How to Decorate a Small Space the Right Way, According to Interior Designers

published Oct 21, 2018
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(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

Living in a small space sometimes isn’t as fun as all those Instagrammable tiny houses make it look. With square footage at a premium, smaller apartments and houses come with their unique hurdles that make it challenging to decorate your space. Where are you supposed to put all your clothes? How do you fit an entire dining room into an area that’s as big as most people’s closets? And, of course, the million dollar question: How can you possibly make your crammed home feel light, airy, and inviting? Honestly, the whole thing is kind of stressful.

Interior designers know how to decorate homes of all sizes, and are sharing their best tips for your small space:

1. Up, Up, Away

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

“Floor to ceiling shelving with doors and a mix of open and closed storage is my favorite design trend right now! I live in a 496-square-foot space, so it’s a necessity. The height of the shelving allows you to maximize vertical space. In small spaces, having a place to store everything is a must so you can keep clutter at bay!” —Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and style director at Modsy

2. Twice as Nice

(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

“A small room can wear many hats and so should its furniture. Introduce a daybed that can be used daily for lounging but will also double as a guest bed. Include a C-table where you can place your cup of coffee or type on your computer. If you ensure that every piece of furniture in a room has a purpose, it become the most used room in the house.” —Cari Giannoulias, interior designer

“When it comes to small living room spaces, furniture pieces with hidden storage is your best friend. For example, a console provides ample storage space with interior shelving and drawers. so you can keep everything in one place and without sacrificing aesthetic or appeal. When it’s closed, it looks like solid piece of furniture.” —Melissa Benham, co-founder of Studio Gild

3. Mirror, Mirror

(Image credit: Chinasa Cooper)

“Mirrors are a small space’s best friends. I use them within a gallery wall or on a wall adjacent to a window to make the space seem larger and brighter.” —Ali LaBelle, creative director of art and design at

“Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed mirror. Be it decorative or large and installed, the power of mirror to make a small space feel open and airy is key.” —Ryan Jackson, interior designer and founder of Studio Jackson Design

4. An Editor’s Eye

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

“Whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist (I’m a bit of both!), ‘Marie Kondo’ each thing you own and consider if it’s something that makes you feel more connected or at home within your living space. If it doesn’t, why is it there? It’s important to me that I see purpose and personality within the things I have around my home. If they simply exist to exist, they aren’t worth the space they consume.” —Ali LaBelle

5. Tonal Treatment

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

“I love the tip from Sarah Sherman Samuel that keeping things tonal is a good way to open up a space. It’s a little more freeing than all-white everything, and you can see how it plays out in the work she did in Mandy Moore’s new place—which, I might add, I’m fully obsessed with.” —Erica Cerulo, co-founder of Of a Kind

“Have a clear color vision. Picking a monochrome palette of any shade will help focus your look and help minimize visual clutter.” —Ryan Jackson

6. Portion Control

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

“Most think small spaces need small furniture, but that isn’t always the case. Smaller pieces can actually make the space look off balance and create an awkward feel in a room. Using large rugs where most of the furniture can be placed on the rug is a great way to make a small space feel more open. I also love hanging drapery panels as high as the wall allows to add more height in the room.” —Abbe Fenimore, interior designer and founder of Studio Ten 25

7. Au Naturale

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

“Be mindful when planning your color palette. Incorporating a polished palette of mixed neutrals with layers of color can create a space that feels more open while offering lots of visual interest.” —Abbe Fenimore

8. Brighten Up the Place

(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)

“Using light and bright walls throughout a space makes a space feel open and airy since lighter walls are more reflective. Stay away from dark colors, since they tend to absorb light, making a room look smaller.” —Nina Magon, founder and principal of Contour Interior Design