Furnishing and Decorating Small Spaces (10 Practical Tips)

Cozy small space living room with a rustic vibe

Small spaces run the gamut from entire small houses to just one space-challenged room within a larger home.

And while some people consciously choose and like decorating small spaces, others may feel “stuck” with theirs.

Whatever the case, most can benefit from 10 proven tips to help small spaces look and function their best:

Decorating Small Spaces

1. Start with a plan.

Yep.  We’re starting there again.   Because it is so important – especially in small spaces where every inch counts.

2. Use every inch.

As you’re planning ideas for decorating small spaces, analyze every area: Could an area be used differently than originally intended? Is there a potential for more storage?  Can you design it to multi-task?


In the example above, the closet not only works great as an office area, but the doors can be closed when not in use to hide any clutter.   The desk chair can rotate around and be used for additional seating in the family room.

3. Scale furniture to the space.

Many times smaller furniture pieces will be the perfect option for a small space, but there are times when fewer, relatively larger, pieces may work better and make the space appear larger.  (Sometimes sectionals will even work in small spaces.)

The key is to measure, play with different arrangements, and choose furniture that is an appropriate size and scale for your specific space.  

warm rustic small space living room
SHOP: macleran sofa | accent tables

4. Let it breathe.

Balance solid or shorter legged furniture pieces with pieces that are open on the bottom to help free up more visual space.

In the room above, the short tapered legs on the sofa gives more breathing room than a skirted sofa would, and accent tables that are completely open (with the exception of legs) free up even more visual space.

5. Go vertical.

Remember that the floor isn’t the only available space in the room. Maximize vertical space by using tall storage furniture, placing art vertically, and hanging window treatments higher than the windows to add height.
Small space living room - Tall storage piece take advantage of vertical height
SHOP: display cabinet

6. Lighten up.

There are at least 3 ways light can be your friend in a small space:

WINDOWS keep a small space from feeling closed in, so use them to your advantage!  Choose minimal  or sheer window treatments, or hang them in a way that takes full advantage of natural light.

WALLS painted white, or a lighter color, reflect more light and can create an airy feel in the space.

LAMPS are important to accommodate tasks and create ambiance.  If there isn’t room for table lamps, make use of walls sconces and floor lamps.

7. Use mirrors.

Mirrors will visually double parts of any space you put them in, reflect the light, and add sparkle – a plus in any space!

Light-filled small space bedroom
SHOP: chesapeake mirror | dresser

8. Multitask.

To maximize your space, look for furniture that can perform more than one task — coffee tables or ottomans that accomodate storage, a sofa that folds out into a bed, beds with storage, a desk that doubles as a sofa table, a dining table that also works as a desk… You get the idea.

9. Limited color palette and contrast.

Whether you choose bold color or soft neutrals, using a limited color palette and minimizing contrast between the walls and larger furniture pieces will both contribute to a more expansive feeling in the space.

small space bedroom in soft neutrals - limited color palette and minimizing contrast lends to a more expansive feeling in the space
SHOP: chesapeake storage beds | nighstand

10. Contain the clutter.

When there’s not much space to work with, clutter can get out of hand in a hurry and make your small space less than enjoyable to be in.

Take advantage of storage furniture, baskets, bins, and closets to create a system for organization.

Pick and choose.

None of the previous 10 are “rules”.  Instead, they’re proven methods that are known to help when decorating small spaces, depending on your specific needs.  You may need all 10, or just a few, but we’d love to hear how they worked for you.

For more small space inspiration, check out our Small Space Decorating and Design page!

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