You may not agree, but the smallest rooms in our homes are often the most delightful to design and decorate. Though small rooms can present many interior design challenges, there are several benefits to compact living. A well-designed scheme can feel just as comfortable as a larger space, with all the coziness and comfort associated with family living.
But before you invest in a complete small room revamp, think critically, because spending a small fortune on fixtures, fittings, and paint does not always guarantee a smart, tailored, or value-for-money look.
A complete small room transformation doesn’t always have to be a grand or expensive affair. Instead, some of the most beautiful spaces have been slowly curated over time, through minimal updates that don’t break the bank but leave your space looking expensive yet elegant.
Below, we showcase our favorite ways to make the most of a small room – with tricks of the trade to help turn that awkward, tiny room into something sophisticated and functional.
How can I make my small room look expensive?
Creating a luxurious and expensive-looking small room should be a multisensory experience; a visual masterpiece that still maintains the functionality that you'd expect from any other room in the home.
From clever tricks to make a small room look bigger and smart storage ideas to paint tricks for small rooms and statement lighting, our designers' beautiful but economical decorating ideas will help you curate a tiny space that looks luxurious and expensive.
Here, interior designers and decorators share with us their favorite ways to make a small room look expensive.
1. Set up a quiet spot for coffee
Maximizing and beautifying a small space is sometimes just a matter of turning unused spots into practical – and pretty – features.
Carving out room for a table where floor space is at a premium will often require putting one in the corner. For that to work, there are two rules: firstly, the table should be round both to set a contrast to the right angles of the corner, but also to avoid anyone catching themselves on the table edges and, secondly, to use bench seating.
‘A breakfast nook is such a wonderful way to maximize space, and add interest, in a diminutive room,’ says San Francisco-based artist and designer, Leo Cesareo, founder of Leo Cesareo Design, who created this scheme. 'Channelling Art Deco grandeur was important to the homeowner, so this space is all about juxtaposing opulence with an honest foundation,' he says. 'We wanted to create an elegant space that was dexterous enough for lounging and entertaining.'
Leo is a San Francisco based artist and designer that has worked with some of the design world's best interior designers, including Steven Volpe, Jay Jeffers and Lauren Geremia.
2. Let storage sing
A small kitchen might not be blessed with a large or sociable space, however, there is still plenty to feel positive about.
If your kitchen proportions are limited, introduce a decorative display on walls and decorate above kitchen cabinets. Leo Cesareo of Leo Cesareo Design emphasizes the practical function of shelving above the kitchen countertop in a small space design.
Not everything needs to be hidden away when it comes to storage. In fact, decorative small kitchen storage ideas and solutions can make a huge difference to your kitchen's look and feel.
Open kitchen shelving, with minimal joins or details, can create a real statement in a small room and is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. 'It is also a more economical option than a fully enclosed storage unit. It is particularly suited to small recesses, helping to visually correct uneven proportions,' says Anne Haimes, Anne Haimes Interiors.
3. Don't fight against the size
‘When dealing with a small or dark room it’s best to embrace what you have rather than fight it,' says Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball. 'Decorate with a strong color that will surprise and enhance the drama, and make the rooms off it feel bigger and lighter.’
Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder of Edward Bulmer Natural Paint agrees: 'A small dressing room can often be on the dark side. Light colors will not make a dark space light, but good colors will make it interesting. So use dark wood and paint colors that can be lifted with overhead lights or lamplight.'
This sophisticated space, designed by Kimberley Harrison, principal designer at Kimberley Harrison Interiors, doesn't disappoint. For those that dare, wall-to-wall black can be a fantastic way to create dramatic, head-turning spaces.
'Dark colors are not only bold and dramatic, but they have so many different nuances, tones, and tactilities that give them character and charm like no other color,' says Kimberley. 'Use black and dark brown in transient spaces for an element of surprise and delight.'
Kimberley Harrison Interiors is a full-service interior design firm that specializes in residential and boutique commercial projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the United States.
Known for designing homes that are warm and approachable, sophisticated and functional, Kimberley's interiors are artfully layered spaces infused with a refined, eclectic beauty rooted in timelessness.
4. Go for maximum impact
A small room is a perfect place for experimentation, and no more so than in a modern powder room.
'Don't be afraid to emphasize small spaces like cloakrooms and small powder rooms with dark colors, pattern, and texture,' says Nicola Harding, interior designer, Nicola Harding & Co. 'Adding drama can help in creating a transition between zones within the home. Embrace every nook and cranny, but always be clear on how you will use the space.'
