3 Tips for Designing Small Spaces

0 8 Comments

Small spaces, like awkward spaces, are found in homes of all sizes. We all have a hard time figuring out how to use the space and furnishing it appropriately for that function. Often, homeowners feel like their small spaces are overcrowded with furniture. Do you want to use your space to its fullest potential without feeling cramped? Keep reading!


When I am challenged by a small space I always keep the scale of the furniture at the forefront of my mind. I recently finished a small space project that included a living/dining area. Initially, the homeowner thought the space was too small for a sofa. We decided to create a simple sitting area with chairs and ottomans. One the installation was complete, the homeowner realized that she needed more seating. I knew right away that a full-size sofa wasn’t going to be practical. We needed something smaller and opted for an apartment sofa. We “downsized” the sofa and made the seating arrangement work.

Concept board for the DIY/eDesign Project

The lesson: scale it down, if not in the amount of furniture you have, but in the scale of the furniture itself. The average sofa size is >7 feet long. Most sofas are 8-9 feet in length and 36-40″ deep. Apartments sofas are under 7 feet long and never exceed 36″ in depth.

Another place where you can scale down the portions of furniture in tight spaces is with your bed. In a small bedroom, you may want to use a headboard only instead of a bed that has a headboard and footboard. You can free-up 6″-12″ of space by skipping the footboard.

Platform beds are space savers. No footboard gives you at least an extra 6″. photo credit: Hannah Glogower

Occasional tables, such as coffee tables and side tables can also be scaled to help preserve floorspace. You always need something on which you can rest a book or a drink in your living room, but it doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. For example, if you’re having trouble finding a coffee table in a style you love, you can use two smaller items, like stools or a gardening drums, in place of a large cocktail table. The same goes for nightstands.

Another idea for seating is to use slipper chairs or benches instead of club chairs or arm chairs. The arms on a chair can take-up an extra 6″-18″ of space. A slipper chair with a slim profile can create a lot of floor space and visual space in a small room.

Slipper chairs have a lower profile and work in smaller spaces. What these chair lack in size they make up for it in style! photo credit: Hannah Glogower


My second tip is to select multi-purpose furniture. If you’re short on space, chances are you’re also short on storage, which can lead to clutter. To mediate small space clutter, I recommend using furniture with drawers where you can. For example, instead of a console table, consider using a small 3 drawer dresser that is dimensionally similar to a console table.

Open storage, such as bookshelves and media storage, can create a visually cluttered look. From a volumetric standpoint they take up a lot of space. This is another area where that extra drawer storage can come in handy.

This small space needed some extra storage. Instead of a console we used a 3 drawer chest. photo credit: Hannah Glogower

Beds with drawers in their bases are another great multi-purpose piece. These beds are usually low profile and come with or without a headboard. The great thing about storage beds is that you eliminate the dead space beneath your bed. You can store items beneath a typical bed, but if you have drawer storage, the items will be organized and you won’t have to worry about your belongings getting dusty. Under-bed storage is a great place to store seasonal clothing if your short on closet space.

Welcome to Another Dimension

We tend to think about space in terms of floor space or square footage, but our rooms aren’t flat like a blue print! We have vertical space as well and when you’re room is small, you should use it.

A great example of vertical space that often goes unused is the space above a wall hung television. Instead of a short media console, consider creating a media wall and using all of the space around your TV for storage. There are solutions for any budget, everything from Ikea to custom. Keeping the colors and materials light will keep the space open.

This white shelving extends from floor to ceiling. It’s topped off with cabinets for more concealed storage.

What are some of your small space challenges? How did you resolve them? What are some creative solutions you’ve seen?

Still pondering how you’ll resolve your space planning issues? You can schedule your complementary Design Style phone consultation here. If you want to shop the look of the featured concept board, you can do that here.


8 thoughts on “3 Tips for Designing Small Spaces”

  1. Nicole says:

    Great tips. If you can’t go out go up.

    1. julielampe says:

      One of my professors in school used to always talk about volumetric and vertical space and infrequently we think about those dimensions in design. We spend so much time in the floor plan and in 2 dimensions. Then we “elevate” the plan and it looks weird.

  2. Tarsha says:

    Good point about the footboard! Mine takes up way too much space. Love the office space. It’s so bright and neat!

    1. julielampe says:

      Thanks! Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the office 🙁 It’s a stock photo… It is a really bright, open space for a smaller room.

  3. Darla Powell says:

    Yes! So many clients forget to measure and consider scale. Everything looks smaller in the showroom.

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you! So true! It’s hard to determine if something will is the right proportions if you have’t done some work before you shop!

  4. Nancy says:

    Great points to consider for all styles of furnishings. Thank you!

    1. julielampe says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *