You’ve seen these stunning small spaces before…
The moody butler’s pantries that make you want to host an elaborate dinner party à la Downton Abbey. Vibrant powder rooms that stop you mid-scroll on Instagram. Bookmarked! The soothing yet lively laundry rooms that transform the most dreaded day of the week into a joyful event. (Or at least more joyful…)
These are small spaces with big impact.
If you’ve been hanging around with Blakely for a while, you may have seen our portfolio of large living rooms, sprawling kitchens with double islands, and even this custom new build we helped design from start to finish. We love large spaces with limitless possibility. However…
I’m not exaggerating when I say that we love small spaces equally as much! Small spaces not only offer the challenge of working within those confined parameters — they also present prime opportunities for going bold.
Today, I’m going to dive into our 7 best tips for creating small but mighty spaces, but first, let’s talk about the potential…
Fresh and sunny powder room in the Mendon Project
Why are small spaces ideal for creating big impact?
1. Limited Risk
Small spaces let you ease into color or another bold design choice without as much risk. Since small spaces are less likely to be common areas, neither you nor your guests will be constantly looking at them (unlike a living room or kitchen that gets daily, continuous use).
2. Bold in Small Doses
A bold design selection that might be overwhelming in a large dose could be perfect for a smaller space. For example, maybe that wallpaper you fell in love with isn’t ideal for all four walls of your bedroom, but it could be perfect for creating a special gem of a powder room.
3. Appear Bigger
Last but not least, the right design elements can make your smallest rooms look more spacious! When a small space has a vibrant personality and presence of its own — it feels larger than life. Literally.
Which small spaces are great for bold design choices?
Just to get the ideas flowing, here are some great rooms that we would consider small spaces ripe for creativity:
- Powder Rooms
- Closets / Dressing rooms
- Laundry Rooms
- Butler’s Pantries
- In-Home Elevators
- Small Home Offices
- Reading Nooks
Alright, I won’t make you wait any longer. Here are the 7 design tips you’ve been waiting for…
Bold, tribal-inspired wallpaper adds a healthy dollop of drama to this neutral powder room in the Jersey Palm Project.
7 Ways to Transform A Small Space
#1. Choose a Bold Wallpaper or Unique Paint
Okay, the most obvious strategy first: dressing up the walls. Your walls are prime real estate for creating immediate visual impact. This could mean adding wallpaper (check out Wallpapers That Wow for some ideas) or using paint in a unique application, such as a mural, stripes, or one with a high-gloss finish.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget that you can create big impact by highlighting the 5th wall… the ceiling!
Stage Left: This walk-in closet from the Westcote Project uses ruby red floral wallpaper to create a chic, femme fatale vibe. Guaranteed to give our client her daily (or nightly) boost of confidence.
Stage Right: The striped, vibrant pink wallpaper in this Jersey Palm dressing room feels elegant, uplifting, and playful all at once. It’s completely different from the previous example, but equally effective at inspiring confidence and bold living.
#2. Add Lighting that Makes a Statement
Lighting is the jewelry of the room and a simple way to make a small space feel instantly memorable. Look for beautiful sconces, a large chandelier, or a clever pendant or two. Or, check out these great tips for selecting lighting.
Left: A classy, jewel-like sconce adds elegance and sparkle to this stunning powder room in the Jersey Palm Project. Located off the vibrant blue lounge area (where there’s a full wet bar), this powder room feels like a natural extension of a stylish cocktail hour.
Right: This hanging pendant in cool aqua by Tracy Glover pairs with warm coral wallpaper for a balanced, beachy feel in the Safari Coastal Project. Its unique design makes this powder room a space our clients love to use — and one their guests won’t forget any time soon.
3. Consider Patterned Window Treatments
Inspired pattern play isn’t just for your walls… you can dress up the windows in a small space, too. We love Roman shades, drapery, and even valances or cornices (see below) in colorful fabrics.
