Interior Expert Tips & Design Ideas For A Small Home

With more and more people opting to downsize their home and live a more minimalist and clutter-free life, making the most of your small home or a specific small space within your home is becoming higher up on the agenda for more and more people. As Jennifer Woch, an Interior Designer, expertly puts it – “Small space living is living for the future with less emphasis on consumption and more emphasis on experiences and life.”
Sam Hood
Ivan Meade
Jaime Derringer

Small homes are all the rage right now – if you’ve not seen Tiny House Nation on Netflix yet, then check it out! Just because you’ve got a smaller space to work with, doesn’t mean you should be more limited with how you design and use the space.

As we’re approaching a new season, now is the perfect time to get your home ready for Autumn/Winter and to turn every corner of your home into a space which you’re proud of and excited to show off to friends and family! With the help of professional interior designers and interior consultants, below you’ll find some expert advice on making the most of your small living space. From big updates such as accentuating your ceiling to small updates like clever mirror placement and lighting choices, you won’t be able to complain about your small home or small living room again.

We’ve managed to get in touch with some leading names in the interior design industry including Sam Hood, Founder of Amara and Jaime Derringer, Founder of Design Milk. We asked all the below experts one simple question:

“What would be your top tip for making the most of a small living space?”

You can find all their responses to this question below. We’d like to thank all of the experts for getting involved in this feature. Please be sure to share with your family and friends if you find the article useful!

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Jaime Derringer - Founder & Executive Editor - Design Milk

"My advice would be to choose furnishings that are multi-functional, such as mirrors with storage, convertible sofas, foldable tables or stools that do double duty as trays or side tables. In a small space, you have to consider choosing pieces carefully, and adding furnishings and decor that can contribute to your living situation beyond just looking pretty."

Sam Hood - Founder & Creative Director - Amara

"When furnishing and designing a small space, I always make sure I limit as much clutter as possible and use multi-functional pieces of furniture and decoration. For example a great table or shelving unit in a stand out colour or with a decorative design are not only functional but add colour and interest. I also always try to stick to one colour palette - too much colour can confuse the eye, whereas a simpler colour palette drawers the eye around the room without losing focus."

Stacey Sheppard - Freelance Writer & Blogger - The Design Sheppard

"Don't be fooled into thinking that you have no option but to paint a small living space bright white to make it look bigger. Depending which way the room faces and the available light, painting it white may not help. Instead embrace the small proportions of the room and consider opting for a dark wall colour that will give the space a warmer, more cosy feeling and make more of a statement."

Rachel Newcombe - Editor - Fresh Design Blog

"Choose furniture carefully and measure the space you have available before you buy large items, such as a dining table, sofa and chairs. Often the size can be deceptive in furniture stores and pieces look great, but when you get them into your own home, they take up more room than you'd imagined.

With items such as side tables and coffee tables, you can create the illusion of having more space by choosing pieces with open legs (i.e. no enclosed storage underneath them). Sets of occasional tables that stack together when not in use are useful to have, as they save space when they're not in use. Mirrors are also great for bouncing light into a room and definitely help in a small living space."

Natalie Kraiem - Interior Designer - Natalie Kraiem Interiors

"To maximise a small space and make it feel larger, I like to create an impact by accentuating the ceiling with wallpaper or bold paint colours to use it as a fifth wall. You can create a jewel box effect and make it more interesting and cosy."

Joy Moyler - Design Principal - Joy Moyler Interiors

"My top tip for making the most of a small space is to organise with tone and scale in mind. When designing small spaces, organisation is key. I approach small spaces like a luxurious shipping vessel, where every object has a space designed specifically for that item. Only use furniture you love, in scale benefiting the size of the room.

Accessories and decorative items display best when they are curated and clustered. For example, I will cluster three to six, similar tone ceramic vases of varying shapes and sizes on the mantle or on a shelf. This creates interesting form, and simplicity."

Katie Hodges - Owner & Principal Designer - Katie Hodges Design

"When furnishing a small space, avoid using only small-scale furnishings. While it may seem like the logical approach (small space = small furniture), try to have at least one item with significant scale and visual weight to create a foundation. I typically like to do this with a sofa, which pairs perfectly with leggier accent chairs and coffee tables."

Ivan Meade - Principal Designer - Meade Design Group 

"FUNCTION – Evaluate the space according to your needs and carefully plan how you are going to use the space, where are you going to place all your belongings and edit/edit. You need to learn how to live with the most basic. Planning first, aesthetics next.

