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This Is How 5 Designers Make Their Small Home Look Like a Mansion

bright modern room

Tara Kantor

As someone who rents a small apartment in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, I know how challenging it can be to decorate your dream home with limited square footage—check out my simple floor plans for some tips. While my inner interior design nerd has fallen hard for oversize pendant lights and a plush three-seater sofa, my little living room doesn't have the ceiling or floor space to accommodate. I also don't have the large budget required to purchase those big-ticket items anyway. Decorating small spaces on a budget can be tricky.

So how does one re-create that millionaire look on a shoestring? Turns out, the devil really is in the details. When we asked our designer network, they had some very simple yet achievable and affordable formulas (with décor suggestions too) that will transform your studio into an elevated space you'll love. It's not as hard (or as expensive) as you think. 

Living Room

modern living room
Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

When it comes to creating a high-end look on a budget, it's safe to say Orlando Soria has made it an art form. As the founder of Homemaker, Soria has transformed many interiors both small and large into living masterpieces, all while sticking to a budget—you should see what he did with this kitchen. He shares his tips with us to re-create it in our living rooms at home. 

Go sisal:

"Sisal or jute rugs tend to be a lot more affordable than most others, yet they still have a warm, high-end look that doesn't compromise the style of your home."

Look high, look low:

"I always tell clients to splurge on one item that's really important to them and scrimp everywhere else. My splurge would be a distinctive piece of lighting or a coffee table, a centerpiece you'll really notice. My scrimp would be on occasional chairs or seating you don't use all the time." 

If you see something cheap/cool, snag it:

"Big-box bargain stores constantly have cool accessories and even furniture, but you have to grab it when you see it. The trend-based, seasonal items usually aren't re-stocked once they've sold out, so if you snooze, you lose." 

As the VP of product development for Williams Sonoma Home, Lainey Hollis has an eye for detail. She travels the world sourcing beautiful textiles and materials for each stunning collection and prides herself on bringing those influences into your home right down to the smallest eye-catching decorative objects. Here she shares the four things that elevate every living room:

Decorate in pairs:

"This is the best-kept secret of designers that never fails. Whether it’s a pair of chairs, artwork, or lighting, it adds symmetry and creates balance." 

Shine always looks expensive:

"Think polished brass or nickel accents. Small touches of high shine look luxurious."  

Create a focal piece and then add finishing touches:

"Start with a large piece, such as a tall vase or sculpture. Add a collection of smaller pieces, like a grouping of books with bookends, as the finishing touch. Using one large piece as a focal point is sophisticated and extremely impactful without incurring a large expense.

You can also apply this trick with artwork on your walls by pairing a large piece of artwork with small prints around it." 

Mix pattern and texture for a rich layered look:

"Add dimension without a major investment with a mix of solid, textured, and embellished pillows on a sofa."

reading nook
Eve Wilson ; DESIGN: Robson Rak Architects


white kitchen
Shannon McGrath DESIGN: Robson Rak Architects

The living room isn't the only place where Hollis's talents lie. Ahead she shares some money-saving tips for making a small kitchen look expensive too.

Marble and copper accents are timeless kitchen classics:

"Marble and copper happen to be trending right now and have always been my favorite go-to materials for a timeless kitchen that looks elevated. Whether it's a bowl or a coaster, you can’t go wrong with these accents."

Cheese boards steal the show:

"Cheese boards come in a variety of price points and materials. I love having them on display on the kitchen countertop."

Fresh flowers add the perfect finishing touch to the kitchen:

"I always fill a cachepot with bulbs or orchids and place it on my kitchen table. It's elegant and fresh. And who doesn't love flowers?"

Mirror Mirror on the wall:

"A chic mirror looks expensive regardless of price, makes your space look larger, and can be rested on furniture or hung on the wall."

small kitchen—brady tolbert
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Brady Tolbert


small bathroom
Charissa Fay DESIGN: Becca Interiors for MyDomaine

UK interior designer Abigail Ahern is renowned for her dark, inky interiors that exude an Alice in Wonderland vibe. Ahern is a rule breaker with her highly eclectic and rich design work. Here she shares her top small-space tips that make your size-challenged bathroom look elevated.

