Seven small space mistakes you might not know you're making

When it comes to decorating a small space, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What suits a tiny studio apartment in Melbourne may not be right for a chic Brisbane bungalow. All small spaces are small, but they are not all alike.

There are, however, some general decorating rules for small spaces that are virtually universal. Whether it is a look that has fallen out of style or a selection of furniture meant to maximise space but ends up reducing it, we’ll help you get the most out of your limited space by looking at seven of the most common mistakes in small home decorating.

1. Lots of tiny mismatched furniture
When selecting furniture for your small space, expert interior designers say it pays to plan out the space ahead of time.

“Sometimes I go into people’s spaces and they never planned the space out properly, but rather ended up with three different types of storage pieces (a medium height bookshelf, a three-drawer dresser and an armoire), a bed and two mismatched nightstands, no rug and no art,” says interior designer Tali Roth, of Tali Roth Designs, in New York.

The key to avoiding this mismatched clutter is to plan the room around two or three key pieces of furniture. They don’t need to be expensive pieces, but they do need to be specifically chosen and matched to the space. Also, make sure you are constantly evaluating your furniture pieces and not holding onto items that just aren’t worth keeping any more.

Read more: Transform your home with these simple décor tips

2. White walls
A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to revitalise a small room, provided some thought has been put into colour selection. But painting the walls solid white can make a home look drab and cold, especially if there is no art on the walls.

“Certain architecture and home styles are not conducive to a complete ‘white out’, and in doing so can compromise the character of a home drastically,” explains Katie Hodges, of Katie Hodges Design, in Los Angeles.

Consider choosing bold colours for your walls rather than a safe white, bone, ivory or beige. The humble accent wall is also still quite popular and can transform the look of your space.

3. Risk avoidance
It’s completely understandable that some may be a bit hesitant about committing to a particular style in a small space. But something is better than nothing, and leaving the space blank can make it seem impermanent and actually work to make the area seem even smaller.

If you are hesitant, start with a smaller room in your house such as a powder room or laundry. That way you can test out paint colours, wallpaper patterns or unique furniture pieces without risking the look of your entire space.

4. Not utilising all spaces
Real estate is expensive and hotly contested, so use the space to its full potential. What could be just an everyday linen cupboard could be spruced up with a feature door or ornate hinges. Express your creativity every chance you get.

“Challenge your design imagination by transforming a mundane must-have to a beautiful architectural element,” says Kate Marker, of Kate Marker Interiors, in Chicago.

Read more: Home decorating tips from stylish Instagram accounts

5. Fewer or no rugs

There’s a temptation to think that a small space needs a small rug, or worse, no rug at all. But interior designer Betsy Helmuth, of Affordable Interior Design, says bigger is usually better.

“People often believe that small rooms need small rugs. But the size of the rug visually defines the size of the area. So a large living room rug will give the illusion of spaciousness. Buying several small carpets will look like a collection of bath mats in the room,” Ms Helmuth says.

6. Not utilising mirrors
The humble mirror can really do a lot of work in a small space. It can create the illusion of a larger space and can help to light the room by reflecting light coming through the windows.

“Many times in a small space, people overlook the power of mirrors. Mirrors add perspective to a room by making spaces look wider and deeper,” Ms Helmuth says.

Read more: Simple winter cleaning tips to make your home sparkle

7. No curtains
People are often afraid to use decorative curtains in a small space. But they can make the space look bigger, or at least distract from it.

To keep things minimal, Ms Helmuth finds that many of her clients are reluctant to use decorative curtains in a small space. But she says curtains help to draw the eye up, taking the focus off how small the space is and making any space feel grander.

Is your living area a small space? What are your decorating tips? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Written by Brad Lockyer