My Aunt’s $0 Decorating Trick Works for Any Layout and Every Design Style

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

When I was growing up, every family vacation to India meant being dragged from one relative’s home to another. With an overload of faces, food, and homes, each trip was a blur. My aunt’s home, though, was the only exception. Regardless of how hectic each trip felt, her home always made me feel calm and comfortable. Only years later did I realize why: My aunt cleverly embraced negative space in every room of her small home.

Empty space in a room (or the blank space around its design elements, often called negative space), isn’t talked about much. That’s probably because it’s much more exciting to strategize where to put your decor rather than where not to. And for most people, the urge to decorate every nook and corner is very real. I get it. But it can be just as effective to pay attention to where there isn’t anything in your home — no furniture, no art, no decorations, nothing. 

One of the biggest benefits of leaving space blank is that it gives the pieces you have chosen breathing room, which makes them stand out more. Take my aunt’s love for Indian tribal art, for example, which is dotted around her home. Five years have flown by since my last visit, yet I can easily remember each piece and describe it in detail. Whether you’re talking about art, a treasured vintage find, or a favorite chair, leaving some empty space around it will make it pop in your room, allowing it to truly shine.

When space is on the tighter side, like in my aunt’s living room, the empty in-between spaces really come into their own. Even though you barely notice them (which is precisely the idea), they make the room feel visually balanced and effortlessly comfortable. Beyond aesthetics, negative space has practical benefits, too, like allowing the easy flow of movement within an area — or from one room to another. A bit of blank space means less visual clutter, and, maybe best of all, this design idea costs nothing and can make even the smallest of dwellings feel bigger. 

Embracing this underrated design advice from my aunt meant that I was able to make my first teeny-tiny studio apartment feel airy and spacious. Even though I have more square footage now, this idea still remains front and center for me when planning the layout of every room in my home — or introducing any new pieces. And for that, I will forever be grateful.