Small spaces have the potential to be cozy and charming, but if you’re not careful, they can turn into a total bummer. Over time, your collection of household items can start to resemble mountains of clutter—and before you know it, cramming it all into one tiny space can make your home feel downright uncomfortable.
Of course, curbing the clutter in your pad is just one of the ways to be proactive in making your home look and feel bigger. In fact, experts are seeing homeowners and renters prioritizing this now more than ever.
“People are more dedicated and interested in ensuring that every space in a home is functional,” says Eilyn Jimenez, founder and creative director of Sire Design. “I am seeing a more ‘quality over quantity’ attitude with homeowners when it comes to their spaces.”
Don’t let your walls close in on you! Whether you’re decorating your living room or bedroom, make sure to avoid these common mistakes that are sure to cramp your home (and style).
1. Painting walls a dark color
“Dark colors draw the eye inward, making a small space seem confined,” says Pramiti Bhargava, interior design and staging expert at BlueGrape in San Diego.
Trick the eye into making your rooms look bigger and wider by painting all walls neutral, light, or earthy tones so they seamlessly blend and look as spacious as possible.
2. Using large or out-of-scale furniture
Bulky furniture can make a space feel smaller and cluttered and may have visitors heading for the door.
“A common mistake people often make while decorating is cramming too many pieces of furniture into a small room,” says Challie Stillman, vice president of sales and design at Resource Furniture. “Small spaces need to perform multiple functions, like sleeping, lounging, working, and dining, but adding a piece of furniture for each task can quickly overwhelm a room and make it feel much smaller than it actually is.”
Another mistake is overfilling a room with oversized or dark furniture.
“If you’re working with a small space, keep it light and simple,” says Jimenez.
Also, keep enough space between furniture pieces so you and your guests can move about comfortably.
“Make sure there’s fluidity around the room,” says Jimenez.
3. Cluttering the walls
We’ve all been in homes that do double duty as a museum—and not always in a good way.
“While the gallery wall trend can look elegant, it definitely works better in a larger space,” says Bhargava. “When a home has lower ceilings, too many things on the walls can make a room feel cramped.”
Adding a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf can make the room appear bigger and create extra storage for all your favorite prints and photographs.
4. Having too many colors and patterns
Bringing color into your living space can make it appear more happy and lived in, but don’t go overboard.
“Multiple loud or dark colors and patterns can make any space seem even smaller,” says Bhargava. “It’s vital to have soothing and neutral colors to make small spaces seem bigger.”
Of course, we’re not suggesting you live in a house of beige. But experts do suggest incorporating colors and patterns sparingly if you want the room to feel more spacious.
5. Using loud-patterned rugs or too many rugs
Rugs are an essential design element in any room, but they should be chosen carefully and used sparingly to get the right effect.
“Bright, patterned rugs can make small rooms appear even smaller, whereas simpler, neutral rugs can create a visual feel of spaciousness in a room,” says Bhargava.
If you have your heart set on keeping a bright, patterned rug in a room, “then go simpler and neutral with artwork, furniture, or other elements within the room.”
Also, avoid placing multiple rugs of various sizes and floor runners in a room.
“Defining the space with a rug or two max is all that’s needed,” says Bhargava.
6. Using too many tile patterns
Experimenting with tile can be a fun design move, but going overboard with patterns can overwhelm the space.
“Not only can it automatically downsize the room, but some patterns risk being somewhat dizzying for anyone who enters,” says Jimenez. “Keep it simple, and select a maximum of two to three options for tile as to not detract from the overall design.”