Top 10 Tricks to Enlarge a Small Space

No one enjoys a crowded, cramped room.

The Realize Team

Oct 29, 2020

No one enjoys a crowded, cramped room. Deep breath, don’t worry, these are proven methods for tricking the mind into thinking a space feels larger than it really is.

1. Paint with Light Colors

Scandinavian living room

We’ve all heard this tip before, but it will forever hold its truth. The easiest way to make a room feel cramped is to use an abundance of dark colors, but on the flipside, light colored walls will ensure that the initial feel is airy and spacious. Don’t be shy if you’re renting, check that lease and see if your agreement allows you to paint the walls. Landlords like when their tenants are invested in the property too!

2. Use Mirrors

modern living room with plants and mirror

There is a school of thought that partially discourages the use of mirrors, and yes, too many mirrors can turn your room into a confusing maze that looks more like a carnival attraction than a purposely decorated living room. When designing a small room, however, mirrors are absolutely essential. Their reflectivity tricks the eye into believing the room is much bigger than it is. If you want to maximize this effect, place a mirror near a window to enjoy increased sightlines and natural light.

3. Minimize Accessories

minimalist desk arrangement

Clutter overwhelms and overstimulates the senses. There are many ways to stem the tide against this enemy. The first step is to focus on a few large main pieces such as a sofa, table, dresser, etc. Once these items fill the room, do not fall into the temptation of accessorizing the remaining open areas. When adding your finishing touches, opt for a plant over an end table, a large picture frame on the wall vs multiple smaller ones and leave a little empty space on shelves to make your room feel more expansive.  

4. Leave Room in Between Wall and Furniture

woman relaxing on couch

This may seem counterintuitive at first. Many people instinctively want as much space in the center of the room as possible. Obeying this instinct, however, will make it appear as though your furniture and décor was jammed into the room, rather than strategically placed about. Leaving space in between a wall and furniture, even if it is only inches, will lend to the feeling of a more spacious room.

5. Natural Light is Queen

living room nook with natural light

In general, always encourage a copious amount of natural light into your space. Orient your furniture to maximize the views afforded by your room. Set up your favorite piece of furniture by the window. In the winter months, you will be thankful for the extra vitamin D on your lazy weekends. Whatever you do, do not block those wonderful windows with a tall plant or the back of your couch!

6. Unique Light Fixtures

small living room with airy light fixture

While this technique may cost a few hundred dollars and some effort to install, you won’t find a more sure-fire method to enlarge the feeling of your room. Unique light fixtures draw the eye upward, making the brain more aware of the vertical space within a room. Another great side benefit of a statement piece like this is how strongly you can influence the overall style of the room without having to purchase new furniture.

7. Use Sofas with Exposed Legs

gray sofa with exposed legs

When contemplating the purchase of a sofa with visible legs or a skirt, go with the legs. Choosing a piece of furniture with visible legs will allow the greatest scope of vision. Furthermore, skirted sofas tend to appear bulkier. If a piece like this is slightly outside of your comfort zone, pick a neutral color fabric for the couch and the rest of the décor in your room can dictate the style.

8. Use a Large Rug

living room with large rug

Do not confuse a large rug with a bulky rug. They are two very different pieces, and for a small room, always go with a large rug. An effective rule of thumb is that your rug should touch the front legs of outer furniture pieces. Be sure to double check the dimensions of your room before you purchase a rug – too small or too large each come with awkward results. Measure twice, purchase once!

9. Hang Shelves and TV on Walls

floating media console on living room wall

Wall-hung shelves will draw the eyes upward, a goal of maximizing space in a small room. Mounting your TV will create a sleek and uncluttered look. Generally, minimizing the amount of furniture touching the floor is a good thing. Many people will forgo this technique for the effort involved, but the space that it will open up in your room is well worth the sacrifice of a few hours for setup on a weekend afternoon.

10. Create a Walkway

picturesque walkway through trees

Whenever possible, do not allow the room to become one without a clear walkway. Zigzagging through a cramped, cluttered space will undoubtedly overwhelm you and your guests. Make it as easy as possible to navigate the space. You’ll find the space opens up visually, and you may just save yourself a few stubbed toes on the leg of that pesky coffee table!


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