How to Make a Small Space Feel Bigger

Quarantine can make it feel like your walls are closing in on you, regardless of the size of your space. However, if you have a small room that you’d like to make look—and feel—larger, there are a few design tricks that can make a big difference. To help us optimize even the tiniest of spaces, we reached out to interior designers—and sisters—Rachel Anderson and Natalie Roe of March + May Design in Mobile, Alabama, for advice. Here, they share the elements that will create the illusion of expanded space, from paying attention to the scale of your furniture to selecting the right paint colors.

Let the natural light in. One of the best ways to achieve expansiveness in a room is to allow for as much natural light as possible. “We choose window coverings such as drapes or roman shades versus directional blinds or plantation shutters for this reason,” Roe says. If you’re going with drapes, make sure they are mounted close to the crown or at least between the top of the window and the crown, and mount the brackets far enough away from the window to ensure that when the drapes are open they do not block the window. This gives the illusion of a larger window and a higher space. If natural light is limited, lamps and accent lights on art goes a long way to opening up a space.

Choose light and airy hues. When selecting your paint color, opt for a white or shade on the cooler side of the spectrum, as these hues naturally make a room feel bigger. It can also help to incorporate your chosen hue beyond the confines of the particular small area. “When you keep paint colors consistent from small room to room, it also makes spaces flow and suggests a connectedness that can trick your brain into relating the spaces as one,” Roe shares.

Take furniture scale into consideration. Both sisters recommend opting for more petite pieces that won’t overwhelm a small space. (It’s perhaps worth noting that they are not usually fans of over-stuffed furnishings in any space, noting that furniture can be streamlined while also being very comfortable.) They also suggest investing in open framework or furnishings made of soft natural materials, such as rattan or bamboo. “Anything that lets your eye pass through helps a space feel bigger,” Roe says.

Remember that appropriately sized area rugs and accessories are key. Simply put, if you choose a rug that fits the room, it can make all the difference. A good way to determine whether your floor covering is properly sized is if you can put the front legs—or, better yet, all legs—of the furniture on the rug. Additionally, side tables and lamps that don’t feel tiny can help to make the room feel nicely proportional, in addition to grounding a space.

Make your ceilings work for you. According to Anderson, if you have a high ceiling, adding an accent such as beams, wood paneling, or planks can draw the eye up to emphasize the grandness of the space. However, if you have low ceilings to contend with, she recommends simply applying a light paint color so the size expands rather than contracts.

Use statement lighting. Many think chandeliers are only appropriate in a large room, but our experts assert that they can work magic in smaller spaces—assuming your fixture is the right size. The formula, Anderson explains, involves taking the width and length of the room, adding them together, and rounding up to find the ideal chandelier size. For example, 18’ long + 15’ wide = 33. So, a 33-inch-diameter chandelier at the minimum will likely feel proportional. That said, Anderson generally thinks bigger is better, so if you really want to make a stylish statement, a 36-inch chandelier might be even more impactful.

Photography by Jeff Tesney. TSG Tip 376 from Rachel Anderson and Natalie Roe of March + May Design in Mobile, Alabama. March + May Design is featured in The Scout Guide Mobile Bay.