Being faced with a small room and the necessity to ‘make it work’ is something many of us have tackled, whether it’s that tiny studio apartment in a primo location, or a cozy nook in your home that you want to convert into a personal retreat. While most of the time the option to move walls, particularly for those of us in a condo or apartment, isn’t a possibility – the art of illusion to create the optics of space is, even if your ideal room includes some sizable furniture.

Here are 10 tips to make a small room look comfortable, not over-crowded.  Even when you’re using sizable furniture.

Scale Matters

Ever notice when someone in fashion wears two or three pieces of big jewelry and it just works? This is because the person who styled their runway attire has an excellent understanding of scale. You can apply this same practice when selecting furniture for a room. Resist the urge to surround an oversized couch or armchair with tiny or dainty furniture. This will make the larger item look even bigger and your space out of balance. On the same note don’t only work with big items, which will crowd your room. Instead pick some midsized items, adding them one at a time to your room, along with your larger item(s) to balance the look of the bigger piece.

Ideally, you’ll want to work with one or two statement pieces to make it seem like you have more space. This goes back to balance. Pair that big sofa with a large storage coffee table, a giant mirror, fireplace fixture, or larger than life piece of art.

Think About Traffic Flow

Being able to get in and out of a room easily, without having to creep along a wall or climb over objects will help keep your room running efficiently. In a sitting space, ensure you position your oversized couch so it’s simple to get in and out of the room – no parkour necessary! Try placing your oversized seating against the wall to give plenty of space in the centre of the room, facing opposite another large prime focus of the room (like a fireplace, entryway, or television). For a bedroom try placing your bed against the wall facing the door and ensuring there is room to get out on either side of the bed without bumping into a nightstand or dresser.

The Right Sized Rug

Small room, tiny rug, right? Not exactly. If you’re between sizes for a rug for your space, going bigger is usually the better option. The right sized rug will bring your room together.

Interior Designer Anne Hepfer told Architectural Digest, “A rug is one of the most important elements of a room. It’s the showpiece that grabs your attention, and it dictates the mood and design for the rest of the space.” Like many designers, it’s a pet peeve of Hepfner’s to see rugs “the size of postage stamps”. Her advice for the best way to get a rug to tie a space together is simple, “I love for a rug to be perfectly scaled in a room. And, depending on the size of the room, I measure a perimeter of show floor that is six to 14 inches off the baseboard to achieve that scale. If you have a large room, you can go up to 12 to 14 inches. In a smaller room, it’s better to have less floor, unless you have a decorative floor, like beautiful reclaimed oak herringbone; it’s kind of a shame to cover that up with a rug.”

Move In The Mirrors

Natural light is a small room’s best friend. A room filled with bright light will automatically feel bigger, open, and inviting. You can use a mirror to help amplify the natural light in a room or to create an illusion of natural light if you’re working with a windowless space.

Furniture You Can See-Through & Light-Coloured Items

To further trick the eye pair some of your more sizable items with accessories you can see through. This will create the image of there being more space. Look into glass, funky clear plastic, or Lucite coffee tables, end tables, and side tables to fool the eye into seeing wide open space. Instead of dark and heavy drapes for your room, consider some semi-transparent sheer curtains, or select ones that match the palette of your walls.

Further turn up the light in a smaller room by picking bright and light colours. Neutral and light toned blankets, artwork, pillows, furniture, rugs, and more will help provide the impression that there is more space.

Go Sky High

When you’re trying to fit items into a smaller space, look for storage with extra height instead of width. One tall bookshelf, wardrobe, or dresser can hold as much as two shorter versions of the same product. The trade? More floor space available in your room.

One Piece of Furniture – Many Purposes

The trend of multi-purpose furniture is here to stay. It allows us to store more items neatly, and compactly, and keeps clutter to a minimum. Using a chest as a coffee table or purchasing an ottoman that opens to store your blankets makes sense. Consider bringing in chairs from your kitchen or dining room only when you have a lot of guests instead of having seating for everyone who could possibly visit cluttering up the space 24-7.

Legs for Days

Furniture that doesn’t sit flush against the ground can provide more of an airy feel to your room. Bonus – it’s a lot easier to sweep and vacuum rooms with furniture you can get under.

You Don’t Have To Push Your Furniture Against the Wall

While pushing furniture, particularly large items, against a wall gives a lot of usable floor space, it could be making your room look small. Sometimes pulling a couch just a foot or so away from the wall or finding the right angle can make things look more spacious. Play around with different angles and placements until you get things right.

Tidy Up Your Stuff

A small room with a lot of stuff looks overcrowded and small. Work with a less is more attitude. Use your storage effectively and purposely create some white space around furniture, artwork, or knickknacks on display. Put your stuff away! Get rid of or store items you don’t need or seldom use. You may have more space than you thought.