Interior designer’s top hacks to make small spaces feel bigger

white living room sofa and table

Jade Thrupp

Posted October 29, 2020

Modest homes needn’t feel small. Try our expert tips to maximise the space you have.

There's nothing like months in lockdown to make even the happiest of homemakers cast a critical eye over their living spaces.

If your own four walls have started to feel like they're closing in, there are simple styling tips that can help create the illusion of space, to help you feel like you're living in airy comfort rather than cluttered confines.

So, if you're searching for some DIY interior design projects to tackle, here are nine tips and tricks to make your home feel more spacious.

Nine ways to make small spaces look bigger


Less is more

As obvious as it may sound, an excess of stuff can overwhelm a small space. “The fewer pieces that are scattered around in the space, the more clean, tidy and spacious the room will appear,” says interior designer Christian Oshiro.

First up, get rid of unnecessary possessions. If you want to tip the scales from hoarder to minimalist be ruthless, because if it isn’t useful now, chances are it never will be. And keep things you don’t use often out of sight.

Pro tip: Souvenirs and trinkets are the enemy of a minimalist existence. Large quantities of smaller items can make your home seem crowded. Replacing these with fewer, larger items will make your home seem less cluttered and more spacious.

Lighten up

Keeping your home awash with light helps create a sense of space. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to do this is by capitalising on natural light. Christian says letting the light and outside world in creates the illusion of space, and is often as simple as opening your blinds, or trimming back outdoor trees to maximise how much light can filter through your windows. Plus, the effect is instant... even if it means occasionally making eye-contact with your neighbours.

wooden bookcase filled with dozens of books

Ceiling-to-floor bookcases make a room appear larger.

Opt for a muted palette

A carefully chosen light colour palette creates a more open, refreshing feeling than darker colours. “Whites and light greys are the safest choices when it comes to making your little room look bigger,” Christian says. A grey couch might not be as exciting as a decorative orange one, but it will create a more open atmosphere, especially when coupled with walls and flooring of a similar colour.

If white isn’t your thing, try a monochromatic palette. The sense of cohesion will give your home the appearance of a clear, fluid space that isn’t convoluted by busy colours.

Pro tip: The cohesion principle also works elsewhere. If you have a feature wall filled with books, try colour-coding them to create a sense of cohesion and eliminate chaos. (This also helps elevate your collection of books, mugs or clothes from expensive habit to carefully co-ordinated style choice.)

A new coat of paint

As well as helping your home feel fresh and roomy, painting is a great way to give your walls a facelift (and to kill time at home while you're stuck in quarantine). To make a space feel more serene and spacious, white is the way to go. Thanks to its reflective qualities, white opens up a room making it feel bright, airy and expansive. It is also an excellent choice for smaller spaces as it highlights design features, simplifies the area and reduces the sense of clutter. But choosing the right white for your walls can be a minefield so, if you need some expert advice or you've not quite brushed up on your rolling skills, RACV Trades can help you find a painter to get the job done.

Pro tip: Painting the walls, architraves, skirting boards and ceiling the same shade of white enhances this room-enhancing effect as it blurs the boundaries between wall and ceiling, creating the illusion of higher ceilings.

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Make it multi purpose

Tune in to the magic of multipurpose furniture. Christian Oshiro says that when choosing furniture for a small home, consider its ability to “be practical, functional and generate multipurpose spaces”.

Having a couch, for instance, with built-in drawers that doubles as a storage compartment means that doonas or camping gear or out-of-season clothing is out of sight and freeing up valuable storage space elsewhere. Or a gate-leg table can open out to seat a dinner party, then tuck away against a wall for use as a narrow occasional table.

Pro tip: Even a spare kitchen chair that’s crowding a dining table can be used to elevate a stack of books, a bedside lamp, a lovely green pot plant or the cat’s cushion.

Check your window dressings

If you want to go full minimalist, eliminating curtains and blinds helps keep the space simple. But, if you want privacy or want to stop the hot afternoon sun from baking your home office, consider shutters or choose a sheer, lightweight curtain material, such as linen, that enhances the sense of airiness.

Pro tip: Instead of hanging curtains in line with the window frame, instead drape them from a bar or rail along the ceiling to create the illusion of added height. Curtains that are the same colour as your walls will also help to make the space look bigger. 

white curtains hanging above a wooden floor

Give the illusion of space by hanging curtains from the ceiling.


Use strategically placed mirrors

One fail-proof trick for making any room look instantly bigger is to include mirrors, a trick often employed by small bars and restaurants to add a sense of depth, mood and ambience. Not only do they reflect light, mirrors reflect the view, tricking our eyes into perceiving more space.

Pro tip: Make sure your room is mirroring the benefits by hanging (or leaning) mirrors against walls that don't get as much light, to help bounce extra brightness into a space. 

Be dramatic

Forget the old adage that small spaces should have small furniture. Sometimes bigger is better. From a statement couch to a large piece of art, being bold can pay big dividends when it comes to making a small space appear larger. (Plus: An artist's guide to investing in artwork.)

Pro tip: Instead of positioning furniture, such as a couch, against the wall, create a sense of roominess by leaving a little air between them.  

Expand your shelf life

Floor-to-ceiling or wall-to-wall bookcases are another great trick to enhance how high your ceilings look as well as offering the secondary benefit of increasing storage space.

Pro tip: Leaving some empty space on shelves will give your small space an airy look. Or try colour-coding your bookcases. 

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