Small room ideas – 12 best decor schemes for compact spaces

Increasing the sense of space in rooms that are small in stature is a design issue everyone wants to solve. We spoke to a few of our favorite interiors people to find out their solutions

Small room ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Small room ideas may be limited on size but they can be big on style. We have curated our favorite small room ideas and tricks of the trade to help turn that awkward, small room into something elegant and sophisticated, whatever its shape and proportions. 

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. 

One of the main advantages of a compact space is the convenient accessibility of everything that’s needed. Easy maintenance is another bonus to having a small room.

Small room ideas – the interior design experts share their favorite tricks

In a bijou space, zoning is key. Make the most of a small room by planning a hard-working layout, investing in multi-functional furniture and picking the right color scheme. So whether you're working with a small living room, small kitchen or a small bedroom in a family home, you can make the space work best for you.

1. Choose furnishings wisely in a small living room

Small room ideas with central table and area rug

(Image credit: Milo Brown)

‘Furnishings play an essential role in how a space is received,' says James Thurstan, founder, Thurstan. 'When working with less spacious living room layouts, we recommend a considered curation of essential pieces – spreading a large rug as an anchor for the scheme and then building out from there, picking out tones from the rug and embellishing these throughout the room. A central table can create a focal point in a smaller room, best framed by inward-facing armchairs which help create depth and volume.’ 

2. Use clever lighting in a small bedroom

Small room ideas with beside wall lamp

(Image credit: Nune)

For small bedroom ideas I really like using wall lights as opposed to table lamps for bedside lighting,' says Irene Gunter, founder and creative director, Gunter & Co. 'Small room ideas 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 beside the bed.’ 

3. Work with color in an entryway

Small room ideas with color ideas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Small entryway ideas should make a statement about the house and owners as well as being a welcoming space,' explains Mike Fisher, creative director and founder, Studio Indigo. 

'Small spaces can be treated in a grand way – “be bold” is my advice. Large details can open up the space, such as using double doors but making them as tall as possible. A pair of facing mirrors helps create the illusion of more space and adds a bit of glamor. Painting the space a light color will not make it feel bigger. Use strong color to make a statement and give personality.'

'Lastly, we are great fans of polished plaster in entryways – it’s practical, tough and has a wonderful reflective quality that makes the space shimmer.’ 

4. Install smart storage in a kitchen

small kitchen with open shelving

(Image credit: Lonika Chande / Simon Brown)

‘It might seem counter-intuitive in a kitchen where space is at a premium, but unless the ceilings are very high I like to do away with wall cabinets altogether in favor of shelving,' says interior designer, Lonika Chande

'It looks much better and opens up the space. I am always on the lookout for vintage shop fittings and characterful reclaimed planks that can be repurposed as shelves. I then decant what I can into Kilner jars for display, alongside stacks of crockery, linen and the odd jug. I love nothing more than to be left to it with my Kilner jars and a Dymo labelling machine – unbelievably satisfying work and so visually pleasing too’ 

5. Combine charm and practicality in the bathroom

Small room ideas with pattern and texture

(Image credit: Julian Abrams / Studio Indigo)

‘We often find using mosaics within an alcove helps to optimize small bathroom ideas and shower rooms – and a gloss finish adds to this illusion of grander proportions, reflecting natural light throughout the room,' says James Thurstan. 'I recommend pairing two distinct mosaic designs within the space, thus creating a point of interest where these verticals meet and then setting them against a cool neutral paint color that works to open up the bathroom.’

Mike Fisher of Studio Indigo agrees: ‘Of course bathrooms are practical and functional spaces but they don’t need to be utilitarian. Be adventurous and give the space personality. A bold scheme will provide a conversation piece with guests and friends, particularly in a powder room. Pattern can be introduced through wallpaper, fabric or tiles. Complement your patterns with good light – in a powder room it can be atmospheric but in bathrooms you need light and plenty of it.’ 

6. Ensure elegant entertaining with a dark dining room

Small room with black paint color

(Image credit: James Merrell)

It is a myth to suggest that dark colors don't work within small room ideas. ‘If you have a small dining room that is compromised for space, then it is wise to paint the walls a dark color and make the central table the star,' advises Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball. 'Many dining rooms are only used at night so sample colors after dark – and maybe even light a candle – to check out how a strong color will result in the most dramatic and intimate space.’ 

