Selling Houses Australia

How to create the illusion of space in small homes

There are a handful of golden interiors rules to make any room appear visually and functionally more spacious - and they don't require knocking down walls or extensive renovations.

This week the Selling Houses Australia team are faced with a cramped two-bedder in desperate need of some extra space. Shaynna pulls out all the stops to try and maximise the floorplan to make it work as a practical family home suitable for both children to play in and adults to relax in.

Interior styling can be crucial in defining spaces, especially in properties that are smaller in size. We spoke to interior designers and stylists to find out their top tips to create the illusion of space in any small room.

Judyta Hulme, Stylist, Matt Blatt

  1. Look up: A great way of creating the illusion of higher ceilings is to paint the walls, trims and ceiling in similar shades of one colour. Hanging curtains closer to the ceiling as well as extending the curtains rod beyond the window can trick our eyes into thinking that the window is larger and the ceiling higher.
  2. Keep things slim: Avoid low sofas with heavy legs and wide arms as they visually constrict a space. You can always swap your sofa for two chaise lounges or a loveseat, which - paired with some armless chairs - will give you enough seating without it feeling overcrowded.

  3. Keep the flooring flowing: A continuous floor is one of the easiest tricks to make spaces appear larger and airier, while breaking up rooms with different flooring materials can achieve the opposite effect.
  4. Smart use of glass and mirrors: Replacing wooden doors with glass-panelled or French doors can visually open the space and let the light in. Generous-sized standing mirrors are another great way to bounce light around your room.
  5. Accessorise smart: Don't feel like you have to fill up every surface, shelf or corner with accessories - let the room breathe.

Anne Hindley, Principal Architect and Interior Designer, Hindley & Co

Image credit: Hindley & Co and Tatjana Plitt

  1.  Don't be afraid of black: Black can blur boundaries so finite edges aren't as clear. Be careful not to overdo the shade, but a black wall, floor or ceiling can give the illusion of space because it's more difficult to see where the room finishes. Black fences are fantastic in small planted gardens, as you can't see where the garden ends.
  2. Frame views of small spaces carefully: If you have a small courtyard, don't install huge open glass windows overlooking it as it will make the edges of your site obvious. Select views to highlight the garden and edit out your fences.
  3. Layer space: Lining up windows and doors so you can see through to other rooms and gardens gives you a sense of extended space and connection with the outdoors.

Matt Riley, Managing Director, Tonic Design


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  1. Start with thoughtful design: Utilising spaces correctly is the first solution to maximise your floorplan, and a great way to save space is to incorporate smart built-in cabinetry. A TV unit built into a bench seat will create plenty of space for a large dining table.
  2. Always opt for a lighter colour on the walls: This opens up the room and creates a fresh feel. Matt believes painting is the number one thing to immediately add value to a home at the cheapest price.
  3. Try a rug: Rugs can help to define spaces and it’s incredible what a well-chosen rug can do to transform a space.
  4. Dress up your windows: Shutters, as opposed to curtains, will define windows and create the illusion of space.

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Heidi Albertiri, The Life Style Edit

  1. Floor to ceiling shelves: Shelving to the ceiling is super practical and a perfect excuse to style up the shelves with your favourite things. Opt for the bottom end of the shelving to be closed with doors and then keep it minimal at the top, otherwise your space becomes messy and overloaded.
  2. Paint colour: Keeping things light in the paint department is important when working with small spaces. You can paint the skirting boards in a lighter shade to give the illusion of them fading into the background, accompanied with light tones on the floor to keep the space feeling light and airy.
  3. Styling: Keep things to a minimum as much as you can and don't overcrowd the space. Keep furniture light and functional - round dining tables are a great way to create a sense of movement in a small space and keep the flow going between the zones.

    Keep in mind when fitting out the furniture in the space that you don't want anything big and bulky. Keep straight lines and simple design in mind, then bring colours and textures through your space with cushions and artwork.

Tiffany Jade Benn, Founder, HART Home Decor

Image credit: HART Home Decor

  1. Use a 'warm' white paint: This will create a feeling of space whilst keeping things cosy.
  2. Utilise glass furniture: Glass furniture, like glass-topped dining tables and coffee tables, allows light to pass through and - because you can see through to the floor - gives the illusion of more space.
  3. Create zones: Tiffany has an open-plan apartment with three designated zones - dining, living and office - achieved by making the areas clearly-defined through the placement of furniture. Zones can be used in small studio apartments or apartments to make open-plan areas feel multi-functional.

Can Shaynna make the cramped two-bedroom house in Stafford feel bigger than it is? Selling Houses Australia continues on Wednesdays, 8.30pm on Lifestyle.

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