When most people look at a small room, they see problems. If you don't have a design background, the idea of squeezing a sofa into an already cramped living room or finding extra storage when floor space is limited just isn't fun. But when IKEA stylists enter a small space, they see opportunities.
It only takes a glance at their catalogs to see their unrivaled creativity when decorating a tiny apartment. Desks are repurposed as dining tables, built-in storage stretches up walls and above beds, and every single inch of the room is maximized.
It begs the question: Are you actually using all of your space to your advantage? If our chat with IKEA U.S. design spokesperson Janice Simonsen is anything to go by, the answer is probably "no." Here, we sifted through the best of IKEA's extensive interior images to pinpoint the styling tips that will make your home feel 10 times bigger.
Meet the Expert
Janice Simonsen is IKEA's US design spokesperson where she works to help the company keep tabs on design trends.
You don't need to buy a bigger home to find more space. Here's how an IKEA design pro would maximize your room.
Just because an item was designed for one purpose, doesn't mean that's all it can be used for. "One of the main principles of small space living is to have furnishings, particularly large items like tables, provide double duty," explains Simonsen.
Consider your existing furniture and ask yourself, 'how else could I use this piece?' "I love the idea of looking for an alternative use for a product beyond the obvious," she says.
Turn Clutter into Art
Don't worry, you don't have to throw away your five-year collection of Vogue or those records you haven't played in years. If left unstyled, stray items can look cluttered and occupy unnecessary space. Rather than toss or hide them away, think creatively about how you could display them to create a uniform wall. Stacking books with similar colored spines or old CDs on your bookcase is a great way to instantly make a room look considered.
Oh, and don't forget about those precious few inches of space underneath shelves that often go to waste. Stack books tight to the top of the shelf.
Walk into each room in your home and look up. According to Simonsen, the space above doors is among the most underused in homes. "Utilizing high cabinets above doors can help make the space feel less crowded. "Also, the best way to use high storage, as it’s not as accessible as lower cabinets, is to use it for storing items you do not need access to on daily basis, such as seasonal items that only need to be used a couple of times a year," she says.
If you'd rather mask open shelves or cabinets that stretch up the walls and above doorways, use lighting to guide the eye. A carefully chosen pendant hung low will shed light on the spotless countertop, rather than the storage above it.
Create a Dual Space
When space is limited, you need to think beyond the single, conventional purpose of a room. Need a guest bed? Add a convertible sofa to your living room. Want to create a home office? Create a built-in desk in your bookcase. If each room only fulfills one purpose, it's not working hard enough.
"We understand that small, flexible living space is becoming more and more important as many of our customers move to smaller urban areas and need rooms that provide dual functions," says Simonsen. "Good design and functionality is always a primary concern."
If you design your room based on the floorplan, it's time to think in 3D. "People’s natural instinct is to look at the “footprint” of a room when planning, and miss the other areas that provide extra storage," she says. Instead, consider creating levels in your room and play with height to segment the space.
In one small space makeover, the IKEA team created a loft-style bed by styling a bed on top of wood cabinets. "A small sitting or work area can also be created by constructing a small upper level," Simonsen says. "Another advantage of a high ceiling is that the space can be subdivided by panels or curtains that do not have to go all the way up to the ceiling. This allows extra light into a smaller space."
"I think the most important styling tip is to evaluate your needs, how you use your room(s) and create the space that’s right for you," says Simonsen. When every aspect of your home is personalized in response to your storage needs, you'll uncover tons of extra space.
She stresses that your closet is a great place to start. "Start by pulling everything out of the closet and evaluate the type of storage that’s needed," she says. "For example, if you’re storing mostly pants and shirts and can put long items like winter coats somewhere else, double up on hanging storage by installing two clothing rails rather than one. And don’t forget to use the back of the door for items like shoe storage products."
Yes, if there's only one take-home from an IKEA pro, it's this: Every inch, no matter how small or insignificant, counts.