Style Chicago

Style Chicago

Originally Published in Style Chicago, Magazine
Interviewed Christopher Lowell (HGTV), Monica Pedersen (HGTV), Sarah Bernhard (Designer)
(C) Kathy Murdock

Cramped for Space? Creative Decorating Can Visually Extend Even the Smallest of Rooms

Kathy Murdock

Urban condo dwellers and those whose small rooms are literally cramping their style may be under the decorating misconception that white wall paint and kid’s sized furniture create the illusion of a larger room. In reality these design tactics make for a more claustrophobic environment. Furniture size and placement, color choices, good use of storage and adequate lighting play a key role in making a small room seem bigger. When used properly these design elements will warm up even the coolest of rooms while giving small spaces a more spacious feel. (INSERT PHOTO LOWELL ART)

Size Matters

Colors Choices


Additional Tips and Techniques

One of the biggest misconceptions of decorating for a small space is that people should use smaller scaled furniture to give the illusion that the room is larger. Christopher Lowell (, author of numerous decorating books including Christopher Lowell’s You Can Do It! Small Spaces and host of Discovery’s The Christopher Lowell Show says that using smaller furniture will actually “. . . amplify the fact that the room is tiny.”

Instead, choose normal sized pieces and, if in doubt says Christopher, “Go bigger.” Placing an oversized coffee table and one or two large club chairs into a cozy seating arrangement will visually anchor a grouping area. Follow the designs of elegant hotel lobbies by clustering just a few large pieces together rather than scattering several smaller items. Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design in Los Angeles uses a regular-sized club chair angled outward from the corner of this tiny living room. (INSERT PHOTO BARNARD LIVING ROOM).

Color choices

If you’ve been shying away from color in your modest-sized room for fear that it would draw the walls inward you’ll be happy to know that when used properly, some colors can actually define, heighten or lengthen a space.

Janet Davidsen of Details in Design, Inc., a Wheaton, Illinois design firm, says that the use of rich wall color can add warmth to any room. “A room only becomes dark when there is not enough light in a space.” Yvette Piaggio, owner of Piaggio’s Loft ( and a featured guest on HGTV’S design show “Curb Appeal” agrees. “It’s not that you can’t use dark color in small spaces, but you have to take the characteristics of the space into consideration.”

White walls will amplify the fact that the space is small while painting the walls and the ceiling a richer color will bring the eyes to the color instead of to the corners in the room.

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