Things to Know When Decorating a Small Space

bobby berk
credit: Bobby Berk

Whether you live in a studio apartment or a first home that's lacking in square footage, my motto is simple: It's not about the space itself, but how you use it. I get asked all the time, "How do you decorate a small space?" While there are a ton of ways to optimize a space for both efficiency and style, you don't need to spend big to get the most out of your small space. Instead, focus on a few key elements in the room while adhering to some rules that will not only make the room more aesthetically pleasing, but also seriously maximize the space you have. Scroll down to see a few of my go-to tips on decorating a small space.

Keep It Open

With studios especially, the instinct is often to cut a main room into separate sections to create the illusion of a larger room — but what you're actually doing is cluttering up the space and making it appear much smaller. Instead of dividing the room up, think of it as one cohesive space and incorporate complementary colors, textures, and patterns throughout to create a sense of harmony. For example, if you use a blue throw on your bed, bring that color to the other side of the room to keep the color moving throughout the space and aesthetically keep it cohesive.

Go Light

Contrary to popular belief, stark white doesn't make a room instantly appear larger — in fact, it can often create a cold and lifeless space (which no one wants to live in). Instead, opt for a tone with a little bit of warmth in it and employ a warm, neutral palette throughout the space. I like to keep the foundational elements in neutral colors and then bring in interest through a layering of textiles in the same tonal palette. To finish it off, I always add a few pops of a graphic black or metallic to help modernize the space and keep it feeling fresh.

Take a Moment for Reflection

This is one of my favorite tips for small spaces: add mirrors. You don't need one on every wall, but an oversized floor mirror or decorative hanging mirror in place of art will trick your eye into thinking that there is double the amount of space.

Double Duty Furniture

In a small space, everything has to do double duty. These days there are so many stylish options for coffee tables, beds, and ottomans that double as storage, but also think about ways that you can utilize everyday pieces in different ways. Use stools as side tables for your couch that can double as extra seating when entertaining guests. Or pick dining chairs that can easily slide underneath the table after dinner, so you don't have to deal with extra bulk in your dining room. Finding ways to maximize a furniture's utility will make your home as efficient as it is stylish.

Let There Be Light

Every room needs good lighting, and the right lighting scheme is key to having a well-lit room. In every room, especially a small one, I like to have three different types of lighting. They typically will consist of "overhead lighting," which will come from the overhead fixtures you have, "diffused lighting" which can come in through a fabric lamp shade or opaque glass shade, and task lighting. Once all three are in a room, they not only will illuminate the space to seem lighter and brighter, but will add multiple focal points to your room to keep eyes bouncing around so it appears much bigger than it is.

Raise the Roof Ceiling

Whether you live in a space with standard ceiling heights or massive vaulted ceilings, it's always important to capitalize on that vertical real estate. Placing shelves at eye level, using vertical space for storage, and hanging curtains at ceiling height instead of window height will open up your space and increase the overall appearance of your square footage.

Marie Kondo Knows Best

Even if you aren't drinking the Marie Kondo Kool-Aid yet, everyone can learn from her technique. Go through everything you have and assess it individually — Does it serve a function? Does it make you happy? If not, toss it. You'll feel lighter and your space will benefit from a full purge of all of your clutter. If it doesn't "spark joy," then it might be time to let go of it and fill the space with something that does make you happy. At the end of the day, your space should be filled with the items that make you happy.


Bobby Berk

Bobby Berk

Bobby Berk is best known as the design guru on Netflix’s Queer Eye, however he's been working in the design space for over 20 years. In 2006, he started his own company, Bobby Berk Home, and opened his first showroom in lower Manhattan the following year. In 2015, he launched his full-service bespoke interior design practice for residential, commercial and hospitality clientele, called Bobby Berk Interiors + Design. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Dewey.