Create mini spaces with mega style! We share our top design secrets for how to get the most out of your square footage.
Writer Bradley Nesbitt
1 of 33Photo: Julia Lynn; Stylist: Elizabeth Moss
Reflect it Back
In the master suite of this Kiawah Island, South Carolina, cottage, a mirror with a scalloped frame reflects the light, which makes the tiny space look larger. "I didn't want it to have a catalog look," says designer Jamie Meares, "so I blended old and new." She paired the bed, which has a driftwood feel, with artisan-made lacquered grasscloth nightstands.
2 of 33Photo: Annie Schlechter; Stylist: Matthew Gleason
Create Art out of the Everyday
This 200-square foot Cape Cod cottage’s tiny footprint means that finding space to store all the trappings for a day at the beach was a challenge. Instead of hiding hats, towels, and sunglasses, designer Courtney Fadness designed a nook with built-in shelving using the same reclaimed wood on the walls. "Now, it's an interesting focal point," she says. "The open shelving makes its beachy contents feel like colorful sculpture."
3 of 33Photo: Annie Schlechter; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
Scale it Up
To make the headboard in this small master bedroom in Key West, designer Blair Gordon enlarged a photograph of an antique French mirror, laser-cut a piece of wood to match the shape, and upholstered it in a large-scale print. "Regardless of how many frills or curves they have, antique shapes with an exaggerated scale feel modern," Blair says. "Plus, big statements make small rooms feel more spacious." Nailhead trim not only echoes the detailing of the side tables but also highlights the headboard's oversize, dramatic silhouette.
Borrowing cues from life aboard a ship, the designers of this Galveston Bay, Texas, home maximized sleeping space in the boys' bedroom by working with builder Neil Potter to design and construct custom bunk beds. "We tore out an old closet and fit them right in," says Potter. "We even installed boat fans at the end of the beds. It was a really clever, fun project."
In the girls' bedroom of this Galveston Bay, Texas home, the beds are pushed close together to make way for a third sleeper in the tiny space. "We were careful to choose light bed linens and a soft, neutral paint color for the walls to keep the room from feeling cramped," says designer Elizabeth Munger Stiver.
In this small Galveston, Texas, bedroom, hooks line the wall—a practical solution to offset the lack of storage. Designer Cathy Chapman also went with taller beaded board here to create the illusion of high ceilings for airy ambience.
9 of 33Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
A rolling island is ideal for a compact kitchen. It’s the perfect problem solver for storage and counter space. If you’re entertaining, just roll it away to maximize floor space.
10 of 33Photo: Tria Giovan; Styling: Elizabeth Beeler
Find the Pattern
Designer Ginger Brewton upholstered a traditional headboard in a lively, graphic print for the boy's room, a juxtaposition that brings a sense of fun and excitement to the small space. A simple, textured bedspread is the perfect finishing touch.
Make use of a lofted bed and slip galvanized buckets underneath to hold blankets and extras. Think outside the box—kitschy Christmas lights are a fun alternative to a typical light fixture. Go for an odd shape, like these reclaimed shotgun shells.
12 of 33Photographer Dominique Vorillon
Decorative screens not only act as a design element, but also suffice as a wall to cover storage goods. Measure your coffee table and find an ottoman that can slide underneath it in case you need extra room.
13 of 33Photographer Dominique Vorillon
An upholstered bench makes great use of corners and tricky spaces. Pick a printed fabric that contrasts the wall color to add more interest to your dining room. Rustic wood chairs and dining tables are the perfect balance to the glam upholstery.
14 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
A modern floor bed is ideal for a room with less ceiling height. Low windows are not blocked by a headboard and allow for full sunlight. Custom built-in side tables match the scale of the bed.
15 of 33Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
To achieve a collected-over-time look, display trinkets, glassware and dinnerware in a glass-front cupboard. A bench is perfect for a small breakfast nook; the long table doubles as chic counter space.
16 of 33Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Tight kitchens need all the help they can get—a pot rack, basket, and glass finials open up counter space. A skirt of fabric underneath countertops is the perfect sweet substitute for cabinets.
17 of 33Photographer Lisa Romerein
Large window space usually means less cabinet space. Make up for the loss of storage by adding built-in cabinets below. Fasten towel bars under sinks for a streamlined look that won’t interfere with the view.
