10 Tips for Opening Up Your Living Space

Not everyone can live in a sprawling pad with tons of square footage, but we can all do certain things to make the most of what we have. When you open your living space by using design tricks you’ll make it appear larger, and some strategies can even increase the functionality of your home as well. These tips will work well for any living area, and can also be applied to other rooms in your home. Here are ten great ways to open up your living space.

1. Hang mirrors

Mirrors have the ability to make spaces seem larger by reflecting light and giving the illusion of spaciousness. If you want to open your living space hang one or two large mirrors, ideally nearby or opposite a window. Alternatively, set a large and sturdy mirror against a wall, which was done in this stylish living room. It’s close enough to several windows to catch the light, and the wall color and style of decor also help the room look bigger.

Photo via Damian Russell/CB2

2. Choose less hefty furniture

Very heavy furniture also carries visual weight, which bogs down the design of a room and can make it look more closed in. Steer clear of furniture that’s skirted, and opt for pieces that have sleek profiles, slim legs, a compact size, or that are made of materials with little visual weight, such as Lucite. A pair of Lucite chairs in this living area are functional, but don’t make the room look like it’s filled with too much furniture. The coffee table with wiry legs has the same effect.

3. Go easy on the gallery walls

It’s true that gallery walls are trendy right now, and they likely will be for some time to come. However, the problem with using gallery walls in smaller spaces is it can look overwhelming and cluttered. If you want to use this decorative element, keep your gallery wall small and be careful where you place it. In this room a carefully curated selection of art is hung at the perfect height above a couch. It also helps that the gallery wall isn’t wider than the couch.

4. Hang curtains higher and wider

It’s common for modestly sized living areas to have just one or two small windows or ceilings that are low. One easy way to fix both problems is to stretch the height of your curtains from ceiling to floor. To open your living space, hang your curtains as high as possible — if you can reach the ceiling to hang them, that would be ideal. Also stretch the curtain rod several inches beyond the window the make it appear wider, and let the curtains fall to the floor. Avoid opting for short curtains, which will only emphasize the small size of your windows.

5. Be careful with dark paint colors

A time tested way to open your living space is by using light paint colors. However, you may come across a dark shade that you simply love and want to use even at the risk of making a room feel smaller. This living area gets a huge dose of color and style from its wall paint, but that paint is quite dark for a small space. To help provide balance and make the room look more spacious, no curtains were used to allow in as much light as possible. A large mirror hanging over the couch and bright white paint for the trim and ceiling also help open up the room.

6. Add an accent wall

One way to add color to a small living area without making it feel closed in is going with an accent wall. This will allow you to use any paint color that you’d like without putting it all over the room. Make sure that the other walls in the space have light paint, and paint the ceiling the same color. For your accent wall, either paint the one behind your couch or the wall that contains most of your windows.

7. Clear out the clutter

A cluttered room that’s unorganized simply looks smaller, no matter what size it is. Clutter takes up space and visually looks heavy, so work on tidying up to create the appearance of more square footage. Also, don’t confuse cleanliness with an uncluttered appearance — homes can be exceptionally clean and still be full of clutter. This living area has cube storage with attractive bins to store items and keep them out of sight, and what’s left out in the open looks pleasing to the eye.

8. Less furniture is better

It’s common for people to get a couch, sofa, recliner, coffee tables, and all manner of furniture for a living area simply because that’s the status quo. However, when you’re working with a smaller space you don’t need all of those pieces. Pick out what you’ll truly use and what makes sense for your home. This small and attractive living area has a sofa, matching chair, small coffee table, and two end tables that serve as decorative and functional pieces.

9. Arrange your books neatly

Physical books are a treasure to have in any home, but how you arrange yours will affect the appearance of the room. This is one of the simplest and easiest strategies to open your space: make sure your bookshelves are free of items that belong elsewhere, and line up your books properly. This room has books arranged by color, which looks nice and neat, but simply placing books with their spines out or organizing neat stacks will do. You’d be surprised how much lighter and more spacious the area around your bookshelves will become once they’ve been straightened up.

10. Consider floating shelves

Floating shelves allow you to organize a small space without adding in more bulky furniture. The floating shelves in this room house magazines, books, and work materials, but you can use yours for anything from fabric bins to memorabilia that you want to put on display. Without the need for extra furniture, your room will look much more spacious and open.

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