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Water Cooler: How to make a small space appear larger

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 7, 2021

Sectional sofa and neutral paint colors help a small room to appear larger than it is.  (Pixabay)
Sectional sofa and neutral paint colors help a small room to appear larger than it is. (Pixabay)

A small room still has big potential, but it takes a few tricks to bring it out. Here are a few you can try out.

If your room does not have any trim or crown molding, paint the walls and the ceiling the same color. This helps your eye continue upward when looking around a room, helping it feel more spacious.

If you do have trim or crown molding, paint them the same color as the wall and leave the ceiling white. This trick takes advantage of the curved shape of the crown molding that juts out into the ceiling space, which visually gives the wall a few more inches of height. Molding of a different color can break up the space between the wall and ceiling, doing nothing to visually elongate the space. A white ceiling in this scenario makes for an open appearance to the room.

Alternatively, you can paint or wallpaper the ceiling in a contrasting color or pattern which also works to attract the eye upward.

A small room benefits from a monochromatic color scheme between the wall color and furniture. Many shorter people dress all in one color to help them appear taller and the same concept can be applied here. Instead of breaking up the space with a variety of colors and patterns, using the same tone throughout a room gives a more cohesive feeling. Monochromatic colors allow the eye to travel around the space without noticing how the space is used up or broken apart.

In the same vein of thinking, sticking with neutral colors can also provide a bit of visual breathing room. If you like neutral furniture but you still want a pop of color, try contrasting the light colored furniture with a dark wall color. Although the common perception of dark wall colors is that they enclose the space and make it feel small, it actually does the opposite when contrasted against light furniture. The furniture pops while the walls visually recede into the background, almost like a contrast of a fire in the dark. The fire takes the attention, and the dark feels infinite.

Don’t clutter a small room with small furniture. If you have a lot of small chairs in your living space, it will feel more cluttered than anchoring the space with one large sofa.

Everything should still be in scale with the room, but too many separate pieces will make the room feel more cramped. Sectional couches are great for this purpose. They are large, cohesive and maximize the available space for seating.

Furniture made of translucent surfaces like glass coffee tables take up less visual space than something made of opaque, visually heavy materials like wood. Translucent surfaces also help light travel through a room which can help when you otherwise don’t have a lot of open space to work with.

Furniture with lower profiles helps avoid the extra space tall-back chairs and sofas take up. Low profiles take up less vertical visual space, allowing the eye to travel around the room more seamlessly. Similarly, furniture with legs can also help a small space feel larger and more airy.

Try wall sconces as an alternative to table lamps. This frees up precious surface area and again, draws the eye up. Tall floor lamps can have a similar effect. Opt for translucent shades instead of fixtures with dark and heavy features.

Opt for one large statement artwork piece rather than a cluttered gallery wall. Again, less is more in small spaces. A large scale piece emphasizes the space of a wall, whereas multiple smaller pieces only segments the wall.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or at

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