A Dozen Ways Furnishing Choices Can Make Smaller Homes Feel Big

Example Sofa with Legs

Most new home buyers are searching for, among other things, spacious luxury in their new home. As discussed in our recent video series, many young families look to purchase homes in the suburbs rather than urban communities despite the urban appeal.  Often this choice is simply the result of a feeling that they need a large suburban home to provide the spacious living they want.

We have learned that is not necessary, and that the same spaciousness can be experienced in a significantly smaller footprint home. It’s really amazing how much of an impact design and furniture choices can have, not only on the spacious feel, but also on the actual livable space of a home.

In this post, we want to look a little more closely at furniture choices. Most home buyers we talk to are aware that small apartment style living room sets look better in smaller homes.  Yet they don’t always appreciate how important other attributes of furniture are.  Nor do they appreciate the potential impact that furnishings can have on the utilization of space in the home. A friend recently enthusiastically showed off his daughter’s room in a new home that they just moved into. He asked me how I thought the size compared to his daughter’s old room in the previous house. It looked marginally smaller, so I responded that it may be 5-10% smaller. He then eagerly told me that it was over 40% smaller. Other than larger windows that made the room feel somewhat larger, the biggest difference was that he had purchased all new, more compact furniture. I was truly surprised. The bedroom set included the same number of pieces, yet the bedroom didn’t just feel spacious, it seemed just as livable as the much larger room that they had left behind. Nothing appeared to have been sacrificed as a result of moving into the smaller footprint. And  the furniture was far from Spartan. In fact, it was very luxurious looking.

Home furnishing can affect the feeling of spaciousness as well as the utility of a space in a number of ways. First, by reducing the actual space needed, they can increase utilization of a given space. They can also affect the appearance of space, creating a greater sense of luxury.  Thoughtful investments in the following furnishing techniques will reduce the actual square footage that you need to buy, heat and pay taxes on.

  1. Built in furniture: Probably one of the techniques with the greatest impact, built-in furniture reduces the space needed and minimizes the disruption that furniture can have on a space, creating a more airy and livable space.
  2. Less bulky furniture: More streamlined furniture allows for more usable space and creates a greater sense of space
  3. Multi-functional furniture, reduces the need for additional space consuming furniture pieces, affecting the appearance as well as the utility of available space
  4. Use of fewer and somewhat larger furniture pieces reduces the appearance of clutter and actually allows for more usable space by avoiding the need to break the space up into progressively smaller and unusable spaces.
  5. Raised furniture (with legs or built-in furniture): Creates a more airy and spacious feel.
  6. Glass or Acrylic furniture. Somewhat unusual and not something that would work in every environment, translucent furniture – glass table tops, acrylic shelves or chairs – minimize the break in sight lines and so can significantly open up the feel of a space.
  7. Large art pieces on walls. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the use of large art on a wall instead of more, and smaller pieces can have a profoundly positive effect on a small room. First, it avoids introducing a busy, or cluttered feel that can negatively impact on the perception of space.  Larger pieces also add a sense drama to the room when contrasted with the smaller sofas and chairs.
  8. Strategic placement of large mirrors: The use of mirrors to enhance a sense of space is no secret, but strategic placement of a large mirror can have a profound impact on the feel of a space. Light is critical to the feeling of space, and mirrors can really help by reflecting light into areas that would be dark, or as dead spaces in a room. Mirrors can also mimic windows which as we know, increase the feeling of spaciousness.
  9. Varied lighting and lamps: Light is very important to providing a spacious feel. Large windows and lighter colours all contribute to a sense of spaciousness. With indoor lighting, its not only the amount of light that is important but also the distribution of light sources. Harsh shadows or a single focused overhead light source can create a small cloystiphobic feeling. Indirect or reflected light can help enhance a spacious feel and provide soft lighting. Avoid table lamps as they can make a small room look cluttered.
  10. Area rugs: Open concept designs help create a feeling of space, but they may also suffer from a lack of separation of the living spaces. Area rugs can be very useful to address this shortcoming and may be used to define a space providing separation without the need for walls. A stripped rug pattern can also influence the perception of spacial dimensions.
  11. Storage cabinets and shelving should run upwards to the ceiling. Cabinets and objects that run towards the ceiling lead your eyes upwards, creating a sense of greater space
  12. Smart furniture arrangements: Avoid boxy (square or rectangle) furniture configurations, and utilize round furniture pieces like tables if possible, in order to provide a more spacious feel. At the same time it is important to anticipate how traffic will flow through the room(s) and to allow a generous pathway (28 inches or more) through this space.
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