The One Thing a Designer Would Never Do in a Small Space

Tiny apartment kitchen.
small space ideas—pottery barn
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

With limited space, creating a striking neutral design with a clean, streamlined aesthetic isn't easy, but we love the thrill of a challenge at MyDomaine HQ. And besides, we honestly believe that a small space is way more fun to decorate than a large one. Why? Well, it's just like Nate Berkus said at a recent event we attended: "You can spend more on the products you love because you don't need as much."

Adore marble? Thanks to your tiny kitchen, you only need four or five feet of it to create the countertop of your dreams. Have your eye on a fancy wallpaper? You can slather your entire vanity in it from floor to ceiling because you only need half the amount you would in a typical bathroom.

One brand that has perfected the art of fusing fashion with function is Pottery Barn. The brand's small-space collection called PB/Apartment features stylish, multipurpose furniture and décor that serve a practical need without sacrificing style or high-quality artisanal design. As small-space living is on the rise, it doesn't mean our homes have to skimp on style.

We took five with Monica Bhargava, Pottery Barn's EVP of design and product development, to find out her dos and don'ts for how to decorate a small space, including the trends we should adopt and the one thing we should never do.

Map It Out

how to decorate a small space—dining room
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Before you lament over how little space you have to decorate with, flip your perspective and see it as an exciting challenge instead. While Bhargava agrees that "small spaces require creativity," it should never compromise your personal taste or style, but planning is key. "It is important to map out your living space and take into consideration the different uses of the rooms and the moments that can be created," she advised. "Just because you have a small space, doesn't mean that the design has to be one note. Go for a dramatic moment, pop of color, or counter design. Play with configurations and make sure to maximize utility without sacrificing comfort."

Pro Tip: Invest in multifunctional pieces and mobile designs that can be easily moved around if needed. Your small space should be designed for entertaining, working, and living with character and charm.

Apply the Four-Letter Word Rule

how to decorate a small space—living room
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Now that you've unleashed your creativity and your design juices are flowing, there's one thing you need to consider first. "Don't forget the four-letter word: E-D-I-T," said Bhargava. "Prioritize what you need and what you don't. Choose multifunctional furniture that fits your specific lifestyle, and donate or recycle the items that create clutter in your space."

Pro Tip: Keep pieces that tell your story and help define your individuality.

Never Compromise Style

small kitchen
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

You only have to peek inside the home of stylish New Yorkers to know that tiny can be chic too. "Never feel as though you need to sacrifice style and quality due to the size of your space," stressed Bhargava. "There is a clever solution for every size home. Express your style through pieces that are adjustable or customizable (like the SoMa Sofa Collection). These individual pieces allow you to plan the perfect configuration for your space."

Pro tip: Considering each piece carefully to curate a room that fuses fashion with function and speaks volumes about who you are is the pro's secret for how to decorate a small space without compromising on style.

Stay on Neutral Ground

how to decorate a small bedroom
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

To ensure a cohesive, unified space that feels light and airy, Bhargava says to stick to a neutral palette. She loves anything from classic white to dramatic charcoal or even chocolate. "Choosing a neutral color for paint and larger furniture pieces allows you to bring in soulful accents such as patterned pillows or wall accents that catch the eye," she said.

Pro tip: Bring home a few sample paint pots in all the neutrals you love from light to moody and test them on the walls first. Or use this Sherwin-Williams Color Snap Visualizer to find the right color virtually first.

Make Sure It Has These Three Important Qualities

how to decorate a small space
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Even when you don't plan on overfilling a space, new things enter your home daily, and if they don't have a place, they can end up becoming clutter (something small spaces don't have room for). Always consider every piece and ensure every room has these three important qualities. "No matter the square footage, it should be functional, comfortable, and a reflection of your own personal style, so you are designing a space that you are truly happy to call home," she said. "Also, every room needs texture, and small spaces are no exception. Texture adds warmth to your space, so add textured pieces to your room to make it feel more inviting."

Pro tip: When considering how to decorate a small space, remember: Quality over quantity. Invest in the right pieces that add practical elements with style.

Introduce Multipurpose Products

small living room
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

If you want to make the most of your small space, invest in furniture that has more than one function. "Choose pieces with unexpected storage compartments and space-saving extensions," she said. "Also, don't neglect wall space. With mounted storage and modular shelves, you can make the most of every inch."

Pro tip: Add shelves that also have hooks so you can hang up pieces that might turn into clutter on the ground.

Invest in Chic Storage

how to decorate a small space kitchen
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Since most small spaces don't come with built-in storage (bonus if yours does), make sure you invest in stylish storage to separate everyday items and things you don't use every day before they turn into clutter. "Rolling carts, (like the Rainier Galvanized Cart) are amazing, as they can be used in any room of the home, from the kitchen to your workspace," she said. "I also like to use compact versions of traditionally large pieces, such as dressers."

Pro tip: When thinking about how to decorate a small space, keep in mind that, with the right positioning, a small dresser can also double as a bedside table.

Implement Small-Space Trends

small bedroom
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Since most trends are in one day and out the next, it can be tricky knowing which ones are worth the investment. That's not the case with small-space trends, which are focused on design function over fashion to maximize your space and really open it up—so they never go out of style. "As many small spaces lack ample storage, we see the importance of vertical storage and more integration of smart furniture," said Bhargava. "Creating your own private moments within your small space will also be a big trend. Whether that be a reading nook or an intimate dining area, think of subtle divisions that will create a sense of escape and relaxation." 

Pro tip: Create vignettes on top of multipurpose side tables to add extra style, personality, and flair.

Got a moment? These six common small-space decorating mistakes take just minutes to fix.