Since I graduated from college, I’ve lived in at least ten different apartments, and not one of them has been particularly spacious. Every time I move into a new place, I’m faced with the challenge of keeping my living quarters tranquil, open, and airy-seeming. Over the years, I’ve picked up a number of pointers for accomplishing this goal, and while I can’t say they make my house look like a Malibu mansion, they’re simple, satisfying tactics for creating the illusion of space—and keeping household messes at bay at the same time.
1. Eliminate clutter.
Knickknacks and bric-a-brac are the archenemies of a small-home resident. If you do have a collection of figurines or memorabilia that you simply can’t bear to part with, a good rule of thumb is to select three to five items at a time to display, and keep the rest stored out of sight until you’re ready to rotate in new pieces. This technique accomplishes the dual purpose of leaving more open surfaces in the room and of highlighting the aesthetic value of the individual collectibles on view. In addition, keep wall hangings to a minimum—one or two larger paintings overwhelm a cramped space less than clusters of small images do.
2. Select light, cool paint hues.
Dark, warm colors are useful in large rooms where people want to establish a sense of intimacy, but in small spaces, those hues are counterproductive. Instead, choose white or soft blue or green tones, which recede in a room and make it seem airy and more spacious.
3. Keep colors and patterns simple.
The greater the number of colors and patterns you have in a room, the more broken up the space will appear. Instead, by keeping your furniture, walls, and decorative fabrics (bedspreads, window treatments, rugs) within the same color family, you’ll establish a more continuous aesthetic flow throughout the area.
4. Expose as much floor space as possible.
If you have wood floors, don’t cover them with area rugs; either leave them exposed entirely or use a single area rug
5. Let there be light.
Both natural and artificial light can work wonders in terms of opening up a small space. Allow as much light from the outside as possible to stream in through the room’s windows, and choose sheer or thin window coverings so as not to hamper visitors’ views of the expansive outdoors. Enhance the effect by installing ample lamps, track lighting, or recessed lighting.