How To Make Small Rooms Look Bigger [13 Hacks!]

Ahna Fulmer
by Ahna Fulmer

Discover how to make small rooms look bigger using these 13 design ideas and transform your home into a relaxing, spacious retreat.

As many of you know we just wrapped up the renovations in the basement of our current fixer-upper home.!

This space was incredibly small and I had to employ all of my design tips and tricks to make it feel as spacious yet functional as possible.

Be sure to read to the end to get my #1 tip to make small rooms look bigger!

Watch this podcast episode on YouTube or click below to download the audio for later!

How To Make Small Rooms Look Bigger

1. Convert a Standard Closet into an Open-Concept Design.

Similarly to knocking out walls, converting a standard closet into an open-concept design will instantly make a small bedroom feel more open and spacious. Here we framed this master closet using reclaimed wood from a 150-year-old barn in Lancaster, PA, and a custom closet system was installed using the ClosetMaid SuiteSymphony line.

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In a hallway – knock out a closet and turn it into an open concept coat rack or drop zone.

2. Create Vertical Storage With Floating Shelves.

Vertical storage provides a focal point that draws the eye upward and opens up the floor, making the small rooms feel larger. Make sure to neatly arrange the decor items on shelves for added visual appeal.

Here we chose to build a tv stand with storage in the corner to help keep the room feel more open. You will also notice we knocked out the walls between the family room and the foyer.

This concept works very well in any area of the home. In a living room consider creating floating shelves for toy and book storage leaving the least used items on the top shelf.

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In a bedroom, I created two vertical storage areas for my shoes including this wall of floating shelves.

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3. Add a Large Light-Colored Area Rug.

Not only can a well-chosen area rug add a stylish accent, but it can ground a room while also making it appear bigger. In order to optimize this more open sense of space, choose a rug that has lighter colors as opposed to darker, as darker colors will make a room feel smaller albeit cozy.

In a large room such as this basement, adding a rug to the sitting area helps to define the tv space although the rug arguably does very little to make it feel bigger as the room is already quite open.

In our master bedroom the light colored rugs help to brighten up the room against the dark wood flooring.

Need help choosing a floor stain? Be sure to read this guide on choosing the best farmhouse style wood floor stain?

In our girls bedroom we actually removed the rug that used to lay in between the two beds. In this case it helped to make the room less busy and make it feel more open.

The primary difference between the two bedroom is that the girls room was already full of white, light colors. Our master bedroom was busier and had more of the dark floor space

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4. Remove Everything From the Walls Except One Statement Piece.

If a room is exceptionally large, then one of the easiest ways to make a space feel more cozy is to add a large picture wall.

In the opposite manner, removing decor from the wall can make a small space feel larger and more open.

Choose one eye-catching statement piece to highlight, and remove the others. If you can’t choose just one piece, then arrange the pictures in oddly numbered groups – preferably in groups of three.

In this master bedroom of our first fixer upper, there is one large canvas above the headboard.

In the girls bedroom, they each have one piece of wall art hanging above their beds.

In this master bedroom, we have one shadow box flanked by two candle sconces. Remember the groups of 3 mentality.

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5. Install Sheer Curtains 4 Inches From the Ceiling.

One of the easiest ways to make a small room feel larger is to elevate the curtain rods. A standard recommendation is to install them 4 inches from the ceiling with the bottom of the curtain just slightly sweeping the floor. A neutral color and sheer material can help keep the space more airy.

These semi-sheer linen curtains are my very favorite!

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6. Eliminate Clutter With More Efficient Storage.

Consider creative storage solutions to add visual appeal and practical utility such as floating shelving, under-bed zip-up storage boxes, wall baskets, or custom-designed closet systems.

This added storage space will allow you to hide any seasonal items and visual clutter, thus clearing and allowing for a more minimalist aesthetic.

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7. Paint the Walls a Light Bright Color.

Color psychology has been well studied and offers a great way to promote a sense of joy, rest, and well-being. Colors also make a big difference in the sense of space.

Shades of white, light gray or blue, light greens, or yellow can help to open a small room up.

Simply White

My favorite white paint colors – Simply White by Benjamin Moore and Alabaster by Sherwin Williams.

Wall Color: Silver Strand

Light gray/blue paint colors – Agreeable Gray and Silver Strand Sherwin Williams

Wall Color: Sea Salt

My favorite green paint is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.

Yellow paint color ideas include Philadelphia Cream by Benjamin Moore and Morning Sun by Sherwin Williams.

8. Place Small or Tall & Narrow Lamps on the side tables.

When choosing a bedside lamp, or a nightstand opt for a smaller size to give more space on the nightstand.

Another tip is to keep the size of the nightstand itself smaller as well.

In this bedroom, one night stand was larger, and in order to center the king-size bed in the space, a smaller stand was used as a bedside table on the other side.

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9. Hang An Oversized Mirror.

Mirrors reflect light and always make a room appear larger.

Installing an oversized mirror above a dresser will improve visual appeal as well as functional utility.

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10. Install quarter round for baseboards.

This basement ceiling is less than 8 ft from the bottom of the rafters. In order to give the illusion of height, we installed quarter round for baseboard instead of traditional baseboard.

11. Open up the ceiling.

In this basement, we opened up the ceiling and painted it Simply White by Benjamin Moore. Exposing the rafters added another 8ish inches to overall height.

Need any ideas on what to do with your basement ceiling? Don’t miss this article on 44 Basement Ceiling ideas!

12. Semi-gloss paint finish.

The sheen of a paint can drastically change the brightness of the finish. Semi-gloss finishes generally will make a paint color appear lighter and brighter by reflecting more light. Semi-gloss finishes are also easier to wipe down.

Although satin is the standard choice for wall paint, in a room like this basement and the basement bathroom where there was little to no natural light, the semi-gloss finish helped to lighten it up making the space appear bigger.

13. Lights, lights, lights.

Lighting makes ALL the difference in a room. The color or temperature of a light bulb is noted by the measurement, Kelvin, as noted by a k.

For a really large room you may want to consider a warmer white to help the space feel cozier and less bright. Warmer light bulbs are typically less than 3500K.

For our purposes a whiter, brighter light will make a space feel bigger and more open. The brightest light bulbs almost have a hint of blue and are typically 50000k or more.

My recommendation is to find light bulbs that are considered a daylight temperature which range from 3500K – 5000k.

My personal recommendation – these 4000k dimmable LED light bulbs. Energy efficient with the ability to lower for more intimate lighting or brighten up a room considerably.

To update a space consider adding some recessed lights approximately every 4 ft. of ceiling space.

Hopefully one of these 13 design ideas will help to transform your home into a relaxing, spacious retreat!

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Ahna Fulmer
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2 of 5 comments
  • Marian B Welch Marian B Welch on Jul 09, 2022

    I have an unfinished basement and always wondered what to do with the "poles" and ceiling which is open with the piped and wiring showing. I really like your painting idea. I also thought about painting the concrete floor and using outdoor furniture for relaxing in the cool cellar. thank you!

  • Lee Lee on Sep 04, 2022

    Re the poles, could you possibly find foam similar to what is in the foam tubes ~ or use 2 - 3 slit and then secured with a fabric or other tape (possibly with red and yellow stripes) for safety and to add color. Just a thought. Good luck.♥️