Now that you have an idea of what you want to bring to your small living space, let's discuss some common layouts.
- Don't think square. One big complaint about small rooms is that they look like shoeboxes. Once you install a couch, chair and table, the angle of the walls and furnishings will shout boring to all comers before you've had a chance to say hello. One way to design out of the box is to construct a triangle in the space instead of placing furniture along the walls. Create a low area directly opposite the entrance with a hassock, bench or low table as one leg of the triangle. It will focus attention on the furniture arrangement at the heart of the room instead of the shape (and size) of the room itself.
- Use corners to advantage. Corners are among the most underutilized and misunderstood areas in small rooms. They make excellent workstation and storage areas because they're out of the way, and in most rooms, they're wasted space. With the addition of a corner storage unit, computer station or decorative shelf, you can use every inch of the space and still keep things looking attractive and organized.
- Go with the flow. Even though your living area is small, you'll still have to carve out enough room for people to move to, through and around the space. If you create a bottleneck into a dining area or around a recliner, the space will be less convenient to use and could even cause someone to take a tumble. Before you start moving the furniture around, make a drawing of the entrances and exits. Anticipate the way traffic will flow, and make sure to leave a generous pathway (28 inches or more) through the space.
- Corral the clutter. In a large room, collections of items like candles and photo frames make the space look cozy and pulled together. The same collections in a small space can make it look jumbled and messy. With small spaces, scale is important, but so is a trim, streamlined look. If you like accent pieces, go for one spectacular focus piece, like a blown glass plate on a coffee table, over a grouping or collection.
- Make conversational groupings. You can group furnishings to create appealing conversation areas in a small room as you would in a large one -- with a couple of exceptions. Light is your friend here and works well to anchor a grouping of two chairs, or a chair and a table. Avoid creating groups with room dividers, sofa tables and brightly colored area rugs that will segment and truncate the space. A light fixture, a tall vase on a table, pedestal planters and artwork on the walls will do the job while keeping the space open and airy.
After some trial and error, you'll begin to see the potential in your small space and may come to think of it as charming instead of cramped. It's an adjustment, but some people relish the challenge. Small can be beautiful, and living in a small space will certainly encourage you to keep the closets organized, and that's always a good thing.