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How to Scale Bold, Beautiful Designs for Small Spaces

When many people think of designing a space, their minds tend to immediately drift towards the big and the bold. The large open kitchen with massive white marble island. The spa-like bathroom with the soaker tub, large steam shower, and large dual sinks. And of course, the master bedroom that feels like a five-star hotel suite, complete with fireplace, his and her closets, and a separate seating area.

While our minds may race towards these beautiful, Instagram-worthy room design ideas, the truth of the matter is that we all face the same challenge when we go to design a space: we are bound by the constraints of the room.

And for many of us, that means we’ll never quite have the same large blank canvas of a room that those viral social posts of multi-million-dollar TV homes have. But guess what? This is totally OK! In fact, small spaces can be some of the most beautiful, well designed rooms you’ve ever seen. You just need to know how to scale your design ideas to match the square footage of the room you’re working with.

Here in Vancouver, my work as an Interior Designer takes me to all sorts of spaces. New, old, residential, commercial, modern, historic – I’ve been fortunate enough to work in nearly every type of structure imaginable. And with that, I’ve worked in nearly every size space imaginable. For every massive open kitchen I’ve designed, there have been just as many small galley condo kitchen renovations. For every magical, hotel-style master, I’ve worked on just as many cozy historic bedrooms. And of course, for every spa-style bathroom suite, I’ve tackled tiny baths and powder rooms that were barely larger than one you’d find on an airplane.

But no matter how small, all of these spaces turned out beautifully! All it took was scaling down the design to match the size.

Looking to redesign a small space of your own? Let me show you some of my most important tips for how to scale bold, beautiful designs for small spaces.

“While our minds may race towards these beautiful, Instagram-worthy room design ideas, the truth of the matter is that we all face the same challenge when we go to design a space: we are bound by the constraints of the room.”

Find Ways to Manage Clutter

No matter if it’s a kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom, one of the biggest challenges of designing a small space is dealing with all the stuff. Unless you’ve moved recently, it’s likely that you don’t fully understand just how much stuff you may have. And in small spaces, stuff can quickly lead to clutter, and clutter is one of the biggest killers of a beautifully designed space.

With this in mind, it’s important that you make storage one of your biggest considerations when designing a small room. From extra deep and tall cabinets paired with organizational tools in a small kitchen, to furniture and closet choices that maximize storage capacity in a bedroom, making storage a core part of your design plans in a small space is a great way to tackle clutter before it begins.

“clutter is one of the biggest killers of a beautifully designed space

Think Dual-Purpose

Much like finding ways to manage your clutter, finding ways to turn design elements into multi-purpose elements can go a long way in maximizing the available space in a small room. For example, things like designing a recycling organization system inside a pull-out cabinet in your kitchen (so that the bins do not take up precious floorspace) or turning an ottoman into a coffee table or side table using an interesting tray – ideas like these can help ensure that the only things being placed in your smaller space have true functional roles to serve.

When designing this home, the owner was looking for a practical way to store shoes, hats and gloves in their modest entryway. We ended up choosing a dual-purpose bench and storage system built right into their alcove, giving folks a place to sit down and put on their shoes, and giving the homeowners plenty of additional storage space. A true dual-purpose!

Be Bold with Paint and Wall Coverings

One of the best advantages of designing a smaller room is that with less wall space to cover, you can make bold choices. Oftentimes a paint colour or wall design that might feel a bit overwhelming if done on a larger wall in a larger room will pop perfectly in a smaller space.

In this small bathroom redesign project, we opted for a funky, bold black paint splotch design that paired perfectly with the fresh white subway tiles. This design gave the bathroom a much-needed burst of energy, but did not feel overpowering or over the top, thanks to the limited wall space with which we had to work. A true winner!

Get Creative with Your Lighting

Light is the life force behind any great space. So even if you’re dealing with a smaller room, you absolutely do not want to skimp on quality, interesting light fixtures.

That said, space can create some challenges when it comes to finding the right lights. With limited floor space, you’ll most likely want to avoid any major floor lamps in your smaller rooms, opting instead to take advantage of ceiling-mounted fixtures and wall sconces.

Much like paint, small rooms allow for bold lighting choices as well. In this project, we took a novel hanging approach. The result was a funky, interesting design that brought plenty of light to shine through the space.

Keep Clean Lines

One of the best ways to make a small space feel larger is with clean lines. Not only does a streamlined, clean look make a room feel bigger, but is also removes heft and bulk that can take up precious space.

For this kitchen redesign, we opted for sleek modern cabinetry with discreet recessed pulls. The long continuous lines made the kitchen feel much longer than it actually was, and the lack of bulky cabinet hardware not only created the illusion of more space, but it actually made it easier for multiple people to be utilizing the kitchen without feeling like they were on top of one another. The perfect intersection of design and function!

Ask Yourself the Hard Questions

Part of scaling design for smaller spaces is asking yourself the hard questions. On this project, we were tasked with redesigning a modest bathroom to bring in a more modern look and feel. While most would probably prefer a dual-sink vanity, in this instance we knew that the space constraints of the wall itself – mixed with the fact that dual-sink vanities often have surprisingly little storage (since there is so much sink and plumbing to house) – made a dual sink impractical.

Instead, we decided to opt instead for a single sink vanity with plenty of storage space. The result was a look that felt perfectly sized for the room, and was also quite practical!

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to bring big, bold design ideas into a smaller space.

If you’re looking to redesign a smaller room of your own, be prepared to ask yourself hard questions and make some difficult choices. But don’t fret. Like the homeowners in the photos shown here, just because a room is small doesn’t mean you can’t transform it into one you love.

Do you have questions? I love talking small room design ideas. Send me a message and let’s brainstorm today!