18 of 33Photographer Lisa Romerein
Go with the Low
Even though modern design is typically stark and minimal, you don’t need thousands of square feet to pull off the look. Overhead cabinets and custom rolling drawers that fit under the bedframe work in a tiny loft or a sprawling pad and still maintain the clean, contemporary lines.
19 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
Sectional sofas don’t have to be heavy or cumbersome—choose a gorgeous upholstered option. Instead of a coffee table, try an old trunk or chest. They add character and offer ample storage for throws, games, and books. Wall sconces are wonderful because they free up end tables for accessories.
20 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
Functional with Flair
Lighting and paint are some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to open up a small space. Natural sunlight streaming through windows gives an airy, natural quality to milky white paint from floor to ceiling. Mini extras, like the ceiling pendant and under-the-counter fridge, are key.
21 of 33Photographer Lisa Romerein
Cue from the View
An unobstructed view (no matter how large your windows are) really opens up a room. Neutral tones enhance airiness, allowing pops of color to add personality to the decor. Instead of walling off the kitchen and dining room, keep everything open for a studio-like floor plan.
22 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
Open shelving is a cost-effective and cool way to store kitchen goods. It’s also relatively simple to install and doesn’t require a complete kitchen overhaul—spice up the look with vintage-inspired tile. Mirror the shelving with other accessories that seem to “float,” such as these hanging bulbs and Lucite barstools.
23 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
Red, White, and Beautiful
Spiral staircases are one of the most efficient uses of space. White-on-white design doesn’t have to be boring or fade into the background. Rely on texture to add style points to your room. Amp up the funky factor with pops of hot colors such as this fiery red.
24 of 33Photographer Tri Giovan
When working with tight quarters, design spaces that are multipurpose, such as this reading nook/napping spot/overflow bedroom. Curtains in a cheery print add privacy when the space becomes a guest bedroom.
25 of 33Photographer Grey Crawford
Tone-on-tone color is the never-fail way to create an optical illusion. Go for lighter shades to increase space. (We call it the “little black dress rule:” Dark colors are slimming; white is widening.) Swap out your breakfast table for barstools; they make great use of counter space.
26 of 33Photographer Grey Crawford
Need to seat more people at your dining table? Benches and built-ins are the answer. Choose raw wood for a rustic look, or a great upholstered fabric on a dust ruffle for a soft touch. Mirrors are another trick of the trade—hang them on walls, dangle them from chandeliers, or use them as tabletops.
27 of 33Photographer Grey Crawford
Stylish Seating Solution
Benches don’t have to be reserved just for dining purposes. If you don’t want to create a small seating group, these are a great alternative, especially when trying to fill limited wall space. Drawers utilize the height of bench, making storage chic!
28 of 33Photographer Jon Jensen
Bunk beds are always a great option for accommodating a crowd, plus they have an intrinsic nautical feel. Instead of freestanding bunk beds, try built-ins. They nearly double the available square footage in bedrooms, leaving enough space for an additional reading nook for adults or a play area for kids.
29 of 33Photographer Lisa Romerein
Add drama with swags of fabric draping the walls and ceiling. There is something cozy about a tiny room filled with a plush king bed. To make up for lost space, try creative solutions. Reading sconces replace table lamps and a bench at the foot of the bed adds a beachy touch instead of side tables.
30 of 33Photographer Dominique Vorillon
Traditional with a Twist
A shelving unit is the ultimate style fixer for a drab room, plus it’s an easy way to add your own personality to a room. Use it as a library, entertainment center, or place to showcase trinkets from traveling. Vary the height, shape, and texture of the displayed objects for a loose feel.
31 of 33Photographer Dominique Vorillon
Storage doesn’t always have to be boxed, stacked, or streamlined. Create a softer look by draping fabric on a curtain rod for an instant storage solution. Swap out your queen bed for a daybed. You save precious square footage and end up with enough room for an additional piece of furniture, such as a desk or vanity.
32 of 33Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Tiny spaces don’t have to sacrifice comfort or cool. Scale and proportion are the two key ingredients to pulling off a small space. Stick to compact chairs with low backs. If you don’t, the room will seem off-balance and will appear smaller. Narrow, low-lying coffee tables are ideal—they save space but still keep the room functional.
33 of 33Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Boats are the ideal design inspiration for tight quarters. This kitchen has a galley-like feel with easy-to-reach dishes on open shelves and stacked appliances for a space-savvy solution. To enhance the nautical style, use stainless steel hardware inspired by boat cleats.