch the ceiling on the same angle with the roofline. The room originally had a dropped ceiling, and it felt really cramped and small. So, when we demolished the room we took out the ceiling too. We then got a carpenter to change the ceiling line for us. This made a huge difference in the overall feeling of space in the room.

Small spaces can still be beautiful, they just require more planning and commitment to keep tidy and comfortable. Living in a smaller home has a positive impact on the environment, reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills! I like to remind myself how small homes are in Japan, especially the big cities like Tokyo.

Work with what you have, get creative, and most of all – have fun!