Tricks for making your small space larger

by Barbara Schwab

I live in a small space with lots of stuff- we like to collect things. One of the ways to handle having lots of treasures is the effective use of wall space for storage and display.

Look up – utilize the high spaces to add storage, shelves and hang art objects.

  • In our little bungalow we use cabinets hanging on the walls above our desks. Both George and my work spaces are set up this way. His is a nook in the living room. Mine is in a little room that doubles as a single guest room. In the living room space we used stock unfinished upper kitchen cabinets from Home Depot and added an rich walnut stain. In the small studio/guest room we used dark Ikea cabinets.

  • We also used this trick in our new bathroom, hanging cabinets up above the pedestal sinks. The cabinets also make a storage/display space on top, if your ceilings are high enough.

    Small office bedroom space with cabinets on the wall above the Arne Vodder desk.

Another trick we use. Add shelves at the halfway point in the windows. It creates a useful place to display objects or plants if you have a green thumb.

We have lots of books that we like to look at. It’s not for everyone having floor to ceiling books, but if you want to live with my George, it will be so. He has had many more books than we could ever keep in one house and so periodically gives them to libraries, under extreme duress. Floor to ceiling shelves is a great way to display beautiful art objects, ceramics, and books, built-ins are nice, but we've used IKEA Billy bookcases many times, if you’re on a budget I recommend them highly.

Color can create the illusion of more space. Light wall colors in a small space can be perfect. You can also use a dark color as I do in the small studio/guest room I talked the walls disappear, or you can use a medium value color but keep it neutral. I’m not a fan of super bright color walls, and if I choose a pastel shade I gray the color out a bit, so it is not too sweet. I like to save my brights for accents, pillows, art on the wall, or a beautiful vase with flowers.

Color selection can make a room seem larger, as shown with  this seafoam wall color in the bedroom.

Pick a feature element for the room. If it’s the bedroom the feature will be the bed, because it needs to be the biggest thing. (Caution, not all bedrooms are big enough for a king size bed. We had to choose queen size in our house because the proportions worked better for the size of the room. My son who lives in a small Brooklyn apartment has to settle for a full size bed for the same reason.) I love my lime green quilt with the seafoam color walls. The color values are similar, which gives an illusion of the space being bigger than it really is.

Adding in the furniture. I’ve talked about this in other blogs, but to recap. Mid Century and Danish Modern furniture is perfect for small rooms. The proportions are elegant and well thought out for storage and comfort with a minimal footprint.

Editing your belongings. A hard but necessary task, even with as much space as we have created to store our wonderful treasures our space is finite. Our solution – give things away, sell them on ebay or craigslist, to make space for new collections to be displayed. You may want to have a yard sale.

Simpler is better. To much going on can make a space seem smaller. Pick objects you love—storage is key to keeping things looking uncluttered. I love baskets and boxes for their look and the fact that I can hide the belongings I don’t want to look at. Many would consider our home to be way too cluttered. I don’t disagree. I strive to reduce constantly. My own editing abilities seem thwarted by emotional attachments to my treasures, years of accumulation, and a wonderful husband who is a relentless collector.

Valences above the wood shades are used as shelves to display African baskets. Valences above the wood shades are used as shelves to display African baskets. Featured in the picture are many of the furniture items you can see in our shop and the William Daley Ceramic