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Decorating Small Spaces: Rules to Follow & Mistakes to Avoid

It’s hard to know how to decorate a small room, as it never seems like there’s enough space. But there are some important rules to follow when you’re working with a smaller area.

When decorating a small space, have a good balance of negative and positive space, find creative methods of storage, paint the walls a dark color, let in a lot of natural light, be mindful of the space when choosing furniture and accessories, and be deliberate with every design decision.

It is important to consider space, storage, lighting, colors, furniture, layout, and accessories when you are designing your small room. More information about lighting, storage, and more is below.

Using Space

Small rooms don’t have very much space, so you must use the space thoughtfully and deliberately. You’re going to need to do some planning to make sure that you know how much space you’re going to be using and how many furniture items and accessories you can keep in the room. Be resourceful with how you use your space.

Every room needs a good balance of positive and negative space. (Negative space, meaning space that is essentially used for ‘nothing’). Unfortunately, smaller rooms have less space to utilize. So it may be tempting to cram as much as you can into every inch of available space.

But if anything, you should be doing the opposite when it comes to small spaces. Having negative space in a small room can make the room seem larger. You don’t want your room to feel too cramped or crowded.

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There is no specific rule for how much negative space you need in a room. It depends on if you prefer a minimalist design or want to have more things in your space.

Make sure that you feel comfortable with the amount of space in the room and are happy with how it looks. If it seems to be too crowded, spread things out a bit or take some objects out.

It’s also important to keep the walkways clear. You want to have enough space to move around the room easily so you are less likely to trip over or run into something.

There may be a lot more places to put things than you think. Use every available surface:

  • You can put things on the windowsill
  • You can put books that you don’t read as much in a pile and place an accessory, lamp, or something else on top.
  • You can turn a rarely used chair into a table. You may find more spots for decorations than you realize.

When you don’t have very much space to work with, you need to choose the objects and furniture carefully. Start by deciding what it is that you absolutely need in that room so that it can serve its function.

  • If it’s a bedroom, you’ll need a bed, places to keep your clothes, etc.
  • If it’s an office, you’ll need a desk, places to store supplies, etc.

Start by including those things, then choose which accessories you want in there based on the remaining amount of space.


In small rooms, you will always feel like you need more space. So make sure that you have as much storage space as you can get in your small room. Having extra storage will allow you to keep more things in the room and help keep things off of the floor.

It’s also important to have somewhere that you can put objects that you need to keep in the room that are not decorative. There are a lot of creative ways to have more storage space. Here are a few ideas:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of using vertical space.
    • There probably won’t be a lot of space horizontally, and many people don’t use the vertical space to its full potential.
    • Put up some shelves or a tall and thin chest of drawers or bookshelf. (Some types of furniture can be folded up against the wall when it’s not being used).
  • Make sure that you are using your storage space efficiently.
    • You need to plan out what items you are going to put in which space and figure out the best way to store your things so that you can fit as many items in the drawer, box, etc. as possible.
    • Because you want as much negative space in the room as you can get, try to use as much space in storage containers as you can.
    • Put wide things on the bottom. Fill in holes with smaller objects.
    • Make sure that the items you will use more often are easier to access. Otherwise, it’s going to be a pain to get to them.

Lighting and Colors

Lighting and color are very important to consider when decorating a small room. You want to make sure that your room is well lit so you aren’t fumbling for objects in the dark.

Every room should have a color scheme that makes the room look aesthetically pleasing. And all of the following things should be included in your color scheme:

  • Furniture
  • Wall color
  • Flooring
  • Accessories

There are some important rules to consider when choosing the lighting and color scheme for a small room.

One of the best ways to make a small room look larger is to use a lot of natural light.

You may not have a lot of flexibility about where the window is, but try to design the layout so that natural light can spread across the whole room.

BONUS TIP: Placing a mirror on the opposite wall of the window will allow the natural light to reflect across the room, making a small space feel larger and brighter.

Some designers will say that you should paint walls white in small spaces to reflect the light. However, it is actually better to paint the walls dark colors.

White walls can make the room look bland, and it is static and has no subtleties. Dark walls aren’t as clearly defined by light and can make the room seem larger.

