Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Small Space Decorating Tips

With all the work we've done on small houses over the last few years, I've learned a few things about decorating these spaces.  In a small house, every inch counts.  But if you follow just a few simple guidelines, you can make small rooms both attractive and functional!

Furniture Scale - Buy small sized furniture.  I know, I know, it sounds simplistic!  But when you get into the giant furniture store with the tall, open ceilings, it's easy to fall in love with the big comfy couch.  And when they deliver that big couch, you might be appalled to discover it overwhelms your living room.

A typical couch is 84" long.  But the depth can very dramatically.  So be extra sure to check - some are as deep as 48".   For many early 20th century homes and cottages, that's just too big to work.  Instead, find a smaller version or consider a loveseat.  Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware have all realized size is a factor and now offer 'apartment' sized furnishings.  Or if you want something a little more affordable, check out IKEA.  I'm a big fan of their EKTORP sofa and loveseat.  Look at this one from our 2nd project.  At 70" long and 35" deep, the loveseat is a versatile option (it's only $379).  And it comes in a variety of washable slipcovers. (Click here for more photos)
Project 2: IKEA EKTORP Loveseat  (Wicker Chairs and Chest -  Pottery Barn)
SoPo Cottage Project 2 - Pickwick Pine Dining Room

For the Dining Room, get a table with leaves that can extend the size when you need to.  Of course if you have 4 kids - you probably need a big table all the time.  But for many households, you only need to add leaves to a table when you have guests.  And the rest of the time, the dining space will seem much bigger.  I've dragged this Pottery Barn table and chair set to 3 of our own homes and every one of our staging projects.  With it's round shape and classic style, it works every time!  But if you add the leaves to it, it can seat a crowd!

SoPo Cottage Project 5
In the bedroom, forget about that sleigh bed that you've always wanted.  It will take up a lot of extra space in your small bedroom.  Consider instead, a wall mounted headboard.  You can easily make a padded one in almost any shape and they are especially great with low knee walls.  Depending what fabric you use, it can add lots of color and interest to your decorating scheme.  Oh, and they're easy to make!  Click here for simple instructions.

Tufted velvet headboard, custom made to fit under the windows
Project 2 - Guest Bedroom
Another suggestion for a bedroom.  Use small side tables.  All you need is a space for a pair of glasses and maybe a glass of water for the night.  So give yourself more space in the room with a smaller table.

You can wall mount a light fixture - to provide even more table space!

Project 2 

Storage, storage, storage - in a small house, you need all the storage you can get.  But it's helpful to make it attractive as well.  Bathrooms can be particularly tricky.  In this example, we had an awkward space behind the toilet (with the vent pipe going up to the roof).  But rather than wall it off, we added some mosaic tile and a shelf to provide a little more storage, with a decorative flair.

Baskets are another big help.  You can hide lots of clutter in a basket and yet it looks great.  We had a skinny space next to this bathtub and filled it will shelves, baskets and a cabinet to give the homeowners a myriad of storage options.

Project 1

I also frequently incorporate a china 'hutch' in the kitchen.  It provides a way to display attractive dishes and saves space from using a big hutch in a dining room.
Project 4 - New Englander

Light - More light makes a space seem bigger.  Look for ways to use mirrors.  They reflect the light - but also make a room seem bigger as they visually expand the space.  And there are so many attractive mirrors out there.  These mirrors were all from  HomeGoods - and I've used them many times!

Project 5 - Dining Room
Project 1 - Victorian Foyer

In the same way, try to use all the daylight from your windows that you can.  Heavy window treatments can make a room look and feel much smaller.  You can still have a nice pop of color and pattern with a valance or a narrow panel - you don't need to cover the whole space.  And blinds can be added inconspicuously to give privacy at night.

Project 6 - Bungalow Breakfast Nook
Paint Colors.  I'm a big fan of a light color palette.  You can always do a 'feature wall' to make a color statement.  Look at the far wall in this breakfast room.  It's a deep shade of green - but compliments the cream on the other walls.   And it's hard to beat pale wall colors with white trim to make a space feel bigger and brighter.

In the room below, the walls are a neutral Sherwin Williams color called Rice Grain.  The light color gives the room an open, airy feel.  But with the navy accents, the room has lots of color!
Project 5 - Light color palette with navy accents

So as you think about decorating your small house, keep in mind Scale, Storage, Light and Color to help your home feel bigger and more organized!

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  1. Laurel, you do such a beautiful job with staging, designing and paint color choices (not to mention renovating these homes that you take on). So inspirational.

    1. Why thanks so much Candice! I certainly enjoy doing it!

  2. Hi Laurel,

    I wonder if you could add to each of the B&A pages a list of paints used there, if possible? I do remember some of the colors you used (Rice Grain is one of them), but others are now deeply buried in past posts I cannot find them instantly... and I wanna know because these photos are so inspiring.

    1. Ah, that's a great suggestion! Or maybe I should just do a blog post with 'go to' color choices? Because I do find that I tend to use the same colors frequently!!

      Thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate it.

  3. > a blog post with 'go to' color choices?

    Thanks Laurel, that's a great idea! I would love to read a post with your color choices, reasons/ideas behind them, along with some actual example photos. And please put up a permalink to that post on the top or the sidebar of the blog :)


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