Break the Rules for Decorating Small Spaces

A small living room with a red painting on the wall.

Forget preconceived notions and put aside what you have learned about decorating small spaces.  Don’t paint small spaces dark colors?  Forget it.  Don’t use large furniture?  Forget it.  You can’t personalize a rental?  Not true.  Embrace your small space and live bold and large.

A small living room with black walls and a telescope, perfect for decorating.          A small living room with purple walls and a chandelier, perfect for decorating.

Photos courtesy of House Beautiful

For years, we have been told to keep walls in small spaces white or other light neutral colors to expand the space.  Yes, white walls in small spaces can be nice and lighten up a space, but painting a room a dark color actually makes the walls visually recede and makes the space appear larger.

A small living room with a sectional couch and a coffee table.          A cowhide rug for decorating small spaces.

Designer Claudia Benvenuto; photographer Joe Schmelzer, courtesy of Elle Decor

Furnishings in a smaller scale actually make a room look smaller.  Use larger scale furniture to enhance a small space and it will magically expand the room.  For an open floor plan bring furniture to the center of the room, anchored with a colorful rug.  Area rugs also help to personalize rental spaces, most of which are carpeted.

A small living room with orange walls and a fireplace, decorated to maximize space.          A cozy bedroom furnished with a bed and chairs, perfect for decorating small spaces.

Above photos, designers Saverio Mancina & Ray Ehscheid courtesy of Elle Decor

Personalizing a rental can be achieved with a few simple changes.  Before you begin, ask permission from your landlord.  You may be surprised to find that most landlords will approve of changes in the home as long as you return the space to its original state before you move out or if the changes positively affect the value.

A small living room with green wallpaper and white furniture, decorated to maximize space.           A living room with a yellow floral wallpaper, suitable for decorating small spaces.

Painting is one way to personalize your space.  If this is not an option, temporary wallpaper can update a space without the commitment.  Retailers such as Sherwin-Williams now carry a line of peel and stick wallpapers that you can use to create an accent wall.

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A living room with a dining table and chairs, perfect for decorating small spaces.

Lighting is an important feature in small spaces.  Layer the light in a small space.  Start by switching out light fixtures that personalize your space and then add lamps for added ambient and task lighting.  Add mirrors to visually expand the space and reflect the light.

A small dining room with a green table and chairs, perfect for decorating a small space.

Utilize the walls by adding shelving that can later be removed.

A small living room with a dining table and chairs.

When decorating small spaces, comfort is key.  Personalizing any living space, rented or otherwise, is just a matter of breaking a few rules…with the exception of the landlord’s, of course!



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