Got a Moment? 20 Small-Space Decorating Mistakes To Avoid

Think light and bright.

Updated 09/24/19
Alyssa Rosenheck

When you live in a tiny home, it can be a puzzle to arrange your furniture so that it is equally functional, stylish, and expansive. That new pair of heels? We guess they'll have to double as décor on the mantel. That massive accumulation of books? Say hello to a makeshift side table. If you find yourself living in close quarters, then we don't need to remind you how tricky decorating can be in a small space, where maximizing storage, utilizing square footage, and creative organization hacks are of utmost importance.

Decorating Tips for Small Spaces
Emily Roberts/MyDomaine

And while we often like to share new advice for making the most of your tiny housing, sometimes it can be more helpful to share what not to do. Since everyone has made some mistakes along the way, we thought we'd share our quick fixes so you can avoid learning the hard way.

From underestimating natural light to fighting a room's size, read on for 20 mistakes to watch out for when decorating small spaces.

01 of 20

Mistake: Underestimating Natural Light

Natural light filters into all-white bedroom with chandelier
Alyssa Rosenheck

Natural light is a small space's best friend. Maximize yours by placing mirrors on opposite walls from your windows to reflect and spread the light. Opt for woven blinds or sheer privacy curtains to filter sunlight rather than block it.

If the natural rays filtering into your space are limited, keep your paint hues and dominant furniture colors light to brighten the overall mood.

Gubi Ponti F.A. 33 Rectangular Wall Mirror $1552
Shop
02 of 20

Mistake: Interrupting Visual Flow

Neutral toned living room with couch, two chairs and cylindrical floor lamp
Sharyn Cairns

Cohesion, cohesion, cohesion. If your home has multiple small adjacent rooms, help it feel larger by visually connecting the rooms through a unified color palette, material story, or overall style. This will help the entire space seamlessly flow together. We love how the neutral toned walls provide continuity throughout the space pictured.

03 of 20

Mistake: Fighting Your Size

A modern bedroom with floating nightstand and sconce light
Matthew Cane Designs

The sooner you accept that you have a small space and start taking steps to make the most of it, the quicker you'll be able to craft chic surroundings. If you don't have room for a bedside table, squeezing one in will only make your room feel more cramped. Instead, opt for a stool to rest remote controls, magazines, and tiny table lamps. If a media cabinet won't fit in your available square footage, mount a flat-screen on the wall, or tuck it into a bookshelf. Instead of a full-size desk, consider a vanity or narrow console.

Lucie Kaas Pick Me Stool $250
Shop
04 of 20

Mistake: Crowded Surfaces

A simple vanity with a lighted mirror sconce and vase of flowers
Tessa Neustadt

No matter how many smart storage solutions you incorporate, you'll always have limited space. It's important to evaluate your belongings and make sure everything is meaningful or functional. This can be super common on our vanities or in the bathroom, where products tend to pile up.

Separately, never underestimate the power of mirrors. They can double the visual space in a small home and reflect light and color to add visual interest. Mirrored backsplashes increase the size of a small kitchen, mirrored furniture provides an unexpected reflective surface, and large mirrored panels on a wall look like additional windows.

05 of 20

Mistake: Underutilizing Vertical Space

Wooden dining table with open shelving stores glasses and dishware
Justin Coit for MyDomaine

Get creative when it comes to storage areas and places to carve out more useable square footage. Incorporating floor-to-ceiling shelving, utilizing the space above the window frame, and adding built-in seating for example, maximize the functionality of a room.

"A small space means that there is very little actual floor space in your room, so to combat the lack of floor space go vertical with your storage and décor," designer Brady Tolbert explained in a prior MyDomaine interview.

Rejuvenation Floating Shelf $259
Shop
06 of 20

Mistake: Playing It Safe

Wooden bar cart stores books, framed artwork on wall
Courtesy of Max Humphrey

If you do prefer minimalistic styles, then amplifying your small space by avoiding clutter and crowding your home with patterns is probably easier. But if you love maximalism, don't fret over size. A lack of square footage doesn't mean your home has to be bland. Incorporate large-scale patterns and bright-colored accents to bring interest to your pad. Bold wallpaper in a color scheme that connects your rooms, or bright drapery hung close to the ceiling will create focal points to distract the eye from a lack of excess space.

07 of 20

Mistake: The Wrong-Sized Bed

Phases of the moon headboard in a bohemian-themed bedroom with plants

Urban Outfitters 

In a shoebox-sized room, a four-poster bed unfortunately takes up too much precious real estate. Instead, think smaller scale. For example, a headboard still makes a statement without crowding the room. If you've got low ceilings, try a platform bed. Or, combine bedframe and dressers with a Captain's Bed for a ton of extra storage.

