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Expert Advice: 12 Tips for Making a Small Bedroom Look Bigger

I think we’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve just moved to the big city, or you grew up the youngest of many and drew the short straw when it came to sleeping assignments, but at some point in your life you’ve probably lived in a tiny bedroom. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, given the choice, I’d rather sleep in a cozy small room than spend my nights in a cavernous space.

The problem arises when small starts to feel claustrophobic. When we have too many things, or those things are too large, they can quickly overwhelm a space, displacing the feeling of the bedroom as a place of rejuvenation and retreat. Restoring a sense of order and calm in the bedroom involves using minimal elements to maximize the sense of space.

1. Choose a low-slung bed.

Michaela Scherrer LA white bedroom
Above: Despite the narrow width of her bedroom, designer Michaela Scherrer created a more spacious feeling by lowering the bed and installing a hanging pendant, elements that emphasize the generous height of the room. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Remodelista book.

One of the quickest ways to achieve the illusion of a more spacious boudoir is to lower your bed  by investing in a low-slung frame. A low-profile bed quite literally leaves more room to breath above it, making the room look and feel bigger than it is.

2. Paint the walls, floor, and ceiling all the same color (preferably white).

Paula Greif bedroom Hudson NY
Above: Ceramicist Paula Greif’s small, all-white bedroom feels light and airy. (See more of Paula’s home in Living Above the Shop: Ceramic Artist Paula Greif in Hudson, NY.)

The movement of light and air is another important factor in making a small bedroom look bigger. If you feel hemmed in by the four walls of your bedrooms, make them “disappear” by painting the entire room the same color, floor and ceiling included. Similar to the effect of being outside whereby the horizon and sky are indistinguishable, painting all sides the same color makes them pull away from each other, creating a more open feel.

3. Choose a lithe bed frame.

justine cape cod cottage bedroom
Above: In my own summer cottage bedroom on Cape Cod, I used a spidery, antique, iron bed (and a delicate bedside table) to enhance the breezy, light-filled feel of the room. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Remodelista book.

If you are trying to make a small room look bigger, put away the Restoration Hardware catalog, because big, chunky beds will overwhelm the space. Instead, opt for a bed with a more lithe silhouette. Think Shaker designs with sleek tapered legs or a delicate wrought iron bed. These styles will create a sense of air flow around the bed. So long as you removed the drapery, you could even go with a skeletal canopy bed, which emphasizes the height of the room.

4. Streamline your bedding.

Small White Bedroom Fire Island
Above: In their tiny Fire Island cottage, Ann Stephenson and Lori Scacco created an airy retreat with minimal, lightweight bedding and a total whiteout. (See more A Chic Fixer-Upper on Fire Island, Budget Edition.) Photograph by Kate Sears.

A small bedroom is not the place for voluminous quilts and layers of blankets. Simple bedding with clean lines and breezy fabrics like linen and cotton will keep your bedroom feeling fresh and open. For textured warmth without the bulk, try a vintage wool army or camp blanket.

5. Light your small bedroom with sconces (or hanging pendants).

rivertown lodge bedroom workstead
Above: At the Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, New York, Workstead placed their brass Orbit Sconces on either side of a lithe iron bedframe; $725. (See more at A Hotel with a Sense of Place: Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, NY. Photograph by Matthew Williams.
To free up your bedside tables, take advantage of wall space with sconces. Minimal wall-mounted and hanging lights not only maximize potential bedside storage but also contribute to an airy, open feel.

6. Install floating bedside tables and shelves.

Pelle Bedside Console in Maple
Above: Brooklyn-based architecture firm Pelle designed a Bedside Console that appears to float by the bed; $2,400. (For more budget options, see 10 Easy Pieces: Wall-Mounted Bedside Shelves with Drawers.)
Boutique design hotels are often a great place to find small-bedroom inspiration. One of their favorite tricks is the floating shelf. When trying to achieve an airy feeling, it’s hard to beat something that floats in the air.

7. Toss the extra pillows.

father rabbit limited small white bedroom
Above: A bedroom by New Zealand–based Father Rabbit Limited demonstrates several of our favorite small-bedroom design concepts, including: a low bed, vertical pendant lighting, white walls/floor/ceiling, and a restrained use of pillows. (See more at Shopper’s Diary: Father Rabbit Finds a New Home.) Photograph by Louise Hyatt and Duncan Innes.

Ever walk through a department store and feel sorry for the salespeople who have to fluff all those accent pillows that take up half the bed? Minimal bedding is key to maintaining the illusion of space, and that means reducing the number of pillows on your bed to only those you actually sleep on. If you need more support at night, that’s fine. Lay four standard pillows flat. If you need that accent pillow your grandmother embroidered, that’s fine. Just keep accent pillows to one. OK, maybe two.

8. Buy (build) a bed with built-in drawers.

sheila bonnell cape cod loft bedroom
Above: Architect Sheila Bonnell maximized storage in her small but lofty bedroom with a built-in bed with drawers.

Minimize furniture in the bedroom with two-in-one pieces such as a bed with incorporated drawers. Ikea has several budget options. See all our favorites at Sleep and Stow: Bed Frames with Built-in Storage. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Remodelista book.

9. Consolidate clothing in a large armoire.

Palladian Hotel in Seattle by Nicole Hollis
Above: A generous wardrobe provides ample storage at the Palladian Hotel in Seattle. (See Gritty Glamour at the Palladian Hotel in Seattle.) Photograph by Laure Joliet.

Adding a large piece of furniture may seem counterintuitive, but the idea here is to minimize the total number of pieces in the room. For example, if you share a room, finding the floor and wall space for two dressers can be awkward and make the room look busy. By taking advantage of the height in the room, you reduce clutter and maximize floor space.

10. Replace your headboard with a wall-mounted shelf.

Lisa Jones' Shelter Island House Master Bedroom Shelf Above Bed, Photo by Jonathan Hokklo
Above: Fashion buyer Lisa Jones ditched a headboard in favor of a wall-mounted shelf in her Shelter Island home. (See more: A Fashion Buyer’s Danish-Inspired Getaway on Shelter Island.)

Designing a small bedroom is a delicate balance between maximizing storage while minimizing the amount of excess in the room. One quick way to achieve this duality is to install wall-mounted shelving, either as a headboard or around the room. Like the floating bedside table, this shelf helps create the illusion of openness and air. Painting it the same color as the walls makes it further disappear while still providing a place for your things.

11. Use shades or shutters, or dare to go bare.

workstead gallatin new york bedroom
Above: Taking advantage of their secluded locale, Robert and Stephanie of Workstead were able to leave the windows bare in their own upstate New York retreat. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Remodelista book.

Heavy drapes can choke a small room. Diminutive spaces benefit from minimal window treatments such as shades, shutters, or nothing at all. The resulting unobstructed view not only allows more light into the room but also draws the eye outside, creating the illusion of more space.

12. Create an accent ceiling with paint.

sagverket sawmill bedroom yellow ceiling sweden
Above: At Sågverket Möten Rum & Kök in Sweden, a sunny yellow ceiling provides a cheerful touch while making the room feel larger. Photography via David Fahlén.

Anything that emphasizes the vertical or draws the eye up increases the sense of space in a room. A painted ceiling also makes the walls “disappear,” enhancing the open feel.

Maximize your minimal home with more helpful hints for small-space design:

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