This bold space, designed by Jessica Bennett, founder of Alice Lane Interiors, is a riot of color and character – and not one for the faint of heart.
Jessica started her creative journey at Utah State University. Her studies there led to her work in an ad agency as an art director but building her home brought back her earliest passion: interior design. Turning small homes into beautiful spaces are a passion – and a talent.
5. Carve out a home office in a corner
Over the past few years, those of us lucky enough to have a dedicated room in which to shut ourselves away have gratefully recognized the peaceful retreat they provide. However, not every home has square footage that is conducive to a spacious study area, but that needn't mean we shouldn't carve out a corner dedicated to working.
Here, interior designer Margaret Ash has designed a home office that occupies an underused nook in the kitchen. For a home office to look truly serene, storage that blends into the background is essential for retaining a composed look.
‘I wanted to create a space that wouldn’t impact on any other rooms in the house. This sliver of space worked perfectly, the bespoke joinery blends in beautifully with the surrounding cabinets,’ she says.
When contemplating a small home office scheme, function – such as storage – must be central to your design, but does not have to be visually dominant. Choosing a focus, such as a statement office chair or even a work of art, will distract from the room’s small stature and make it feel as considered as a living area.
There are always a few extra quick wins you can add to your home workspace to introduce interest. In small spaces, a shapely vintage lamp or chair may be all you need; in slightly larger home offices, a display of books will weave your personality into the space.
Margaret Ash Design is a contemporary interior design firm specializing in full-scale residential and commercial projects. Margaret and her team specialize in designs that reflect diverse influences, modern interiors, and tailored color palettes.
6. Add vertical height with shiplap
From its humble origins of providing insulation to quickly becoming a highly decorative feature, wood paneling, and shiplap are one of the most striking features of many homes across the United States.
Wall paneling, shiplap, and wainscoting, like the one in this design by Becca Galbraith of Becca Interiors, add the illusion of height to a narrow, long living room, as well as protecting the wall from wear and tear.
Another way to ensure that your small room looks expensive is to fill the space. This may sound contradictory, but there is a method to the madness. People often assume they should buy small-scale furniture for small rooms, but that actually makes a space feel smaller. Don’t be afraid to fill the room – get a rug that fully sits under all your furniture. Not only will buying larger scale furniture look better, but it will also make your experience of the space so much more comfortable: win-win!’
7. Keep it simple yet beautiful with smart lighting – and subtle furnishings
‘In small bedrooms, I really like using wall lights as opposed to table lamps for bedside lighting,' says LA-based interior designer Galina Holechek. 'Smaller rooms inevitably call for smaller bedside tables and when the full surface is taken up by a table lamp it just seems to defeat the object. There’s such a wealth of amazing wall light options available, whether wired or plug-in – they really allow us to add a statement to the space as well as maximize the surface available for the bits and bobs we like to store besides the bed.’
Another way to make a small room feel beautiful is through patterns and details that catch the eye but don't distract. Layering patterns of a similar scale and tone will distract from a room feeling small, and ensure it feels cozy and inviting. Nothing should shout louder than anything else so that the eye is not drawn to one feature and the space will not feel too busy.
How can I make a small room look good?
Making a small room look expensive is a design issue worth solving, but you don't have to break the bank to achieve a smart or tailored space.
Quite often, it is the smaller, more affordable details that will make the most impact. If we had to only had to give one piece of advice, it would be to consider your room color ideas first.
Bold color is one way to grow a space that physically has a small footprint. To distract from the small proportions make color the star of the show. The smallest spaces can be the most memorable if you keep the focus strong. Here, the focus was the paint color and we used it with vigour.
How do you make a room look expensive on a budget?
One of the best ways to make a small room look expensive on a budget is first ensure all your paint finishes are as neat as possible. This means filling in chips and giving dull, dirty or dented surfaces a new lick of paint. Choose muted neutrals for trim and a tone lighter for walls for a designer look. Look to hide cheap floor coverings with a beautiful rug, and swap out heavy window treatments for well-made drapes in natural linens. Finally, add pillows in complementing tones to sofas and armchairs to pull the scheme together.
Making a small room look expensive needn't cost a fortune: you can create a carefully curated look by simply opting for natural materials whenever possible, and by allowing in as much light as possible. Decluttered rooms with good storage will always look classier than those that are less organized.
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Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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