08 of 20

Mistake: Closed-in Arrangements

Bed centered in room with olive headboard and trio of wall lamps

DESIGN: BRADY TOLBERT FOR EHD; PHOTO: TESSA NEUSTADT

Regarding positioning, designer Leanne Ford recommends centering the bed. "Even though you don't have much space on either side, it will feel better for both parties to be able to get out of the bed easily and prevent the college style technique of the bed against the wall," Ford told MyDomaine. 

09 of 20

Mistake: Dark Colors

Bright living room with leafy green wallpapered accent wall

THOMAS DALHOFF; DESIGN: BRETT MICKAN INTERIOR DESIGN

While designers say a dark colored accent wall can work to open up a space, think light and bright with your color palette instead. On vivid colors, Tali Roth, interior designer for Homepolish told MyDomaine, "I think it gives small spaces so much life and personality, but it also plays on the size, making it feel more significant in impact even if it is small." 

10 of 20

Mistake: Small Furniture in Excess

Living room features gray couch over textured rug with round, golden coffee table

Courtesy of Brady Tolbert

Designers like Roth say weightier pieces have a place in smaller spaces as long as the entire room is edited. Consider investing in statement pieces like a comfortable couch in a luxe textile, or a classic dresser that can transition seamlessly as your style preferences change.

"Most people believe that a small space means you need to use small furniture—that’s simply not the case," said interior designer Jeremiah Brent in a prior MyDomaine interview. Brent adds, "Instead, focus on scale and proportion." 

11 of 20

Mistake: Clutter

Small entryway with painted bench, side basket, and printed rug

​PHOTO: TESSA NEUSTADT; DESIGN: EMILY HENDERSON 

Smaller spaces magnify anything that isn't in its place, so tidy as you go. Beyond being visually appealing, streamlined spaces also improve a home's feng shui.

12 of 20

Mistake: Underutilizing Negative Space

Bathroom with towel storage over the toilet

BHDM DESIGN

If your kitchen is petite, rather than use counter space for decorative bowls or knickknacks, utilize the space under the upper cabinets for hanging utensil storage so your drawers and cabinets are free to hide less-attractive necessities. If your bathroom is tiny, forgo art above the toilet in favor of a hanging cabinet to increase your closed storage space.

13 of 20

Mistake: Overwhelming Pattern

Living room with patterned run and gray and white color palette

PELLA HEDEBY

When it comes to pattern in small spaces, moderation is key, such as on an accent wall, or expressed through a throw pillow or rug.

14 of 20

Mistake: Bulky Curtains

Living room with light curtains, leather and wood finishes

MORGAN WALKER; DESIGN: CLAIRE THOMAS

Heavy, blackout drapes shrink a small space, so opt for lighter material instead, or drapes with a subtle pattern—especially in spaces where you want to take advantage of natural light, like the living room.

15 of 20

Mistake: Not Enough Lighting

Bedroom with fabric headboard, sconces, and a fiddle leaf fig tree

AMY BARTLAM; DESIGN: KATIE HODGES DESIGN

Even then, natural light can only go so far. That said, layer the lighting in your home with a mix of overhead, task, and accent lighting. Space-saving options include floor lamps and sconces.

16 of 20

Mistake: 'White Out' Walls

Dining room with navy blue accent wall

DESIGN: BRIA HAMMEL INTERIORS, PHOTO: SPACECRAFTING PHOTOGRAPHY

The caveat with white paint is that not all home styles will benefit from its expansive qualities. Instead, some designers say that some dark nooks might be a prime, cozy seating area for example, and in general add more dimension to the space.

17 of 20

Mistake: Underestimating Every Nook and Corner

Built-in shelving along living room wall houses books and objects

DEKAR DESIGN

Challenge yourself to utilize every awkward corner or funky design feature to your advantage. For example, reimagine a linen closet into a built-in armoire with upgraded hardware. Or can a slim bookcase offer additional storage somewhere, or a house plant on an oddly-shaped surface up the style factor?

18 of 20

Mistake: Minuscule Rugs

Living room with large area rug, green couch, and blue walls

 DEKAR DESIGN

It sounds counterintuitive, but a larger rug will help open up a space better than a smaller one. Plus, several small rugs will end up dividing an already petite space.

19 of 20

Mistake: No Drapes at All

Bright living room with sheer, floor to ceiling curtains

 BROOKE HOLM/TRUNK ARCHIVE

While a certain less-is-more approach to decorating small spaces rings true to an extent, don't forgo drapes for the sake of minimalism. Designers say the right window dressings help draw the eye up, it just comes down to material and pattern selection.

20 of 20

Mistake: Ignoring Multi-Purpose Furniture

Entryway with bench and vertical storage

 FANTASTIC FRANK

In a small space, maximize square footage with furniture and décor that can also function as storage. For example, can your ottoman also hold extra throw blankets? Or can you get more space-saving mileage out a bed frame with drawers?

Related Stories