Small House? Small Budget? Design tricks to make it BIG

By Michelle Broussard B.Ed. B.A. Int. Design, Colour Confidence Interiors

OK – so without a renovation or extension you are not ACTUALLY going to make your home larger, but there are a number of things you can do to increase the ‘apparent’ or perceived size of your home without pulling down walls – although don’t discount that as an option either.

What you can do is use clever planning with furniture and décor as well as tricks to fool the eye and the senses into thinking a space is larger.


The cheapest and easiest decorating tool is paint. Anyone can give it a go and access the materials easily. For a small space, paint with light colours as they reflect and so act to multiply light, whilst dark colours absorb light; therefore dark colours make rooms look smaller.

The lighter the shade is, the more open your space will appear, so stick to pale colours such as blues, greys, greens, yellows, or creams.
Avoid contrast in colour of walls and furniture, or even drapes and cabinetry, to help a space feel larger.


Colour Confidence Interiors chose pale blue walls, light furniture & tall drapes to make this relatively small space feel light and airy.


De-clutter – nothing fills up a space quicker than clutter – it seems to get a life of its own and multiply! The secret to a minimalist style is storage, so consider furniture as storage units and built-in storage cabinetry when planning your space.

timber flooring

Continuing the timber flooring into the adjacent area made the hallway seem wider and the direction of the planks emphasis the length of the space.

Select areas for displaying items – and then don’t overcrowd them. Keep to a rule of ‘three’ when arranging a display and anything else goes into storage until you want to change the décor. A vignette of three related items or even one large statement piece will take up less space than displaying your whole collection all at once.

Mirrors generally are another way of increasing the ‘visual’ space of a room by reflecting more light and giving a false sense of distance.


Use the same floor tile from the main living areas to the wet areas – don’t chop and change from room to room – a more consistent visual surface will read as a larger area.

Consider the direction of timber flooring – across the room will draw your eye from side to side so the room will appear wider and running the boards down the length of the room will make it appear longer.


Try a different arrangement for your furniture. Creating a better ‘flow’ in a room can help with the apparent size by using the space smarter.
See-through furniture – this follows the rule of ‘the more floor you can see then the larger a room will seem’.

Use a glass top dining table in a small apartment or acrylic side or coffee tables so you have the practical use without the intrusion into the room visually.

Furniture on legs – same rule as above. For example; a solid sofa with a skirt will take up more floor space and so look larger and be more intrusive in the room.

Use multipurpose pieces – storage furniture, such as a coffee table, ottoman or bed with drawers under. Furniture that serves more than one function is a great way to streamline a room. An ottoman with built-in storage lets you store away blankets and books, and also makes a compact foot rest, seat or coffee table.


Don’t just rely on overhead fixtures or down-lights which tend to pool or direct light in one spot – you don’t really need spots of light dotted around the floor. An indirect light source can help to ‘blur’ the edges of a room.

Try to have several lighting elements in every room, using a table lamp, floor lamp, ceiling pendant as well as the obligatory down-lights (make them dimmable), so your eye is drawn around the room to give the illusion of more space.

Use warm colour globes rather than cool light – some studies show them to increase the feeling of kindness amongst the inhabitants and we could all use a bit more of that.


Soft complimentary colour palette, open sheer drapes, differing light sources, furniture on high legs placed for maximum floor space around, mirrored side tables and coffee table – the room feels spacious.


This relates to the size of furniture or items relative to the size of the room. Some homes will be displayed for sale with Double beds instead of Queen sized to make a bedroom appear larger.

When purchasing new items for your home, make sure you ‘ve measured the room, considered the walk through and/or access required for movement around it as well as the visual lines of sight – don’t create a visual or physical block in a room as it will overwhelm the space and make the room seem smaller.

This can also be true when comparing two items with a similar footprint or ‘floor space’ size but they can be visually or aesthetically more dominant in a room and so the room can seem smaller. Streamlined styles are less ‘busy’ and so create a greater sense of space.


Use the walls – vertical space is often under-utilized. Floating shelves can be used for lightweight display items. An organised vertical racking system can use up every square inch efficiently within a wardrobe or cupboard.

Wall hung cabinetry – use the in-wall space itself to house over-head mirrored shaving cabinets in bathrooms.


If you don’t have a view then increase your sightlines with a landscape picture – this gives your eye a ‘view’ to see further than the four walls allow.

Open drapes or blinds wide to access the outside views; make sure drapes can go past the window to get the maximum natural light into a room.


This room completed by Colour Confidence Interiors incorporates the outdoor space into the view, not over decorating the open shelves, keeping furniture up on legs and streamlined in shape with soft paint colours, the fireplace and TV use the vertical space and directional timber flooring matching in both indoor and outdoor space all add to making this average sized room feel larger and more open.


Sometimes a non-load bearing internal wall can be removed relatively easily to make two small rooms into one; to make a larger and more inviting space. This is the concept behind ‘open-plan’ living/dining rooms. It works especially well when combing a bathroom and laundry.

If you can’t remove a whole wall then consider creating a window opening in a wall through to another room – for example; if you can open up the view from the Kitchen to the Family Room then you will expand sightlines or viewing distances.
These so called tricks and many more are considerations a Professional Interior Designer will make when planning your home or just a room.

The real trick is just that – PLANNING!

Don’t make knee-jerk purchases because there is a sale or you loved them in the store, as they may not fit when you get them home. If you are not sure then contact your Designer and they will advise you, they might even save you money in the long run.

For more information on Michelle Broussard and Colour Confidence Interiors, visit colourconfidence.com.au

About the author

clip_image002_002Michelle Broussard is the principal designer and owner of Colour Confidence Interiors, established in 2003.  Michelle successfully completed her Bachelor Degree in Interior Design at RMIT and has received a 20 year Citation from the Design Institute of Australia (D.I.A.), as well as being a trained and registered Art Teacher.

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