How to Furnish a Small Space

Lighten Up a Small Space - Color and Contrast

The paint police have always said that neutrals like white and cream are the best colors for walls, while trendy design advisers may encourage you to express yourself through bold color choices. In a small space, you can act on this colorful advice, but with classic restraint. Bursts of color can add focus and interest to your rooms, but don't indulge your need for bright shades at the expense of light and proportion. The general rule is still that lighter colors expand the space, but no one ever said that you can't paint the area behind mounted book shelves, a door, windowsill, exposed closet interior, floor or hallway wall the robin's-egg blue you've always dreamed of.

If you want to make a space appear even bigger, try painting the ceiling a lighter color than the walls, and paint the entryway a few shades darker than the main room. Moving from the hall to the main living area, your guests will perceive the lighter, brighter, living space as bigger than it really is.

If you need to draw attention away from a utility area or unsightly feature, use that color blast where you'd like to divert attention by painting the trim an unexpected color. Need to raise the ceiling a few inches? If the lighter ceiling paint didn't do the trick, try adding curtains or sheers with vertical stripes. They'll pull the eye up and make low ceilings look more spacious. Stripes also make a good focal point.

Try to incorporate no more than two bold colors as accents, and repeat them somewhere in the furniture, accessories, drapes or rugs. To balance the two brights and contrast your neutral paint, add a black element. It can be a vase, area rug, pillow, or picture frame. The black object will help integrate all the colors you're using. You may be skeptical now, but just try it. In a small space, balance is important. The eye can often take in the entire area at a glance, so the impact of the overall design is concentrated.

On the next page, we'll look at resizing. Like Alice of Wonderland fame, getting smaller can be an adventure.