8 Interior design ideas to make your small room appear larger

Grill House Restaurant
Grill House Restaurant’s walls are cladded with natural coral and wood panelling. PULSARIS DESIGN
Kenya is seeing one of the fastest rural-urban migrations in the world. As this rapid urbanization trend continues to grow, real estate becomes more and more valuable.

People will need to become creative and conversant with how to optimise the available space. An interior designer’s job is to help you do this with effective space planning.

There are, however, a few space saving hacks that allow you to maximize every available square inch.

1.) Colour
Keeping colour palettes light and neutral makes rooms seem more spacious. Darker hues can be used sparingly to create interest and depth.

Painting one wall darker, for example, will make it seem farther away from the eye than the others, making the space appear larger.

Dark paint or coloured recessed light used to highlight architectural features, for example, gives a sense of dimension.

2.) Lighting
Natural light is absolutely king in interior design. A tiny space can be completely transformed by simply allowing more sunlight into it.

Keeping an open space plan by knocking down a few walls and making two small rooms into one spacious one is ideal.

If this poses a challenge (especially if your space is a rental) then try to make windows as large as possible and if privacy is an issue, use sheer curtains during the daytime or add a decorative translucent film to the glass.

We are fortunate in Kenya not to require double glazing and other heat insulation techniques due to our climate, so make the most of large windows.

In addition, mirrors are a great tool due to their reflectivity.

This works in two ways; to increase the level of light in a space as well as giving the impression of being in (or looking into) more than one room at a time.

Using furniture that allows light to move well is a good way to create the illusion of space. Pieces that have long, slender profiles and do not sit directly on the floor are best suited to small spaces. Avoid chunky, fully upholstered furniture and try open back chairs (or some mesh back task chairs in offices).

Lastly, keeping a room tidy and making sure that there is no clutter on the floor or other spaces is another good hack.

3.) Texture
Good design tries to engage as many of the senses as possible. Remember that spaces are made to be used, as well as looked at.

Adding a few different textures creates some visual interest while adding a level of depth that colour alone cannot achieve.

A space that has pieces to keep the eyes and fingers busy will not seem as small as a “flat” room. Be sure, however, to keep the items in a similar tone to avoid going overboard.

4.) Shapes
The human mind loves repeated pattern. In a small space, keep most of the shapes the same to bring a sense of calm and this gives an illusion of airiness.

One or two irregular shapes or patterns can be used to break up the monotony, and give the eyes something to land on. However, these pattern interruptions should be used sparingly.

5.) Scale
Conventional wisdom is to use small furniture that is close to the ground. The idea is that tall, large furniture eats into the space.

However, small pieces tend to affect the proportion of a room; seeing doll sized furniture arranged in normal sized room is not aesthetically pleasing or comfortable.

The less is more approach is better. Choose fewer items that are absolutely essential rather than many tiny items that will look odd.

6.) Multi-purpose furniture
Buy furniture that can fulfil several functions. Look for pieces that can be extended or can fold away, for instance those that have inbuilt storage.

Try a sofa bed that is normal seating during the day and at night can be folded open as a bed.

Tables that can be extended to accommodate more people, beds or tables that fold away against the wall and ottomans that are also storage containers are some useful space savers.

7.) Multi-functional spaces
Rooms that can double up as entertaining or working spaces at different times of the day are a creative way to use available space.

Using fold away tables to create a temporary work surface (in the kitchen for example) when needed is a good hack. One of these can easily be attached to the wall then pulled out to be used as a meal prep area, ironing space, impromptu office or as a dining area.

This allows a simple kitchen to perform various other functions.

Creating storage spaces under staircases, shelving above and around doorways and fitting drawers into bunk beds, will give you more storage and allow you to use space that is otherwise wasted.

8.) Direction
Try using a vertical alignment instead of a horizontal one, which will make a room appear taller. Vertical stripes in wall paper or paint draw the eye up and along the walls.

Tall, thin vases, drapes or even furniture can achieve the same effect, especially if arranged around a window or some other focal point.

The same idea applies to horizontal lines. This can be achieved using different materials arranged along a horizontal line to make a narrow room seem a bit wider like in the image above.

Helvi is co-founder of Pulsaris Design, an interior design and build firm based in Mombasa. Pulsaris provides commercial and residential solutions by transforming hospitality, retail, office, residential, hospitality and healthcare design.