The Times | October 2018

Article title:
10 easy ways to make a small space look bigger

With the magic of interior design and a few visual and spatial ruses, it is possible to make space where there isn’t any.

The Times Article - Louisa Dwelly

One paint colour, such as Valspar’s Visionary white, across walls makes a room appear larger

Space is one of the most precious modern commodities. At 67.8 sq m new homes are, on average, the smallest in 90 years. But, even if you live in a rambling period pile, it’s not always easy or affordable to burrow out the basement or convert the loft. You could, however, make your home look and feel bigger without extending its footprint.

Using the magic of interior design and visual and spatial tricks it is possible to make space where there isn’t any. Here are ten quick ways to make your home look bigger without vast outlay or having the builders in until Christmas.

Clear advantage

A clutter-free room will always look larger than one filled with junk, so make a tidy-up your first priority. Circulation space gives a sense of openness and movement, so keep the floor as clear as possible. “Floating furniture can be very effective,” says Louise Dwelly, an interior designer at Studio Suss. “For example, a floating shelf instead of a console table.” This works well in small hallways and in bedrooms, where space is often tight either side of the bed.

Throw some shades

Jason Hines, a paint buyer for Homebase, says that we should adopt colour rules. “The use of one colour family across walls and woodwork, particularly from the grey or light-blue spectrum, will make a room feel much bigger as there are no contrasts to draw the eye,” he says. “Painting walls, skirting and doors in different shades of the same colour is a simple way to make the space look larger.”

What lies beneath

Take up the carpet and replace it with a solid floor, says the architect Max de Rosee. This will make a room feel more spacious. A carpet absorbs the light, but a solid floor reflects and bounces it around, especially if it has a glossy finish. The floor also presents potential for optical illusions. Henry Prideaux, an interiors expert, says that planks of timber flooring that run across a room make it feel wider. To add length, place them lengthways towards a window or door.

Light up your life

Small rooms often lack what interior designers call interest. This can make a space feel dull and claustrophobic. Keep the ceiling clear of low pendants, which make the vibe oppressive. “Instead, layer different types of light in a space to create warmth, interest and mood,” says Debra Kacher of DK Interiors. “Try combining natural daylight and everyday task lighting with decorative lighting through lamps, wall or floor lights. It will change the feeling of space by day and night.” Nadia McCowan Hill, a style adviser at Wayfair, suggests smoky vintage lightbulbs to create a soft mood and throw shadows, which help to add that elusive interest.

More tricks of light

Mirrors can double a room’s size. “Their placement is key to reflecting light back into a room, making it appear lighter, brighter, as well as in some cases bigger,” Kacher says. “Very small, dark rooms benefit from mirroring a wall. If you choose the largest possible antique-finished mirror, for instance, it creates a decorative feature and opens up the space through the refraction of light.” Don’t be afraid to play with perspective. If you have a narrow hall, hang a large mirror, artwork or decorative wall lights.

Ditch the radiators

Chances are your radiators are not things of beauty. Why not replace at least some with underfloor heating, especially in smaller rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens? “Underfloor heating delivers significant space savings and increased design flexibility,” says Rachel Smith, a general manager at Polypipe Underfloor Heating. “Creative furniture placement and strategic lighting can make rooms feel bigger than they are, but underfloor heating increases the useable space.”

Open the door

A good tip, easily achieved with the help of a joiner, is to change the way a door opens. Rehang it so the room you want to look bigger does not have a door opening into it. Or fit a sliding pocket door, which allows the door to “disappear” into the wall. Glass looks spectacular as an interior wall, says Cindy Fuller, the founder of the interiors service Designs Direct. “Replace a stud wall with a glass wall to open up a space. If an entire wall is too much, just remove part of it and replace with glass.” You could also exchange French garden doors for bifold or sliding glass. This allows the room to open up, instantly extending your space.

Think big

This sounds counterintuitive, but a small space can often appear more commodious if you decorate and furnish it with oversized things. “Using wide planks in a small living room or large-format tiles in a bathroom will always make a space feel bigger,” says Darren Hopkins, the founder of the sustainable wood flooring brand Root and the director of sales at Stone Age, a luxury stoneware and porcelain company. “However, this needs care. The key is choosing planks and tiles that are big, but not so large that they overpower the space and make it seem smaller.”

Go with the grain

If a full extension with a sociable island is too much of a stretch, work on your worktops. Heavy, dark granite, for instance, hoovers up light. Swap for white with a light-reflecting fleck, or woodgrain. The kitchen designer Tom Howley believes that certain woodgrain finishes can expand the perceived size of a kitchen. “Kitchens with low ceilings, in converted barns for example, can be given a loftier look if you specify a vertical grain pattern. Or you can play to the low-lying cosiness of the space and use a horizontal grain,” he says.

Add height

Increase your room height by taking down false ceilings and exposing roof rafters, De Rosee says. Full-height fitted shelves take the eye upwards and provide useful storage and display space. Prideaux recommends adding curtains that are almost ceiling to floor, which will make a room feel taller, as will vertically striped wallpaper.

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