6 Ways To Make a Large Space Feel More Intimate

published Feb 17, 2015
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(Image credit: Hayley Lawrence)

Living in a small space can be quite a design challenge (which is why we’re here, right?). But you embrace it, settle in, and before long, you’re a small-space-living expert! You know just how to entertain guests in a studio, make an office double as a nursery, or carve storage out of just about anything. So what’s one to do when you move out of the charming little apartment and into a house?

This was my scenario: I cut my teeth on small space design in NYC, both for clients and for myself. Fast forward a decade later and I was moving into a house (yikes!) in the Midwest. The living room alone was as large as the apartments I’d lived in. I found myself lost in the sea of space, without enough furniture to appoint the rooms and without enough money to buy good, quality pieces quickly.

Now, I’ve been in my “large” (by NYC standards, not by Midwest standards) home for a few years and have a few ideas to share with anyone else making the move from living (happily) in a small space to a larger one:

1. Take your time.

The first few years in my larger home were a somewhat anxious time. I always felt pressure to buy furniture to fill the space. However, I wasn’t comfortable compromising on quality to meet my budget. Instead, I took (and am still taking) my time to find the right pieces at second-hand prices or at a pace that allowed me to save up. In time, the house felt more like a home.

2. Create areas.

Just as you probably learned if you previously lived in a studio apartment, carve out separate functions within one space. A living room that feels too large might be broken down by arranging a seating area and a separate reading corner, for instance.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

3. Float furniture.

Don’t stick everything up against the walls. In fact, maybe don’t stick any furniture up against the walls. Instead, let the backs of chairs or sofas define a space. Allow circulation space at windows instead of pushing furniture up to them.

4. Incorporate your interests.

Pianos are a common one here. If you or someone in your family plays piano, this is a great piece of furniture to bring into a large living room. However, you can also incorporate guitars or other smaller instruments: Hang them from the wall in a corner and provide a seat and music stand for playing. Likewise, if you’re a bookworm, shelve your library in an area of the room and provide a lounge chair for curling up with a good read. Stargazers, set up your telescope at a window off to the side of a sitting area.

(Image credit: Caitlyn Cartlidge)

5. Texture is your friend.

Rugs and artwork can go a long way in breaking up expanses for floor and wall. Even if you don’t have enough furniture yet, simply laying a rug can warm up a space considerably. Learn how to hang a gallery wall. The texture of art on the walls is another way to warm a large space that’s not fully furnished yet.

6. … and so is lighting.

Lighting is a magic way of defining space. Provide table or floor lamps at a few select spots in the room. These will do so much to create cozy little zones within a large expanse.

Do you have any tips to share for creating a cozy, intimate home even when the spaces are a little to large for your comfort?