8 Easy Decorating Tricks to Make a Small Room Look Larger

Make your bedroom bigger without adding an inch.

Bright bedroom with mirror and flowers
Photo: Huw Jones/Getty Images

A small bedroom isn’t necessarily a bad thing…. there’s less square footage to clean, it’s cozy and snug, and with less furniture, it’s easier to decorate. Still, many people with small rooms want to make the space look larger than it really is. If you fall into that group, there’s no need to call a contractor – with a few decorating tricks, you can make your room look bigger: no remodeling required.

Go Dark

You’ve probably always heard that a small room needs white walls to open up the space. While it’s true that white does give an airy, open appearance, it’s also true that dark colors visually recede, making something that’s dark look further away than it really is. Take advantage of that color wizardry by painting your walls a medium-to-dark shade of a cool color like indigo blue, hunter green or charcoal gray. If you don’t want that much drama, paint just one wall in your favorite dark shade. Not only will your room appear a little bit larger; cool colors are restful and help you fall asleep. 

Careful with Pattern

A small room doesn’t mean you are limited to tiny prints or to no pattern at all. But if you want your small room to look more spacious, it’s best to limit large prints to small accents, such as throw pillows, sheets or lampshades. Use solids or small-scale patterns on your comforter, window coverings, and upholstered furniture. Maintain the cohesiveness by choosing patterns with the same palette, or at least a few colors in common. This also helps to fool the eye into seeing a space as bigger than it really is. 

Bare the Floor

Breaking up your floor space with small area rugs is a sure way to make a small room look even smaller. Whatever your flooring choice, if you want your room to look larger, think wall to wall. That doesn’t only mean carpet -- bare hardwood or laminate floors with a slightly glossy finish are also excellent for visually opening a space. If you want to use an area rug, choose one large enough to fill nearly the entire room. You'll gain more visual space, plus add a touch of warm coziness for your bare feet.

Drape It

The right drapes work double-duty to open up a small space. First, choose drapes the same color as your walls, or just a little bit darker. Second, hang them up high, with the rod just an inch or two below the ceiling line, and the fabric hanging to the floor. The lack of color contrast with the wall makes the room look wider, while the long curtains make the ceiling look higher. It’s a double win for a small room.

Forego fussy extras, however, such as valences, scarfs, or excessively ruffled or gathered curtains. Too much fabric closes in the space. 

Let There Be Light

A dim room feels claustrophobic. Dispel the darkness with good lighting; even in a small bedroom, you need at least two sources of light. At a minimum, you’ll need a bedside lamp and a floor lamp across the room. If you have ceiling lighting as well, that’s even better. Want to save more space? Then instead of bedside lamps, install wall sconces just above and to the side of your bed. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

You can’t beat the eye-fooling qualities of a mirror for visually enlarging a small room. And you need at least one large or full-length mirror in the bedroom anyway, or how will you know if those shoes complement that outfit? Hang a large mirror over your dresser, or install full-size mirrors on your closet doors. You can also take advantage of the light-bouncing, space-enlarging qualities of mirror by choosing a mirrored nightstand or small bedside table. 

Forget the Footboard

While every bed needs a headboard of some sort to balance the large horizontal surface of the mattress, footboards or benches at the bottom of the bed are optional. If your bedroom is very small, and especially if there is little space between the end of the mattress and the wall, skip the footboard. Instead, match your bed skirt to your comforter, or use a bedspread that drapes to the floor. An unbroken line of fabric keeps the eyes moving, making your room look a little bigger.

Color it Clear

Just as a window expands a room by allowing the eye to travel beyond its confines, clear glass or Plexiglas furniture opens up a space by eliminating visual weight in front of the walls. You wouldn’t want a clear bed or dresser, but a see-through bedside table, chair, or vanity work perfectly in the small bedroom, and look very contemporary. If that isn’t your style, consider a metal-framed piece with a glass top instead.