Whether entertaining, working from home, or just relaxing, a home that feels spacious and roomy promotes feelings of well-being and peacefulness. Conversely, a cramped and cluttered home can add to the stress of everyday life and make it harder to relax. No matter what the actual square footage of a home, the following techniques can make a room appear bigger and more welcoming:
When choosing furniture, try to avoid large, clunky items like overstuffed sofas/chairs and massive headboards. These tend to eat up space, both visually and physically. Look for pieces with clean, simple lines, as well as pieces that provide the most function for the space they take up. For example, a couch with overstuffed armrests may take up the same amount of space as a couch with a more streamlined design, but it may seat fewer people. A nightstand with two or three drawers will use the same space as a nightstand with no drawers, and it may eliminate the need for additional storage elsewhere.
Try to avoid excessively detailed or ornate furniture. A cabinet painted with a multi-color floral motif will trap the eye and provide more visual clutter than a solid color cabinet. Pieces with complex iron scrollwork or metallic accents should be avoided, as well as any furniture that incorporates higher contrasting colors. Within a single room, furniture should ideally be similar in both design and tone. This does not mean that all items should be part of a matching set, but that they should be close in color and style. If several pieces are a modern design in medium-toned wood, a dark colonial piece would make the room seem more jumbled and cluttered.
When furnishing a smaller space, many people opt for smaller pieces of furniture. While it is certainly true that oversized furniture should be avoided, numerous smaller pieces can also easily overwhelm a room. Think about using a single piece to perform the functions of several smaller pieces: a large floor-to-ceiling bookshelf with storage baskets can take the place of two smaller bookshelves and a chest (as well as add a sense of height to the room.) You should also be on the lookout for multi-purpose pieces, like a storage ottoman that can also serve as a coffee table, or a bed with built in drawers underneath.
Color is a powerful tool. It can influence both your mood and your perception of space. Think about the serene, spacious rooms found in magazines-often they are painted a light neutral shade. Dark colors tend to close in a space and should be avoided. Consider painting the trim the same shade the walls, perhaps with a higher gloss version of paint. If you do choose to paint the trim a contrasting color, choose a color that is only one or two shades darker than your wall color to minimize the contrast between walls and trim. You should also avoid contrasting chair rails and any other technique that visually breaks up the top and bottom halves of walls. The goal is to have as much unbroken space as possible. Instead of using color to accent a wall or other area, try using different textures. Cover an accent wall with paintable textured wallpaper-this creates interest without adding visual clutter.
One of the easiest ways to make a room feel more spacious is to get rid of all the small items cluttering it up. First take a look at what is on the floor. Avoid small baskets or decorative trunks, and (obviously) get rid of anything that should be put away (piles of magazines, shoes, the hammer you used last week to fix that picture frame, etc.) Numerous small items on shelves can be stored in baskets or bins: extra cotton swabs and shampoo in the bathroom, socks in the bedroom, cooking utensils in a kitchen. Items you do not specifically want to display should be behind cabinet doors or in baskets/bins.
Whenever you enter a room, your brain takes an instant, subconscious tally of how many things are in that room. The fewer things the brain sees, the more spacious the room feels. This doesn’t mean you can’t display your collection of antique tiger figurines or the photos of your honeymoon; you just may need to tweak how you show them off. Think about a group of seven photographs: all are different sizes, some are in wood frames, some in metal frames, some in plastic. Three frames have a mat around the photo. Five are color photographs and two are black and white. When your brain looks at this group of photos, it sees seven separate objects. Now think about another group of seven photographs. All are black and white, all are matted, all are framed in very similar black wood frames. When your brain sees this group of photos on the wall, it registers as a single object: a group of photos.
Apply this concept to all displayed items, including photos, books, and knicknacks. Group them by visual similarity, and arrange them in a way that you see a single group of carved eggs/small boxes/tiger figurines, rather than “a bunch of” items. If you have a large number of items to display, consider rotating groups of items, keeping the rest in a drawer or closet.
Nothing opens up a space like light. One of the reasons lighter colors open up a room is because they reflect more light than dark colors. Make the best use of any natural light you may have: don’t block windows with furniture or heavy draperies. Window coverings should be minimal-use light, airy fabrics. Easy-to-install privacy film can effectively diffuse light into a room while providing privacy-if you have a particularly busy or unattractive view from your window, privacy film can make a huge difference in the feel of a room.
Artificial lighting should come from more than one source. Small lamps, bookshelf lighting, and lights that highlight a focal piece of art are all good ways to get more light into a space. Try to avoid floor lamps or large table lamps; ideally, you want additional sources of lighting to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Mirrors are another good way to bring more light into a room, as well as create the illusion of more space. Within reason, use a medium or larger sized mirror, and try to avoid heavy, ornate frames. Placing a mirror near a window or lighting fixture will help reflect the most light into a room.
Using these tips and tricks, it is relatively simple to add a sense of space to any room, no matter what the size, and a spacious, uncluttered home can do a lot to help alleviate unnecessary stress and provide a sense of peacefulness and calm.