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

5. Architectural details. “In smaller homes, I like to create cohesive detailing,” says Philadelphia designer Michael Shannon. “I take cues from the kitchen, using the type of wood from the cabinets for the millwork finishes in adjoining rooms. It creates a unifying vocabulary throughout the home.” Shannon just finished a small four-floor home in Center City that had low ceilings. He got rid of the mantelpiece above the fireplace because it cut the room off vertically. To make the rooms look larger, he repeated the slate used on the kitchen floors in front of the hearth in the living room, and used the mahogany from the cabinetry to flank the fireplace.

For a grand estate in Princeton, Laura Todd, of Spyglass Design, coffered the dramatic family room’s low ceiling in quarter-sawn oak, tying it in with the custom cabinetry of the adjoining hall and rear entrance. Her firm also has a special knack for kitchens. To make them airy, they use lighter-colored cabinets, shelving interspersed with closed cabinetry, and glass-fronted cabinets that have bluish interiors, to give the illusion of windows looking outdoors. “Interior lights with glass shelves can enlarge the room at night,” Todd says. “For backsplashes, choose ­beveled-edge subway tiles, which give the illusion of depth to the wall, or glass tiles that reflect light and open up the space.”

How to make big rooms cozier and more inviting

1. Color. “Big rooms can take a lot of color and pattern,” says Marcello Luzi, of Weixler, Peterson & Luzi, in Philadelphia. “They absorb it like a sponge.” One of Bruce Norman Long’s trademarks is using a contrasting ceiling color: “I like to sandwich the room in a warm color, with light walls and a deep chocolate brown or dark gray ceiling. It’s psychologically warming.” Shannon uses contrasting color casings around doors and windows to break up the room, such as dark walls with white trim. “Ironically, the same color tricks work with big and small rooms,” says Long. “The warmer the color, the more you fool your eye about the size of the room.” Paul thinks darker walls are a terrific backdrop for lighter furniture: They pull the eyes forward, helping to make a cavernous room feel inviting.