SCALE – There is a misconception that just because your space is small, you need to buy small or condo furniture pieces. Buy a normal size sofa or dining table and the rest of the pieces can be selected according to the special needs of the space. Never buy the 3 seat sofa and love sit combo. The 3 seat sofa and accent chairs will give you more flexibility on your space. The accent chairs can also be used for extra flow in your dining table when you have extra guests. Starting with big pieces will make the space more comfortable, yet functional. Sometimes you need to custom design pieces to fit and work in a small room. The cost associated in the beginning can be higher, but the comfort that will bring to your space and everyday life is even greater.

STORAGE – Once you have analysed the space needs, plan where you can add extra storage. Some of my tips are not to center the dining room in the space and to build book cases or pantries in each side of a bench that is located in the center of the largest wall. You can also add a mirror above the bench to open the space visually and reflect light. You can also add storage under the bench. This same concept can be used on the sofa wall or a bed wall. For these areas I usually add a slide shelf that can act as a night stand table or side table for a drink, but you can put it away when it's not in use. The sofa can also be a sofa hide a bed so this space can be used for when you have guests. Your living room can act as a guest bedroom. You can purchase weather resistant storage for your patio to storage things you don’t use often.

LIGHT & REFLECTION – While designing your space put special attention to the light needs of the space, a bright space will always look bigger. Also add mirrors in flattering locations. Some great locations are behind sofas or dining room benches, beside your bed or night stand tables, and entry walls. Always include your mirrors in areas where you will not be looking at yourself all the time, behind the areas where you usually rest does the trick and makes the space not to feel narcissistic."

Ana Cummings - Interior Designer - Ana Interiors

"My 10 Tips for making a small space appear bigger:

Dark colours at the end of a hall or room will make it appear longer.

Hanging draperies to the ceiling will make the room height feel taller. I apply this rule to shower curtains in bathrooms as well.

Adding a pop of colour to the centre of a room will make the eye go there first, which then makes the space around it feel bigger.

Scale is everything, you want to have all of the elements in a space that make it work perfectly. For example, in a bedroom, it is so lovely to have a bed flanked by side tables, not shoved into a corner such that you can’t walk around to even make the bed. In order to achieve the right arrangement, we opt for a smaller sized bed so that the room looks truly balanced.

Wallcoverings or murals always add a layer of dimension, in addition to personality and interest.

Using multipurpose furnishings like Murphy beds or cocktail tables that turn into dining tables, those are fantastic for small spaces. One could entirely rearrange their space according to their mood or needs.

Integrated storage is critical for small spaces. Everything should have a dedicated spot instead of heaping piles all over the place. Any clean, edited and uncluttered home will always feel amazing and look even better.

Cord and wire management for small spaces is also important, with the vast amount of devices, chargers, modems, and technology in general, we need to be smart about not having them take over our homes. Consult with a technology advisor or designer on how to best manage that aspect of your home.

Add layers of light on different levels in the space. You’ll want to have ambient, task and accent lighting in every room. Natural light of course, is a bonus.

Lastly, and most importantly is COLOUR. You’ll want to implement a cohesive colour scheme throughout the small space and weave those elements throughout each room so that the entire space flows together harmoniously."

Ryan Saghian - Principal Designer - Ryan Saghian Interiors

"My top tips for making the most of a small living space would be wallpapering your ceiling and accessorising as much as you can. Take advantage of every corner and go busy on top. People tend to ignore the ceiling but so much can be done to make a huge impact on your space."

Jonathan Legate - Interior Consultant - Jonathan Legate

"When making the most of a small living space I always like to think big. Using items and ideas that are usually reserved for large spaces in a small space creates an unexpected wow factor.

Hang art from floor to ceiling, a series of prints identically framed and hung tightly can create a wall of wow and a backdrop for the rest of the space.

A full sheet of mirror backed with plywood hung or leaned against a wall behind a sofa or a free standing bathtub doubles the size of a space and adds light and sparkle.

One big sculpture or artifact creates much more drama than a collection of little pieces and reduces visual clutter.

While I like to think big when it comes to decorative elements I always like to think smaller when it comes to upholstered furniture. Anything too overstuffed or with big arms is wasting physical and visual space. Keeping upholstered pieces in scale with the room will maximise potential. This doesn’t mean giving up comfort, it just means giving up unnecessary bulk.

Big things come in small packages make the most of yours!"

Jennifer Woch - Interior Designer - House of J Interior Design

"The key to any well designed space is planning, but even more so when in comes to small living spaces. Think about all the potential spots for storage and display, such as shelving above a door or window for favourite books, extra linens stored under the bed etc.

In general, light airy colours will help to make the space feel bigger. Think more textures versus a lot of pattern. I love small spaces because they require awesome organisation and thoughtfulness. For example, choosing your favourite piece of art, versus many perhaps many less meaningful pieces.

Small space living is living for the future with less emphasis on consumption and things and more emphasis on experiences and life."

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