Learn about the small space rules designers wish you would break;
The funny thing about interior design is that, much like art, you kind of have to learn the rules to break them. Or at least that’s what much of the design world would have you believe. But who makes up these “rules” in the first place? Plenty of decorators and design experts will tell you to go just with your gut when pulling together a space. But another strategy is to do exactly what conventional design wisdom would have you believe is wrong. And in the case of small spaces, this actually can make a room more successful, however counterintuitive that may sound.
Want some proof? I asked a handful of design pros what classic small space tricks they don’t think work and what they’d suggest as an alternative. And you know what? Breaking the rules isn’t just fun when it comes to design, it can actually pay off in the final product.
Rule #1 to Break: Avoid Dark Paint Colors in Small Spaces
“This is definitely the number one cliché that is pretty much a myth at this point,” says
Rule #2 to Break: Maximize the Feeling of Space and Light with Transparent Pieces
We’re not saying throw out that lucite coffee table or glass-topped bar cart, because see-through furniture is visually light and can help a small space in measured doses. But maybe limit yourself to one or two clear pieces per room. “Overusing this trick can actually draw attention to the smaller scale of the room and make it challenging for the eye to focus,” says Amber Harris, real estate agent, interior decorator and owner of
Rule #3 to Break: Use Stools as Seats in Smaller Rooms
Many pros preach the “stool as chair” philosophy for tight spaces, since stools are often backless and have smaller footprints than chairs do. But Charlie Worrall of
Rule #4 to Break: Scale Your Furniture to Your Space
The logic seems simple enough—small space, small furniture, right? Wrong. “People often think using multiple pieces of small furniture in a small apartment will make it feel more spacious,” says Cheryl Eisen, interior designer and president of
Rule #5 to Break: Go with Neutral Furnishings for the Win
Rule #6 to Break: Open Shelving Is Your Best Friend in a Tight Space
“One trick I’ve heard for small spaces that never really works is open shelving,” says designer Tina Ramchandani of
Bethany Adams of
Rule #7 to Break: Always Paint a Small Space Ceiling White
According to Thorne, the white ceiling is way overdone, particularly in small spaces where people are afraid to experiment with color in the first place. “I’ve seen great small rooms with ceilings done in shell pink, robin’s egg blue, french blue,” says Thorne. “Ceilings don’t always have to be ‘refrigerator’ white.” Well-said. A good compromise color may be a whisper light blue, which you’ll often see on porches in the South. It’s about as close to “sky” as you can get.
Rule #8 to Break: Use all the Vertical Space You Can
“Just because space is limited doesn’t mean you should leverage floor-to-ceiling bookcases or the tallest headboard you can find,” says Harris. You probably shouldn’t hang shelving or art every few inches all the way up to the ceiling either. Like most things in life, moderation here is key. “It is important to keep your ceiling height in mind and either choose one wall to go very vertical, perhaps with dramatic curtains or a built-in, and be more measured throughout the space.”
Rule #9 to Break: Large-Scale Patterns are too Loud for Small Spaces
Believe it or not, bold patterns can actually make a space feel bigger. “This powder room is really small and narrow, but the lively paper actually expands the sense of space,” says Taylor. “The busyness of the walls totally distracts from the cozy feel.” Again, as is the case with darker paint colors, light is important here. But you can definitely pull off wallpaper in a power room or small space. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Rule #10 to Break: Keep it Simple
Small spaces can still benefit from something unexpected that creates a “wow factor” or focal point. Interior designer
What other design rules have you broken in your small space? And what was the outcome?