Design dilemma: Creating the illusion of space

Medy Navani's tips for making small interiors feel more spacious

A made-to-measure sofa bed by Seriously Sofa. Multi-functional furniture is ideal for small spaces.
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Are there easy and cost-effective ways to make a room feel larger than it actually is? 

A question my team and I are frequently asked is: How can we make small spaces feel bigger? Whether it is individual rooms or an entire apartment or office space, maximising a small space is a design dilemma most of us will encounter at one point or another.

One of my first pieces of advice is to use multi-functional furniture, which provides clever storage opportunities, meaning you don't necessarily need to cull those "clutter" items that would otherwise take over your space. Transformable furnishing systems, such as drop-leaf side tables that convert into dining tables, lift-top coffee tables that convert into casual workstations, modular shelving systems, sofa beds, fold down beds and storage futons, are all examples of multi-functional furniture that can work wonders for optimising a space.

Another tactic for creating more space is to install floating shelves. Lifting things off the ground will make it seem like there is more room on the floor. A rule of thumb for creating the illusion of space is to ensure as much floor as possible is visible so, for example, toss the cumbersome bookshelf out and lift your books onto the walls. Also try to colour coordinate to create a feeling of unity or order, and reduce a sense of clutter.

If you're trying to open up a small space, you could also consider bidding adieu to heavy window drapes or curtains to let in more light. While drapes and curtains can create a cosy feeling in the home, in smaller spaces they can really close in a room. Leaving window frames naked is a simple way to open up the space and maximise on natural light. If you need some privacy, consider installing subtle roll-down blinds, which can be largely inconspicuous and will allow you to shut the world out, as and when.

Choosing design details made of glass, acrylic or lucite materials is another interior design tactic that will reduce the sense of visual clutter in a small room and create the illusion of space, by effectively creating a "see through" effect. Clear pieces such as acrylic dining chairs and computer desks, or glass coffee tables, also bounce the light around, as opposed to absorbing it like heavy, dark furniture tends to do. Clear legs on couches, chairs and cabinets can create a look of suspended animation, and clear tables are a way to accentuate other features, such as beautiful carpets.

Depending on the style of a fixture or lamp, overhead lights can sometimes have a harsh effect on a room and actually make it feel smaller, particularly if the space is already limited. If you need to make a long narrow space look more airy and wide, I don't recommend using standard ceiling lights above the middle line of the room. Instead I recommended using wall lighting, or low set lights in the room, such as table and floor lamps, which will illuminate dark corners, backlight statement furniture or highlight feature pieces. Track lighting has also become increasingly popular for pokey spaces. With many small and beautiful lights available, they will fit in a small space much better than large tracks with huge lights.

Of course, the colour of the walls in any small space is also critical, and light, neutral or monochrome hues will be the ideal choice when it comes to selecting paint or wallpapers. Darker colours and even feature walls can serve to close a room in. People are also often surprised to hear that choosing one large, prominent piece of furniture, such as a statement lounger, is a much better option for small spaces than decorating with several smaller pieces of furniture. While it may sound counter-intuitive, it is a very effective way to make the space feel bigger. Leave a small amount of space behind the piece of furniture, rather than positioning it right up against the wall, as this is another way to create the illusion of space.

Medy Navani, creative director and founder of Design Haus Medy,; Instagram: @designhausmedy

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