6 Easy Ways to Style Small Spaces for Big Results
I recently lived in a 8-square-meter room (including the bathroom), which is roughly 86 square feet 😂😂😂. I came in with two check-in sized pieces of luggage and a carry-on. When I unpacked, my stuff was overflowing in the space.
While most homes are not this small, there is an uprising trend to build homes smaller to accommodate growth of population. Based on a 2018 NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) study, average single-family homes are shrinking in square footage.
Here are a few of my styling tips when it comes to living in smaller homes.
Choose Only What Sparks You Joy
I know, I know — are you already sick about all this talk about tidying up? Marie Kondo has become the cultural lexicon when it comes to tidying up. But there is a lot of truth in it. There is also a reason why the Netflix show has become such a phenomenon. Ultimately, people want to live happily and in a positive environment.
When you have only a limited space to live in, your objective of living in your home is not to cram every square inch with stuff. Your objective should be creating a space that will truly bring you happiness and joy and bring productivity in your life (tweet this!). After all, we do spend a tremendous amount of time in our homes.
The smaller the space you have, the more important it is that you pick and choose what goes into your home.
When I was staging houses, I could always physically feel what the homeowners were going through at the moment. I can always sense if someone just passed away in the home or if someone is going through a divorce. It’s not like I can see dead people, but it’s a feeling. Working in people’s homes for more than ten years, I see in person how we create our own living environment and how our environment can influence our mood (and others’ moods!).
Organization is Key to Creating More Space
One of the biggest challenges of living in a very small space is to make sure that everything has a home, otherwise it is all laid out on every surface and the room instantly feels incredibly cluttered. There is a saying that’s “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s the same when it comes to living in a small space. You need to put the clutter away, otherwise you will feel very disorganized all the time.
By keeping the floor and table or countertop surfaces clear, the room will instantly feel bigger.
When I was living in the 86-square-foot space, I needed to take full advantage of any spaces available. That means going up vertically. This is the easiest to achieve with dividers in closets and organizers like boxes.
It was the same when I had our warehouse for home staging inventory. 3,600 square feet sounded like a lot, but once you move in 15 sofas and everything else that goes into staging 10 houses, the warehouse was filled to a brim. Once we built the second-floor mezzanine, we immediately doubled the square footage.
Having shelves to create more vertical spaces for storage is a very effective strategy.
We also have a Pinterest board that is full of organization ideas that you can check out for inspiration.
Bring in More Light
Darker rooms generally will have a cozier and more withdrawn kind of feeling. If that’s not the feeling you want to achieve, adding more lighting or allowing more natural light into the room will help to make the space feel bigger instantly.
You can also do this by adding accessories that have reflective surfaces or mirrors. Mirrors will not only reflect light and make the room feel brighter, it can also create the illusion of more square footage.
Use Multi-Purpose Furniture
When you are living in a small space, one of the key strategies will be to create more space. You can easily do this by investing in furniture pieces that have storage built in or can be easily folded down to be put away.
For example, when I was living in the 86-square-foot space, one of the big advantages of the bed was that it can be flipped up to reveal the storage space below. Many ottomans or coffee tables sold today also have storage built in. Many dining room tables also have extension leaves that can be removed or folded down so you can have a bigger table surface when you have guests over for entertaining, but can be smaller for everyday use.
By having furniture that can be easily transformed and put away, or furniture that has storage built in, you will have more flexibility in your living space.
Don’t Forget the Scale of the Furniture
One of the biggest challenges when I worked on homes that are lived-in is often the size of the sofa. Having a sectional or an over-sized sofa is great for the comfort of living, but can be challenging as well, especially if it’s taking up a lot of space visually. Selecting the right scale of furniture will be crucial if you want to make the space feel bigger.
Also, our eyes can visually “add” weight to things as well. This comes from how we perceive objects naturally. Darker pieces are generally perceived to be heavier than light-color pieces. If you have anything that is oversized or tall, they can usually be perceived as heavy and make the room feel smaller.
Keep It Simple
Like clutter, not having a overall cohesive look will also make the room feel smaller. If you are mixing a lot of different colors, patterns, and textures, the room will feel very busy. If you have a smaller room, keep the color palette or patterns simple for maximum impact.
Okay, I Thought This is A Blog About Staging
Yes, it is! When it comes to selling, these principles can be applied as well.
When you are staging a home to sell, you want to present a home that looks bright, happy and inviting. Any of these tips above can easily be applied into staging. When you are staging a home, you should have a common theme and a color palette throughout to tie different spaces together.
Scale is going to be your best friend on this to achieve the best results. Several top stagers on our podcasts have shared this as one of the most important tips when it comes to staging your home. Staging a home is not about cramming as many pieces of furniture into the space as possible. Instead of doing that, let your furniture breathe. A good floor plan will also allow the traffic flow naturally, which is what you want, especially when it comes to touring homes for the buyers.
Bring in light as much as you can. If the room doesn’t have any or much natural light, you can bring in lighting to brighten up the space, in addition to accessories like mirrors or lighter pieces. You also want to only select pieces that are absolutely essential and will add to the space, and remove any pieces that make the room feel overwhelming or small.