While you might have dreams of one day owning a massive estate filled with wide-open spaces, the reality is that most people have to work with smaller spaces. In fact, the average house in America in 2015 spanned 2,865 square feet, while the average size of apartments in some of the biggest cities in the U.S is 882 square feet. For example, the average size rental in Seattle, Washington, is just 711 square feet (that's smaller than the average in Manhattan, which is 733 square feet).
That said, there are benefits to working with a smaller space, and there are plenty of small room décor ideas to help you make the most of whatever square footage you have. According to interior designer Ginny Macdonald, small spaces tend to be cozier and easier to keep clean compared to larger spaces. "You can be selective about what pieces you have in there and focus on problem-solving," she points out.
Curious to know how this designer would approach decorating a small space? Keep reading for the 22 small room décor ideas we learned from the master.
If you're looking for a quick fix in a small space, start by assessing your current furniture and determine whether or not you need all of it. From there, you can get rid of underutilized pieces and swap in more space-efficient ones.
"The worst thing you can do is overcrowd a small room with too much furniture," Macdonald says. Pick furniture that really gets the job done and doesn't simply take up space. For example, Macdonald doesn't recommend placing a sectional sofa in a small living room. Instead, she suggests getting as big a sofa as the room can handle and then adding additional seating from there.
Change the Layout
The layout is pivotal in a small room. Because you may be lacking in square footage, where you place all of your furniture and décor matters more than ever. While there's no exact formula for the perfect layout, Macdonald has a suggestion for getting the most out of your space. "Depending on the shape of the room, always put the sofa on the longest wall as it will allow for other things to be positioned around it," she notes of living room layouts.
Elevate Your Furniture
When it comes to furnishings, Macdonald suggests finding pieces with legs to bring things off of the floor and create the illusion of more space. "[It] will keep things light and airy," she says. Plus, it will make your furniture easier to move, too.
Sneak in Seating
Macdonald recommends being savvy with extra seating options by sourcing poufs that can fit undeath a coffee table so they'll be hidden away when not in use. "Low bookcases can also be used as extra seating with a cute seat cushion added on top—this would look great under a window," she adds.
Use Every Inch
Be sure to take advantage of any wasted space. For example, installing extra hooks on the back of the door creates additional space to hang towels and robes out of sight. Under the bed, above kitchen cabinets, and around windows and doorways are other often underutilized areas.
Add a Fresh Coat of Paint
Painting a room is a relatively low-cost way to transform a small space in no time at all. But consider color carefully. "A lot of people think white makes rooms feel bigger, but if there is little to no natural light, then a [white] room can feel flat and lifeless," Macdonald explains. "By adding a mid-toned color, it helps to add depth to a small space." A darker tone can work too, but you run the risk of ending up with a room that appears even smaller. "But the upside to that is it'll feel cozy," Macdonald points out.
Let the Light In
Remember, in a small space (or any space, really), natural light is your best friend. "Where possible, avoid placing anything in front of the window," Macdonald advises. This is because you'll want to let in as much natural light as possible to make the room feel bigger than it actually is.
In any small room, but especially in the bathroom, Macdonald recommends creating as much room for storage as possible. "If you don't have a medicine cabinet, use some wall space to add small shelves for storage," she suggests, adding that the wall space above the toilet is often an area that goes unused.
To optimize your square footage, Macdonald suggests using the height of the walls entirely. That means adding shelving for storage next to the sofa instead of a traditional side table, for example.
For a custom design look, go the faux built-in route with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Move Your Bed
When it comes to the bedroom, Macdonald also suggests utilizing space by placing the largest piece of furniture against a wall, just like in the living room. "Don't be afraid to put your bed up against a wall," she encourages. This might even free up enough space for a dresser, a vanity, or a desk.
Ditch Upper Cabinets
It may sound rash to ditch your upper cabinets, but you'll be amazed at how wide open your kitchen will feel, especially if you can manage without the extra storage. Alternatively, open shelving will offer a similar effect without giving up storage space.
Lift the Lights
If you're short on surface space, don't sacrifice what you don't have to. Wall-mounted lamps and hanging pendants can easily take the place of floor and table lamps to clear up the clutter.
Take Time to Reflect
Although adding more décor elements into a small room may seem counterintuitive, Macdonald explains that certain pieces can work to open up any tiny space and even make it appear larger. Mirrors are at the top of her list. "Mirrors bounce light, so use these as much as possible as it will make the space feel bigger," she explains.
Art is a critical element to any well-appointed room, regardless of size—it can give personality to even the most boring of spaces. Macdonald would opt for a full floor-to-ceiling wall of art to make a room feel taller.
Clutter is the number one enemy of any small room. That's why Macdonald thinks it's important to have a place for all of your belongings. Think drawer organizers, shelves, and smart furniture. In the bedroom, drawer dividers can help keep things organized and ensure that there's space for everything.
Use Bins and Baskets
Decorative bins, boxes, and baskets are a great way to create storage and hide unsightly clutter. Tuck them under tables, on shelves, or above cabinets. You can also find a basket or tray to place either on top of the toilet or under the bathroom sink to hold extra rolls of paper, towels, and other small items.
Squeeze in Shelves
Strategically placed shelves are the perfect way to store more décor elements without crowding a space. "Add a small shelf at a high level that can be used for books and box storage as well as being styled out cute with vases and plants," Macdonald suggests.
When you're trying to make every last square foot count, embrace a strict "no nook left behind" mentality—that counts for awkward corners, closets, and cutouts. Look for furniture that makes the most of the space to take full advantage.
Make a Scene
There's no rule that says a small space can't be big on personality. If you're someone who appreciates making a statement, bring all the drama with bright colors, loud patterns, luxe metallics, and unique artwork. You do you.
On the other hand, if you're a bit nervous when it comes to playing with color, try sticking to a light neutral palette instead. You might be surprised at how warm and welcoming your space feels, even without the infusion of color.
When working with a neutral palette, create contrast by incorporating a variety of textures.
Design a Feature Wall
One easy trick to make a space feel roomier is opting for a feature wall. This draws the eye in towards the wall, instantly creating the illusion of depth. Paint, wallpaper, and paneling are a few options to get the look.
2015 Characteristics of New Housing. U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2015.
As Apartments Are Shrinking, Seattle Tops New York With The Smallest Rentals in the U.S. RentCafe Blog. November 30, 2018.