Andrea helps people refresh their home decor. She studied film, so she knows how hard it is to make something visually appealing.
10 Tips for Making a Room Look Bigger
One of the most challenging parts of designing a room is figuring out how to maximize space. There are some tricks you can use to make your room appear bigger. You can also employ simple organizational techniques to make your room more efficient and easier on the eyes.
You don't want to clutter up your room with various objects, patterns, or colors—these things can cause your room to look busy. It should be easy to get to your stuff. Keep your layout straightforward: Open up walkways and avoid putting floating shelves in places where you could potentially hit your head.
In order to learn more about conserving space in bedrooms, I talked with designers from Instrument Furniture in London. The designers gave me many suggestions on how to conserve space. They are big fans of buying tall, sleek furnishings for clothes and storage.
1. Rethink Your Closet Space
Tidying up your closet and/or dresser can give you more available space. Wardrobes take up a lot of storage space. You want to make it easy to find your clothes; I recommend sorting clothes by theme, color, or season.
Important: If you have a lot of clothes that are getting buried or pushed to the back, you may want to consider other storage devices to manage your items or get rid of old things. It's a good idea to cull your clothes every once and a while and sell/donate the items you don't use.
Sliding doors work well in small spaces. It's nice to slide a door and not have to worry about it getting in the way of your closet or wardrobe space. Bifold doors need extra space to work; you don't want them blocking items in your closet.
You could also buy a wardrobe for your room and use your closet for storage. That way, you won't have superfluous items scattered about your room.
Pro Tip: Before buying a wardrobe, get the dimensions of your room. Often, a wardrobe that's long and narrow and can sit at the perimeter is easier on space than something that's big and bulky.
Big wardrobes do have their advantages: You can use them to take care of more needs, and that means you'll rely less on other furnishings. For instance, a large wardrobe could have room for a shoe rack.
To make a room look bigger, you want to keep your finishings to a minimum. The more objects that take up your floor space, the smaller your room will look.
FYI: In the United Kingdom, people often don't have built-in closets. They'll buy large wardrobes.
2. Use an Oversized Curtain Rod
When it comes to windows, you want to use a long curtain rod and long curtains. Shorter curtains, like what you often find in kitchens, make a room look smaller.
Hang curtain rods higher and wider than your window frame. A good rule of thumb is to hang curtains four to six inches above the window for shorter ceilings and six to ten inches for taller ceilings. Otherwise, hanging the curtain rod just below the ceiling will work just fine. When curtain rods are installed high, it will give the illusion that the windows and ceiling are taller.
For the width, it will be easier to hide and push curtains out of the way if you have 12 to 15 inches of space on either side of the window panels.
3. Use Lighter Colors
Dark colors make a room feel more cramped. A black room will feel really intimate. A light gray room will feel more spacious.
Darker colors absorb light, and this tricks your eyes into thinking a space is smaller than it actually is. There are a plethora of neutral tones and lighter shades that you can use. Light blues and greens are seen as calming colors. Light pink has been trending recently.
Use the color wheel and color theory to help you pick out furniture to match your walls. When furniture looks clashy with the room's wall colors, it can make the room feel tighter and more stressful.
4. Clear Pathways
When there are obstructions in your room, making it harder to get from point A to point B, it can make a room feel tiny. It's important to clear paths and keep corners empty.
Open space is easy on your eyes. Visually, a room needs spots where your eyes can take a break. You don't want to overwhelm your room with furniture and art pieces. You need some empty space and distance.
Also, avoid putting large pieces of furniture in front of windows. This will block natural light from getting into your room, and the less light you have coming into the room, the smaller it will feel.
Keep pathways open around windows, or place small end tables and the like underneath windows.
5. Add Mirrors
Mirrors are great because they reflect light and add depth. Mirrors can help brighten dark parts of the room. It's a good idea to hang mirrors opposite or adjacent to a light. Big mirrors can actually make a room feel much larger.
A cleverly positioned mirror can highlight an object and repeat a certain texture, giving the room depth. Glass can be used in similar ways.
6. Draw Attention Upward
A focus on height will help a room look bigger. Think of tall and narrow objects, like columns. Use a focal point to draw the eyes up. Drawing attention up rather than on the floor can make it seem like you have more space.
Some ways to create vertical space are to (1) use artwork, (2) use thin vertical stripes, (3) use an accent wall to create dimension, and (4) install thin and tall bookshelves.
Here are some other tricks you can use:
- Raised furniture can give you more space. Consider adding a couch or bed that has storage room underneath.
- Transparent items, like glass, can also make your room appear less weighty.
- Mount TVs to walls rather than resting them on furniture.
- Use tall objects to create vertical lines: Hanging plants, floor lamps, and display cases.
7. Play With the Scale of Furniture
Less furniture gives you more space, which is ideal. Opt for one or two large furniture pieces. Fewer furniture pieces will help your room to come off harmonious rather than cluttered.
Measure your room before you buy a large piece of furniture. Make sure there will be adequate room for walking. You also want to make sure you buy something that will fit through your doorways and/or staircase.
Here are a couple of tips on rugs:
- A large rug gives the impression of a large room. It can also be used to brighten up and make your floor space more interesting.
- Small rugs make a room feel smaller. It can also be harder to fit furniture around them.
One of the best ways to make your room look bigger is to get rid of clutter. Remove miscellaneous items that you don't need. Tidy up like you're Marie Kondo. A room looks bigger when there are a lot of unused flat spaces. Things start to look cluttered when your flat surfaces get crowded.
It's a good idea to get rid of items that you no longer need or no longer serve a purpose. If you have little bits of paper, bills, or crumpled-up bags, throw them away. You don't need to save every little item that comes your way.
Additional storage can help: baskets, floating shelves, storage behind doors, and underneath beds. Keep a palette of 1–3 colors per room. A room that is busy with colors and patterns can look cluttered.
9. Use Multi-Functional Strategies
Buy furniture that can serve multiple purposes. Be smart about what you put in your room. It's better to have something that does the job of three furniture pieces rather than one. You can also save money when you buy furniture that serves multiple purposes.
Some examples: folding tables, sofa beds, stackable furniture, and ottomans.
10. Get Creative With Storage
Sleek modular storage can make it easier to organize your stuff. My brother, who has three kids, has a big shelf from IKEA in his basement. It has 20–30 baskets. When the kids are done playing at night, he scoops up the toys and puts them into random baskets rather than sorting the toys.
You can get modular storage units custom designed to fit your awkward nooks and crannies.
As mentioned above, designers at Instrument Furniture in London gave me insights into how to conserve space. The team specializes in wardrobes and bedroom sets.
Here are suggested reading materials for this article:
- Enright Phillips, Elizabeth. Minimalism Room by Room: A Customized Plan to Declutter Your Home and Simplify Your Life. Rockridge Press, 2020.
- Ford Berry, Jennifer. Make Room: Take Control of Your Space, Time, Energy, and Money to Live on Purpose. Baker Books, 2022.
- Kondō, Marie. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Ten Speed Press, 2014.
- Kondō, Marie. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up). Ten Speed Press, 2016.
- Vig, Michele. The Holistic Guide to Decluttering: Organize and Transform Your Space, Time, and Mind. Fair Winds Press, 2020.
© 2022 Andrea Lawrence