Five tricks: how to make small rooms look larger

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

No matter whether it’s a child’s room, a bedroom or a living room – small rooms can appear overfilled, smaller and less comfortable if they don’t have a concept. Find out here how to make them look bigger thanks to a few tricks.

A small room with ceiling-high windows, light-colored walls and a large mirror.
© Getty Images

In this article

1. Wall colors: add width thanks to stripes and pastel shades

Dark walls make small rooms seem even narrower. Bright, friendly colors and creamy pastel shades, on the other hand, intensify the daylight and make smaller rooms look bigger. If you decide on a bright color, you should leave a white strip of a width of five to ten centimeters just under the ceiling – this visually adds height to the room.

For a creative touch, you can also alternate pastel and white tones in horizontal stripes on the wall – this stretches the walls visually and gives a feeling of space. In contrast, vertical striped patterns create more height. You can even opt for boldly patterned wallpaper or a dark or very striking wall color: if only one wall is decorated in this way, it will create a strong emphasis. By choosing the end wall, you can visually widen a narrow room.

2. Light: goodbye central ceiling lamp

Allowing natural daylight to enter is the most effective way to make a room seem larger. But large, light-flooded windows are not always available and are not so easy to retrofit. A lighting tip that works wonders is to say goodbye to the central ceiling light that visually draws the room together in the middle.

An uplight that diffuses light over a large area is more effective because it makes the room appear higher. Installing several wall or indirect table lamps not only makes the room larger, but also creates a cozy atmosphere.

A small room with a light-colored parquet floor is made to seem larger by several floor and wall lamps.

A light-colored floor and multiple indirect wall and floor lamps also make a room appear larger.

3. Furniture: matching items create order and structure

Are there toys all over the place virtually blocking the way? Children’s rooms, in particular, rapidly appear much smaller if they aren’t kept tidy. It helps to make sure there is enough storage space – and to hide it, if possible. Open book and storage shelves soon look untidy and make the room seem even smaller and messier. Deep dressers and cupboards with drawers or doors are better. Corner wardrobes can be real space-saving wonders, for example. The advantage is that the storage area is spread over two walls – the wardrobe more or less disappears into the corner without completely blocking off one wall and making the room look even more cramped.

Depending on the floor plan of the room, the way the furniture is arranged can also help to make a room appear larger: in square rooms it can be a good idea to place the bed or other bulky pieces of furniture behind the door. In tubular rooms you should place the bed against one of the shorter walls to give the room more symmetry.

But watch out: an extra-small bed, a tiny cupboard or delicate knick-knacks do not automatically make the room look bigger. The doll’s house character that may be created as a result can even have the opposite effect. Heavy furniture such as massive sofas are still allowed in small rooms. They can even provide that extra bit of coziness. Make sure that the bed has a drawer underneath for hidden storage space, for instance. In small offices, multi-purpose furniture such as sofa beds or folding chairs are recommended. They can be converted into a guest bed in a few easy steps.

4. Mirrors: decorative elements to create optical illusions

Small rooms can still be decorated. But using more than three colors can soon make the room look cluttered and chaotic. Metal and glass are recommended because they reflect light instead of absorbing it. Heavy materials such as velvet and dark woods, on the other hand, create a narrow cave-like character.

Walls covered in a large number of small pictures can also rob the room of depth. It’s better to go for one large mural instead of several smaller ones. Mirrors on walls, doors and cupboard doors are real decorative wonders, which visually enlarge rooms by reflecting light. The rule here is that the larger the mirror, the greater the effect. Mirrors that reach down to the floor are ideal – they act like an extra window! Fans of the maximalist approach can also hang several small mirrors next to each other to enhance the optical illusion.

There is a large wall mirror that reaches down to the floor; a living room is reflected in the mirror, and a glimpse of the bedroom can be seen next to it.

A large wall mirror that reaches down to the floor acts like a second window.

5. Floor and skirting boards: added height thanks to the right supporting surface

The same rules apply to the flooring in small rooms as to the wall color: bright and friendly instead of dark and cluttered with overly colorful patterns. Diagonal or horizontal stripes also simulate width on carpet or parquet.

The skirting boards are important too: painting them in the same shade as the walls makes boundaries disappear, which is another way of eliminating the feeling of confinement from the room.

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