Left: This ensuite water closet in a young girl’s bathroom afforded us the perfect opportunity to get creative. In addition to vibrant wallpaper, we added a custom Roman shade in watermelon pink and green fabric for instant playfulness and femininity.
Right: This window nook from our Barrington Bay Project needed window treatments that wouldn’t block the view. We specified this custom cornice in a light yellow pattern to create a sunny feel that would bring the outdoors in.
4. Make the Flooring Count
We’ve talked about walls, lighting, and windows… Now, it’s time for the floor! Intricate or creative flooring can make a small space feel extra unique and full of personality. It’s also a great place for that tile that you love that isn’t quite right for the kitchen.
Left: The Jersey Palm’s lounge powder room didn’t just get those elegant sconces you saw before. This basketweave tile with golden inlay looks and feels like luxury!
Right: In this mudroom, we incorporated tile in a very different style and scale. Large grey and white checkerboard tiles feel effortlessly classic. The pattern is interesting and attention-grabbing, but the material itself (with gorgeous veining) is the true show-stealer.
5. Custom Designed Elements that Go the Extra Mile
Sometimes paint, wallpaper, fabric, and tile just aren’t enough, and we decide to custom design an element of the space — such as wainscoting, a vanity, a built-in, etc. The sky’s the limit, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
Left: This is an elevator. Yes, an elevator! To make it feel special and spacious, we added white wainscoting and paired it with textured grasscloth wallpaper and these fun geometric tiles. (P.S. The mirror doubles as a way to make the space appear bigger and an opportunity to check your hair on the way out the door! But more on accessories in a bit…)
Right: Can you guess what we custom designed in this powder room? Answer: The vanity base! Since this space was destined to be more neutral than vibrant, we created this thick geometric design in brass to add an extra layer of dimension, interest, and impact.
6. Maximize Function for a Truly Special Space
I know that “big impact” feels like something that should be purely aesthetic, but I’d argue the opposite: a space that functions beautifully and uniquely is one that can stand on its own. A great way to do this is to maximize vertical space (don’t forget to look up) or install features that have multiple functions. Let me show you what I mean…
Left: Welcome to my family’s house. When I designed our laundry room, I knew that vertical space was essential. We custom designed this built-in with an elevated washer and dryer and functional storage space both above (for essentials like detergent and softener) and below (for catching clothes out of the dryer and rolling them away to the folding station). Useful, right? And better for your back.
Right: Technically, this whole cottage is a “small space” at only 870 square feet! We designed it for full functionality, and it can now sleep up to 12 people. How did we do it? With multi-functional features: the sofas have pull-out beds, the covered deck doubles as a dining space and lounge space, there is an outdoor shower, and there’s plenty of under-bed storage and built-in shelving throughout. (You can see a full feature of this project on Houzz.)
7. Incorporate Oversized Artwork & Accessories
Don’t forget the accessories, including artwork! No matter how small the space, a room can always benefit from decor. We love artwork for this, especially oversized pieces. (Most people select art that is too small.) Large art can give smaller spaces that larger-than-life personality, plus a distinct energy that mirrors the feeling in the piece.
Left: This oversized, abstract painting in black and white perfectly balances the wallpaper’s intricate details. It helps ground this powder room (from the Capital Craftsman Project), so that the wallpaper doesn’t visually overwhelm the space.
Right: Also from the Capital Craftsman Project, the dark, oversized piece of art in the butler’s pantry has a similar role to play in balancing out the bold wallpaper. The painting (a dog sitting on a chair under a pendant light) strikes a delightful balance between serious and whimsical. For accessories, we added a tray, a vase with flowers, and of course, some quality vino.
There you have it — our top 7 strategies for creating big impact in your home’s smallest spaces. They look like fun, don’t they? Now you can see exactly why we love small spaces as much as we love large ones!
Ready to take the next step? Download our Interior Design Project Planner here to start dreaming up spaces that help you live as boldly and vibrantly as you dare. 😉