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Tips for optimizing small spaces

(BPT) - The trend toward smaller, more efficient homes is still in full swing, with new home builders offering floor plans that lower square footage while amping up usability. If your home is older, however, or you live in an apartment, your smaller space may just feel ... well, small.

Being short on space doesn’t mean you have to be short on style or efficiency. Even older small spaces can get an open, useful feel with the right design and decorating tactics. Here are a few ways you can optimize your small space:

Be size wise

Nothing makes a small room look more cramped than filling it with furnishings that are too big for the space. For example, if your living room is 10 by 12, a 9-foot-long sofa is going to dominate the room and leave little space for anything else. Conversely, placing a smaller bed (such as a twin or single) in a modestly sized bedroom is a classic trick designers and home stagers use to make a bedroom look larger.

When buying furniture for your small space, keep scale in mind. Furnishings should fit the space well, leaving plenty of area for you to move around them. Mohawk Homescapes blogger Cecilia Staniec advises homeowners take room measurements. “You should never shop for furniture without a complete set of measurements,” she writes.

Open up floor space

Smart use of wall space can open up floor space, which is often at a premium in small rooms. Some items must occupy floor space, such as sofas, tables and chairs. Others – like lighting, TVs and electronic components – don’t.

Wall-mounting TVs, especially flat screens, can be a great way to conserve floor space and create an appealing focal point for a petite room. Low-profile wall mounts, like Sanus’ Super Slim Full-motion VMF408, are perfect for small to medium screens of 26 to 47 inches. The mounts keep the screen close to the wall while providing a full range of motion for optimum viewing from multiple seating areas. Similarly, you can wall-mount your computer monitor – even an iPad.

Work with your walls

Your walls can work for you in other ways, too. Even in small rooms, the walls are one of the largest design elements. Choosing a bright or light wall color can help a smaller room feel more open and airy. Adding mirrors is another way to make a room appear larger. You don’t need to install a full-length mirror on one wall; a series of smaller mirrors attractively positioned in a cluster can do the job just as well without being overwhelming.

Carefully consider accessories you place on the wall, and don’t overdo it. Too much on the walls will make them look cluttered and even smaller. Sometimes, one or two thoughtful graphic elements are all you need to make a design statement.

Let there be light

A lack of lighting can make a small room look positively cramped. Whenever possible, enhance the size and appeal of your rooms with plenty of light. Natural light is optimum and adding a skylight or solar tube is a great way to bring sunshine into your home.

If that kind of renovation isn’t in your budget, however, maximize natural light by keeping window treatments light and open. Avoid dark colors around windows, as darker hues absorb more natural light. Recessed lighting overhead can help a room feel loftier, and wall sconces provide illumination without occupying valuable floor space.

When it comes to home decorating, bigger isn’t always better and smaller doesn’t have to mean cramped. With the right blend of furnishings, colors and accessories, it’s possible to live large in any small space.

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