Features: Home: Size Matters: Tips for Living Large and Small

Whether you inhabit a manse or a cottage, Philly design experts share their secrets for making the most of your rooms

How to make small rooms look bigger

1. Color. One of the biggest misconceptions is that painting a small space white makes it appear bigger. The opposite is actually true. “The deeper the color, the more the corners are eliminated in a room, giving the illusion of a larger space,” says Princeton and New York designer Bruce Norman Long. Designer Rebecca Paul, of Wyndmoor, agrees, and used a rich chocolate brown for a former closet she transformed into a bar for a client. “Dark colors embolden small spaces, making them take on larger proportions,” she says. But if you prefer lighter hues, continue the wall color onto the ceiling; there’s less disruption visually, which makes the room look bigger.

2. Furniture. A small room doesn’t have to be sparse to feel spacious. The most important thing to play up is scale. “Lilliputian furniture will look just that,” says Long. “You can put a big sofa in a small space, or a large four-poster bed in a small bedroom. The bed works almost like a room within a room.” And furniture can often serve dual purposes: An oversized armoire can add drama and be a great place for storage.

If low ceilings are one of the problems in a small room, use shorter furniture. “It gives the illusion of higher ceilings and spaciousness,” says Paul. If you want more airiness in a room, forget the table draped in fabric and the skirts on sofas and chairs, and choose textured fabrics such as boucles over loud or repetitive patterns — not as busy, but still visually interesting.

3. Windows. Shades always minimize, but if you want curtains, choose a color that’s comparable to what is on the walls. “Stay away from space-stealing contrasting colors and patterns,” says Rebecca Paul. If you have low ceilings, pull the fabric up to the ceiling, and take the fabric out on either side of the window. This will make the most of the height of the room and can make a smaller window look more generous.

4. Accessories. “People feel that if they have a small space, they can’t use accessories and don’t need art,” says Susan Taylor, of Black-eyed Susan in Yardley. “You can’t neglect the jewelry that finishes the project; this is where the personality comes in.” The one tried-and-true wall ornament is the mirror. A large painting can add impact to a room, too, as do smaller pieces clustered together, says Rebecca Paul, who adds, “A small piece standing alone just looks skimpy.”