How to Decorate Small Spaces

Do you struggle with decorating small spaces? Living in an apartment or home with small rooms doesn’t mean you have to feel cramped or limited in your decorating possibilities. With these five simple rules, you can make your spaces live large while expressing your personal style.


Rule #1: Use repetition to prevent chaos

Too many looks in one small space creates a lot of noise. Take a look around. Do you have 10 different styles of wall frames? Is the finish of your furniture all over the place? Decide on the things you really love and repeat them for clean, consistent styling. Start with color: limit your palette for continuity. Pick a single wall color and a couple of accent colors and repeat them in your decorative accents and throw pillows for fun pops of color. If you love graphic prints, choose just one and repeat it in your pillows, drapery or upholstery. Another way to add interest without overdoing it is through the use of texture, which can come from a woven rug, baskets, nubby blankets and more.



Rule #2: Bounce light around

Look for impactful ways to make your space feel bigger by reflecting light. One way is through the use of light colors. Bathe your walls in white or a light neutral to make your room airy and open. (Sounds boring? Exceptions are painting a dark focal point wall for definition and scale or painting the inside of a bookcase for contrast.) Recover a dark sofa in white, oatmeal or linen or paint your existing accent furniture white. Using mirrors is another decorating trick that works wonders. An oversized mirror or a set of small mirrors will reflect the views of the room while bouncing natural light around, creating a feeling of spaciousness in every corner.


Rule #3: Visually expand windows

Make your windows feel grander and let more light in by hanging drapery outside the window frame on each side of your windows. You can also draw the eyes up toward the ceiling and create a sense of height in the room when you hang floor-length drapery several inches above the window frame (close to ceiling height). To prevent too much contrast or visual borders, you can use white sheers or draperies similar to the color of your walls.


Rule #4: Choose your furniture wisely

Don’t overwhelm your room with too much furniture or large-scale pieces. You want furniture that is more compact and visually lightweight. Low-profile seating, slender bodies and pieces with legs that are open underneath all help create a sense of space. Look for other ways to free up space. For example, instead of a bookcase, try shelves that are mounted to the wall or hang a wall-mounted sconce in place of a floor lamp. Additionally, you can give the illusion of depth and create a little breathing room by floating furniture away from the walls.



Rule #5: Don’t over-accessorize

The old adage “less is more” certainly applies to small space decorating. Filling a room with accessories is the quickest way to create that cluttered look and feel—exactly what you want to avoid. Instead, choose a few favorite pieces and use them to dress up a table, mantel or bookcase. The same rule applies to the walls, too. Select one oversized piece of art or mirror, or your favorite prints and photos hung in a grid, to create a focal point. In general, avoid adding too many shapes and textures to the walls.


Have other thoughts on decorating small spaces? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Corinne Muth

    June 5, 2017

    Looking for a way to display a base

  2. Reply


    February 4, 2013

    Thank you for acknowledging those of us who live in smaller places. I hope to see more articles on smaller home dilemmas in the future! Thanks Style Studio!