In a smaller room, it’s best to choose a neutral color palate. Neutral colors will make the room seem larger than it is. (Lots of bright colors in small spaces can be overwhelming). Neutral colors make the room seem more open and airy. It’s best to have neutral-colored walls, flooring, and furniture, allowing pillows, art, and accessories to accent them with bright colors.

Avoid using large amounts of the color red in the design of your room. Red is a beautiful color, but it can be very overwhelming, especially in a small space. It is a bold color and is difficult to pull off in large quantities, especially in a smaller space. It is best left as an accent color.

Try not to use too many patterns in a small room. These patterns will be very close together and will often work together to overwhelm your brain. It’s best to stick with mostly solid colors or simple patterns with very similar colors, using contrasting and intricate patterns sparingly.

Using stripes in your small space can also be a good way to open up the space. Stripes can make a room seem larger than it is. Whether these stripes are horizontal or vertical, they make the room feel wider. Just make sure that the stripes are the right color to match the rest of the room.

Furniture and Layout

If you are specifically choosing furniture for a small room, be very thoughtful of the space. Choose furniture that is simple, streamlined, and smaller instead of bulkier pieces. You may want to consider some furniture with creative styles and shapes that will help it fit better and match the room better.

Furniture with legs showing can make a small space look larger by leaving a lot of negative space underneath. You wouldn’t be able to do much with this space anyway, so it is a perfect way to make the room seem more spacious.

Another option is multipurpose furniture. Find a bench with drawers beneath for some extra storage space or blocks that can be used as tables or chairs as well as storage. Having multipurpose furniture can be a great way to fit more into your space and be flexible.

Clear furniture, such as glass or acrylic, is also a good choice for a small room. Too many furniture items can make a room look chaotic, but clear furniture can fade into the background. The most reasonable choice for a clear piece of furniture is a clear coffee table, but feel free to experiment with other types of clear furniture too.

You may not want to or have the budget to buy new furniture for this room, so it’s important to know how to work with what you’ve got. If your furniture is overly bulky and will take up a lot of space, use fewer pieces.

A few large pieces of furniture instead of a bunch of small pieces of furniture can actually make the space look more impressive. Some of the biggest pieces of furniture can be split into pieces. You can use a smaller part of a sectional couch for seating or take out the center of a dining room table to make it smaller.

If you need a piece of furniture that is different from what you have, try re-purposing some of your current furniture. A chair can be a good end table, and a solid coffee table can become a bench. Just make sure that the piece of furniture will work for the intended purpose; you don’t want a table collapsing underneath an unsuspecting guest!

When choosing the furniture layout of the room, start by deciding which things have to go in specific places. For example, if you need to put a desk near an outlet so you can plug in your computer, find a place for that first. You should also choose a focal point, like a window or a particularly important piece of furniture, to focus the layout on.

As tempting as it may be, don’t push the furniture against the walls. A little bit of space between the furniture and the walls will make the room feel bigger. You don’t need much space, but make sure to add a little bit.

You also want to arrange the furniture so that there is space to walk freely through the room.


Accessories for the room are the objects that aren’t furniture. These are things such as:

  • art
  • rugs
  • mirrors
  • table ornaments, etc.

These items will be what fills out your space and make it seem less empty and boring. Some people like having a lot of accessories, filling up every space and covering up the walls. Other people prefer a minimalist style, with only a few accessories and less color variation. Decide whether you’d like to have more or fewer accessories, or somewhere in between.

If you can, try to choose accessories and decorations that go with the overall color scheme of the room. They will be less likely to look out of place and will help the room look more cohesive. Accessories can be used to accent the color scheme.

Accessories set the theme of the room. There are a lot of different design styles. To make the room look nice, put together, and like it is not a mess of items thrown together, you’re going to need to choose what theme you want the room to follow, whether it’s rustic, chic, eclectic, or traditional.

Mirrors can be extremely helpful when making a room look larger than it is. A large mirror can reflect the room back, making it seem more open and spacious. You can also use a mirror to reflect a light source, which can make the room seem larger too.

Some people opt to use a few smaller rugs in a small room instead of a larger one. In fact, smaller rugs can divide up an already small space. A large rug will open up the space better and tie the room together.

The best takeaway from this article is to make sure the room looks good to you. People have different tastes, and you may like the way your room looks if you break these rules. As long as you like what your room looks like, then it’s perfect!