Making the most of limited space: Tips for styling small living areas
The premise that only grand spaces — with sweeping architectural features, high ceilings and endless areas for living — can be home to good design is an outdated fallacy. As expanding urban areas lead many to choose compact units or homes in pursuit of lifestyle, the principles of interior design remain applicable to all. This means that space can never be ‘too small’ for good design.
When you’re faced with a small or modest living area, you can still make the most of style and functionality, as endless design potential exists in rooms of all sizes. No matter its size, features or characteristics, each home holds the potential to become a design marvel.
We’ve put together some recommendations for making the most of compact living spaces:
Guide to small scale room design
The process of decorating and furnishing room remains the same, regardless of the room's size. Taking the time to really consider the best furniture options for your space will pay dividends by way of a final result that you love.
Here’s how we would plan a space:
- Go slowly, and add sparingly. Never decorate in a hurry! It is much better to take your time and find pieces you truly love.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember, nothing is permanent. Place objects in certain ways, and consider how it feels to live with it at different times of day. Move and swap items around until you feel the placement is right. Styling is all about how you feel in the space.
- Less is more. There is no need to add objects or decor just for the sake of adding them. Statement pieces can make an incredible impact when not surrounded by clutter.
- Get the basics right. Purchase a large-size rug. Find a quality sofa and accent chairs you love. Select a coffee table that can be a focal point in the room while also providing functionality based on how you use the space. In a compact space, it’s essential to love each piece. For this step, finding designer furniture Australia-wide is a worthwhile endeavour, with renowned and skilled designers creating staple pieces to love. Search your city for perfect pieces, or browse online.
- Hide clutter from daily use. Tuck away objects like TV cords, gaming paraphernalia, and other electronic cords for a neater, cleaner and more spacious feel.
- Create layered lighting. Use a combination of wall lights, floor lamps, and table lamps. Test many different combinations of lightning in the evening to see what feels right. This is up to personal preference. Aim for an ambiance you enjoy.
Get the basics right with a quality sofa and accent chairs you love. Image via @hadleywiggins_
How to arrange furniture in a compact space
When it comes to making the most of a small-scale living space, the way you arrange your furniture will play a critical role in both the style and functionality of the room.
One suggestion is to begin by lying on the floor and looking at the outline of the ceiling. This will provide new perspective on the boundaries of the room — a true ‘blank slate’ — particularly if your space is flexible in regards to thoroughfares, window orientation, views, and surrounding spaces.
Once you’ve done so, consider the following space planning tips for arranging furniture in your compact space — creating a comfortable, luxurious room with both style and functionality in mind:
- Pare back to the least amount of furniture possible, whilst keeping comfort and usability in mind.
- Consider using a large size rug (as large as you can go). Contrary to what you may expect, large rugs expand the size of the room, making it appear larger.
- Choose a sofa that is proportionate to the size of the room.
- Use one accent chair, rather than two, to save space. This will allow you to create a visual point of difference in the room, even with limited space.
- Remove any cabinetry or furniture pieces that are not needed, such as a TV cabinet — can the TV be mounted to the wall instead? Consider what you will and will not use.
- Purchase furniture that is multi-functional. This may be a sofa with built-in storage, or a sleek side table that slides over the edge of the sofa, taking up only a small amount of space while providing essential functionality.
- Consider using wall lighting, rather than floor lamps, to create ambiance and mood without a footprint.
Consider using one accent chair rather than two, creating a visual point of difference even with limited space. Image via adrienmeira
Innovate by decorating the walls
When it comes to small living areas, remember that you have more to work with than simply the floor space. Instead, there are many creative ways you can add style and functionality to each wall in the room, extending the room’s opportunities for interest and character.
Create visual interest across each wall with options such as:
- Antique sconce lights, whether electric or candle-holding.
- A collection of small, electric original artworks held in beautiful frames. Source these from flea markets or local auction houses.
- Hanging wall mirrors.
- Vintage objet d’art with hanging capacity, or those that can have hanging hardware installed.
- Antique trays and plates.
Extend the opportunities for adding interest and character by making creative use of wall space. Image via @dwellbyjo
Enlarge the room through visual illusions
Some rooms feel large and spacious, and some feel compact and crowded. Read on to learn how you can achieve the feeling of a wide, spacious area, even when furnishing a compact room — because perception is everything when it comes to elevating your environment.
- Allow natural light to flood the room. Remove heavy curtains or window furnishings that dilute or block natural light from entering the space.
- Paint the walls a neutral shade of white.
- Place mirrors to visually expand the space.
- Get rid of unnecessary clutter. Keep only the decor that truly pleases you.
- Keep to a light colour palette for furnishings. Dark furnishings can make the room feel heavy and small.
- Choose a large size rug. Rugs that are too small will reduce the visual size of the space. Place most of your furniture atop this large rug.
Choose a large size rug — as large as you can go — and an appropriately sized sofa. Image via @phoebenicol.interiors
Create a unique look in the room
Though a space may be compact, the design of your home will benefit greatly from giving each area its own identity — a visual personality that is unique to that room, yet cohesive with the design of the whole. This method adds to the allure and personality of the space, no matter how big or small.
The first step to decorating and furnishing your small-scale space is to identity the look and feel you aim to create, then move forward to curate and select pieces that fulfil this brief.
Below are our best tips for doing so.
- Choose unconventional decorative pieces that speak to you. These should be items that you truly enjoy and identify with. Your personal preferences will form the foundation of the room’s style.
- Source unique artwork. Artwork is one of the most individualistic aspects in any space. Find original artworks in beautiful frames from auction houses or local flea markets. Group art together, perhaps as a gallery wall, or place a piece on its own as a feature.
Curate antiques that are one of a kind. These can be placed throughout the room to add character and charm. Antique stores with fabulous finds can be found across local townships and big cities, as well as online.
- Throw out the rule book and innovate. Mix soft furnishings in unconventional ways. Pair unexpected patterns with eye-catching textures. Enhance a compact space with a unique selection of fabrics, finishes and colours, creating depth and movement to elevate the atmosphere of the space.
Choose decorative pieces that speak to you. Mix colours, patterns, fabrics and textures in unconventional ways to create depth. Image via @domenico_argento_studio
Use designer furniture in Australia for compact spaces
With only limited space to work with, filling the room with beautifully crafted furniture will make an incredible visual impact. Doing so will elevate the atmosphere by filling the room with unique features and character, thus making your time spent in each space a pleasure.
Australia is home to artisans and designers across the country, with many boutiques both online and brick-and-mortar offering an innovative and eclectic range of feature furnishings. Shopping designer furniture Australia-wide is an undeniable way to create unforgettable spaces, from compact to spacious, and across each expertly styled nook in between.
Utilise surprising combination of objects and items to take the eye on a journey across the room. Image via @Samantha.leigh.interiors