Design Matters

Making the most of small spaces

by Val Nehez
Posted 11/30/23

One of the most frequent questions we get from clients is how they can make small spaces look larger than they actually are. Here's some tips.

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Design Matters

Making the most of small spaces


One of the most frequent questions we get from clients is how they can make small spaces look larger than they actually are. So we thought we’d share a few tips. 

First, we always suggest starting with color. 

Go very light, or very dark. 

The rule is generally that light colors make a room feel larger. We certainly agree. 

We recommend painting the trim the same color as the walls. Using the same color on walls and trim gives the room an overall calm and minimizes the visual choppiness trim adds to a small room. 

Every rule, however, is also meant to be broken. You can opt to lean way into a small room by painting all the walls and trim a rich, saturated dark color. This can look great especially if your small room is located off of a larger room. 

If the larger room is a light color with a tint of green, yellow, or rose, dive deep into that color in the walk-in closet or adjacent small sitting room. Saturated color in a small space can be enveloping, cozy and womb-like. 

Dark color has a bad rap. It's not bad, it's dark. 

Create zones with your layout.

It seems counterintuitive to break up a small room, however allowing space to reveal itself as you move through it allows the space to multifunction and gives the perception of faceted utility. 

South Philadelphia row homes often have a small entry vestibule. We opt to extend this area with a longer knee wall to give a place for a bench to take off boots and pegs running along the wall to hang coats. (No one in our family would ever use a hanger in a coat closet to hang a coat, so pegs are a better solution).

Creating an expanded entry in a long rectangular row house also allows for the back of the couch to have a place to land, and brings the living room furniture pieces closer together for better proximity of seating and better conversation. 

In our current Center City project, we are proposing a cabinet facing the door that hides the TV and creates an entry vestibule. We kept this at five feet tall to allow the light from the window over the front door to flow through the house. 

In the kitchen, there are six-inch deep cabinets (perfect for can storage) that go all the way to the ceiling. Everything in a small space should be able to do double duty. In the dining area of this project, we created a bar. 

Raise the Line - think vertically 

Anything that can go high in a small space should. Try to run cabinets to the ceiling when you can. Hanging curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible above the window is a Trompe L'oeil trick that will dramatically increase the perception of height in a small room. 

Mirror, mirror…

Lastly, anytime you can hang a large mirror across from a window, you gain another “window” to double the light and the view. This is a huge win in a small space.