7. Use scale to your advantage in diminutive space

Small living room with neutral furnishings

(Image credit: Thurstan / Simon Brown)

‘People often assume they should buy small-scale furniture for small rooms, but that actually makes a space feel smaller,' says Sheena Murphy, partner, Nune. 'Don’t be afraid to fill the room – get a rug that fully sits under all your furniture, and don’t buy a love seat if you can actually fit a three-seater sofa in the room. Not only will buying larger scale furniture look better, it will also make your experience of the space so much more comfortable: win-win!’ 

8. Don't be afraid to use bold color 

Small room idea with dark color palette

(Image credit: Martin Morrell)

‘We would usually lean towards quieter color combinations in room that are on the smaller side, but darker shades can work really well within smaller spaces,' explains James Thurstan. 'They create a perception of depth and lend a cozy, cocoon-like feel – welcome in every small room.'

'For the walls, we suggest a deep midnight blue or a petrol green, then lift this by layering careful accents of color, perhaps a burnt orange or a similar earth-toned hue – ochre, terracotta or a softer peach.’ 

9. Add interest in a narrow space

Victorian hallway tiles in brown, yellow, red and green mosaic style, with green walls

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Entryway ideas can often be narrow with little natural light so consider using color and pattern to create a design scheme that brings warmth and light to the space,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 

'The entryway is a fantastic place to create a first impression for guests, but also the first area you enter when returning home, so consider how you want your home to make you feel: calm and cocooned or cheerful and vibrant? Don’t forget to consider the views into the entryway from other rooms, how much do you see and how will the design you choose for the entryway flow into the rest of the house?’ 

10. Take a lesson from the color wheel when planning a small room

Small room with two tone kitchen cabinets

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Look beyond function to create an uplifting space to cook and entertain.

‘A kitchen usually has lots of colorful elements in it,' explains Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint. 'I would go with quite neutral colors for the walls and some bright color on the cupboards. Try mixing it up with contrasting colors: as long as they work tonally you cannot go wrong. You can play it safe with colors that sit alongside one another on the color wheel, or for striking impact, go for those on opposite sides i.e. greens to complement reds, blues to complement oranges and purples to complement yellows.’ 

11. Look for multi-functional furniture

Small room ideas with integrated storage and furniture

(Image credit: Sophie Ashby)

'In smaller homes and rooms, ideally you want to be looking for multi-functional pieces to save on space. Ottomans with integrated storage, and sofa beds are some of the most widely used.

'Living spaces, especially, will really benefit from multi-functional pieces. Think about the function of a space. A living room might be doubling up as a guest room, a home office or a playroom, so will need to cater to all of these.'

12. Invest in the best small space storage

Small room ideas with chest of drawers

(Image credit: Sophie Ashby)

'A lot of the time in life it’s just about storage and the one thing that unites all of our clients, all across the world, on big or small projects, is that everyone wants good storage.

'Finding the right furniture is often to do with scale and putting the perfect pieces in the right spot. If you need to maximize space it’s worth having something made bespoke or going the extra mile and researching to find an antique with the right proportions.

'We often have chests of drawers made because we need them to be fairy skinny. A typical off the shelf piece is usually between 65 and 80cm deep, which is quite a big piece in a small room. Instead we would often have them made more like 40 or 50cm deep. 

'This means you’re getting a functional piece of furniture but not compromising and putting something like shelving in instead, which perhaps won’t store things in the same way you want them to.'

How do you design a small room?

There are many ways to design a small room. Firstly, consider investing in efficient lighting ideas.

‘Some people feel the need to flood small spaces with ceiling lights to make them feel brighter and therefore larger,' says Claire Sa, director, De Rosee Sa. 'However, I think atmosphere and dimension can be added to small spaces with different levels of controlled lighting. The lowest level might be lamps on side tables; the next would be lamps on a desk, console or chest. Finally, add fewer rather than more directional ceiling lights, positioned closer to the walls and angled away from the center of the room to create a feature glow on, for example, a piece of wall art.’

Secondly, consider your color choices carefully. ‘When dealing with a small or dark hall it’s best to embrace what you have rather than fight it.' explains Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball. 'Paint it a strong color that will thrill you and your guests when you arrive at the house and make the rooms off it feel bigger and lighter.’

How do I maximize my small room?

To maximize space in a small, the best thing to do is to declutter, reorganize and categorize your belongings with good storage ideas.

‘When it comes to adding storage in small rooms think high-level rather than bulky floor-standing units. I always go the extra mile to keep the floor as clean and empty as possible, with wall shelves and cabinets,' says Irene Gunter of Gunter & Co.

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

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.