Go dark:

"No one actually believes me until they do this, but the single most transformative thing you do to small rooms is to paint them dark. Trust me, the space will immediately transform into a super-sophisticated space. Dark colors are just the bee's knees. They reflect less light, blurring the edges of the room adding depth and intrigue. So not only are you creating a super-cool room, you're actually making it look larger, all at the same time. Clever, no?"

Add something large:

"Think about adding large-scale art, plants, lighting, and mirrors. They will bring all the wow factor. If everything is the same scale in a room, the space will appear sterile and flat. The minute you plop something too big in the space is the minute you add instant grandeur. It's magical."

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors:

"Mirrors expand horizons, add depth, amplify the light, and create depth. They are game-changers."

neutral bathroom
A+B Kasha


dark bedroom
Genevieve Garruppo DESIGN: Tali Roth Interior Design

Homepolish designer, Tali Roth is a pro at decorating minimal apartments. As an Aussie expat living in New York, she's fused that fresh open-plan appeal from Down Under with the inner-city living of the Big Apple—you should check out her 1500-square-foot loft in NYC with major Scandinavian vibes. It's clear from the gorgeous bedroom above that she agrees with Ahern on using dark paints and decorative objects to open up a small space. Here she shares some of her secrets to decorating a beautiful tiny bedroom

Add statement lighting:

"Put up an awesome ceiling chandelier or flush mount (if you have low ceilings), as it will immediately add drama and distract from the size of the space. I love this Sphere and Stem Chandelier from West Elm for scale, light, and price point."

Consider long low lines and cohesiveness:

"Make sure your mattress is in line with your side tables. I would recommend lower, sleeker lines for a smaller room with an oversize piece of art above the bed. Make sure the side tables and/or bedside lighting match. This will help with making the space look more substantial and high end. The CB2 Facade bed is a great contemporary piece that looks gorgeous in reality." 

Ditch the clutter: 

"You need to keep the space minimal, including bedside tables lighting, rugs, and art. Be practical and ensure you have a place that is out of sight to put your dirty clothes and other miscellaneous items. Chaos on the floor will make the space look and feel smaller and less high end." 

Don't forget texture:

"I love as much texture as possible. Mix up the materials in the space and make sure there is enough contrast between shiny, matt, light, dark, distressed, and polished. A textured bed throw will add some drama to the bed. I love a great chunky wool throw. I search Etsy for small or local makers."

zen bedroom
A+B Kasha

Home Office

modern loft
A+B Kasha

Laurel & Wolf designer Kerry Vasquez is all about visual cohesion. She infuses her contemporary eclectic style into each space while keeping her client's end goal (and budget) in mind. Here she explains some simple tricks for reinvigorating a small home office and injecting some powerful CEO vibes.

Bring in art:

"One large piece of artwork in a clean simple white or natural wood frame can transform any space, especially an office. It's a real statement piece in an unexpected, sometimes overlooked room. Playing with scale, especially in a small space with a larger piece, adds a strong visual element that can help make the space feel instantly considered and designed."

Play with luxe accessories:

"Choosing basic office tools and equipment in polished brass or acrylic can instantly update an office and make it feel luxe. I was at Target recently and was blown away with the entire Nate Berkus home office collection. Everything was gorgeous and super affordable. I'm also a big proponent of sheepskin throws—on the floor, on a chair, anywhere. They instantly add a rich, soft texture that feels very luxurious." 

Inject greenery:

"A quick way to add a warm and luxe visual element to your space is to add your favorite fresh cut flowers in a pretty vase. Buy ones that smell great too and include all your senses. I'm a big fan of creating a visceral experience, and this instantly achieves that. By indulging all your senses, you automatically add luxury to your life. I also love adding plants, either smaller succulents on your desk or larger ones for a corner of the room in a pretty planter. Bringing this natural element indoors always feels luxe and considered."

modern workspace—home office
Lauren Moore Photography

How do you make a small space look elevated? Share your tips and tricks with us on Instagram using the hashtag #InMyDomaine.