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Design your room to make small spaces appear large

Dear Gail: I’m moving to a smaller home and was wondering if you can give me some suggestions to decorate without buying all new furniture. — Thanks, Kay

Dear Kay: Making small spaces appear large doesn’t mean you have to buy small pieces of furniture. It’s about how you decorate with all the things in your home. Unless your furniture is truly oversized, I do have a few suggestions for you.

First, move your sofa away from the wall and place a narrow console table behind it. It doesn’t have to be expensive as you won’t see it. Look for something that is 12 inches to 14 inches deep. If you can’t find anything, use a metal base and have a piece of glass made. Then add a lamp, accessories, and artwork, creating visual depth.

Another thing I like to do is see if I can angle the furniture. By not lining your furniture along the walls, your eyes will move around the room. Think of a winding road versus a straight one.

I know you’re not looking to buy much furniture, but these are a couple of pieces you could consider. Glass top tables are the best to expand your rooms. With being able to look through them, it makes the rooms appear roomier.

If you have a breakfast bar, backless or low-back barstools will open up the area into your kitchen. If you’re looking for new club chairs, consider ones with, again, lower backs or that are armless.

Armchairs can take up to 20 additional inches in your room. If you need extra chairs for entertaining and have six chairs in your dining room, place the armchairs in your guest bedroom for a little seating for guests. Place a slipcover on them, so they don’t look like dining chairs.

If you’re looking to purchase a dining set, buy four instead of six chairs. Then purchase nice wood folding chairs and have the seats reupholstered to coordinate with the fabrics in your room. Of course, you could also buy slipcovers for all the chairs, so they match.

Keep your window treatments simple and use airy fabrics. Mount the side panels so they’re just covering the edges of the window and just below the ceiling. Your ceiling will appear higher and the room grander.

Don’t block any windows with tall pieces of furniture. Keep the area under and around your windows as simple as possible. Don’t place a console table under the window with lots of accessories and plants.

I do love wall galleries but keep them to a minimum as they can be too busy and seen as clutter. If a wall is 30 inches or less, leave it blank to keep your eyes moving around a room.

Mirrors, of course, are a staple in opening up any room. Along with being a decorative piece, they’re all about function. They can double any space by expanding your view with their reflecting properties as well as adding more light into your room.

Generally speaking, the larger the mirror, your space will appear more expansive. If going with an oversized mirror in a small room, consider a frameless style so that your eyes don’t focus on the frame but the reflection it’s creating.

Paint can dramatically change any room. If you like some color changes, you can still connect your spaces by painting different shades of the same color throughout open areas, which will tie everything together and give it a spacious appearance.

Now I know, all designers are not in love with accent walls, but I am. In some rooms, a darker color on one wall can make the wall appear as if it’s receding, tricking the eye into thinking the space is bigger.

For your ceilings, a light color will make it seem higher than it is, while also giving an airy feel to the room. I also like to paint the ceiling the same as the walls, eliminating a horizontal stopping point between the wall and ceiling.

Keep your accessories to a minimum. Alternatively, use a few larger items instead of a bunch of small ones. I find that any open shelving, whether bookcases or built-ins, are notorious for eye clutter as they seem to become storage versus display.

Also, watch those pot shelves and areas above your cabinets. Do groupings and give your eye a place to rest.

If you’re using area rugs, it’s OK if they are larger as it’s all about tricking the eye into seeing more than there is. When you use small rugs in a small space, you see and think small. Decorating with large rugs, however, gives a sense of a more spacious room.

In your bathrooms, remove guest bathmats and just bring them out when you have guests. The room will immediately appear bigger. Then in your master instead of using two, purchase a nice carpet runner.

Finally, in any space, lighting is key. You truly can’t have enough light, be it natural or artificial. Make sure you have the three basics, general, task and accent. Look to form a triangle in your rooms, leaving no corner dark. Then layer from there.

Kay, I hope these suggestions will help you in making your smaller space look and feel larger.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.

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