Small rooms should pop with drama

: We have just downsized into a smaller house. I love the convenience but miss the spacious rooms. How can I make my small rooms seem larger?

A: Conventional wisdom is that when you’re decorating a small room, you should paint it a light color and furnish it with smaller-scale pieces. But my advice is to spurn conventional wisdom and fill your smaller spaces with dramatic colors and a few carefully chosen larger pieces.

Some people dislike decorating smaller rooms because they find the limited wall space and floor area restricting. They mourn the lack of options a big space presents.

I love to decorate cozy areas because it doesn’t take much to make them warm and welcoming. In my book, the limited number of options for furniture placement is a perk. You simply find the most functional and attractive configuration, then move on to the fun part: accessories.

Like you, our daughter, Kelly, is facing the small-room challenge at her new home, an older bungalow she and her husband, Britt, are fixing up. When she told me about the quirky little room she wanted to make into a home office, I urged her to pick a deep, bold color to give the ho-hum room loads of character. My new gotta-have color combo for small rooms is Twilight blue walls and Garrity cream trim. Adventurous souls, Kelly and Britt decided to give it a try.

The walls looked great dressed in this near-navy hue. With the addition of custom curtain panels done in a vintage navy and cream vine pattern, the new office looked absolutely fabulous. To give the room the illusion of more height, the couple hung the curtains just below the ceiling line and allowed them to puddle on the floor in luxurious folds.

With the stage set, it was time to furnish the office. Kelly and Britt picked a few attractive but functional pieces for the space, including a desk, a chair upholstered in a navy and caramel glen plaid and a bookcase.

The unexpected show stealer in this room was an oversized bulletin board Kelly had on the wall of her bedroom as a girl. Measuring 4 feet wide and extending nearly from floor to ceiling, this piece of artwork demands to be noticed.

Another example comes from my friend Cynthia, who bought a historic cottage. She’s had a blast redecorating each of the home’s small-scaled rooms. Her latest triumph — a guestroom redo — made me swoon.

This tiny upstairs bedroom was loaded with windows, so Cynthia decided to make it light and bright, bringing in the drama she craves through texture alone. She painted the walls a soft white and the trim in cream. Then, layer by layer, she added furniture and textiles in eight shades of white and cream to create a soft, romantic ambience.

The bedding ensemble includes an assortment of crochet, linen and soft cotton accent pillows and quilts. The white voile curtains hang from gold rings on a burnished gold rod, placed just below the ceiling line. And the nightstand, a writer’s desk, is painted a distressed yellow cream. To add a pop of color to this monochromatic space, Cynthia covered the largest wall with a grid of 24 French hand-lined botanicals from the early 1800s.

As you approach your small rooms, here are a few pointers to keep in mind: First, pick a palette that makes the diminutive space dramatic. Then select a sizable piece of furniture to be the star, like a mirrored armoire or antique secretary. Fill in with just a few additional pieces. Finally, cover your wall space with eye-popping art.

As you fill your new home with character and charisma, you’ll see that your smaller rooms don’t have to be short on style.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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