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Entries in small space (4)


Susan's Sloping Ceiling

Hi Christine,

I’m from England and you have already given me some great advice on my dining room and living room. Your blog is so helpful and inspiring.


I would really appreciate advice on how to brighten up a small bedroom with a sloping ceiling. It used to be a study, but since we moved our study downstairs, this room has just collected paperwork, sewing stuff and clutter. I attach a floor plan and three (embarrassing) photos. I am so ashamed by the mess in this room.  



I want to make the room with the sloping ceiling an extra guest room for when friends with children come to stay. But I am struggling to work out how to give the room a focal point or any kind of interesting feature. I have found a bed (the white IKEA Hemnes day bed) which will fit under the sloping ceiling. As a single bed it will leave space to walk to the shelves at the end of the room but it will also pull out into a double bed if we have lots of guests.


I plan to declutter, paint with a light-reflecting paint, hide the sewing stuff in a closet behind the door, put a desk or sewing table near the window and add better shelves to the alcoves. Other than that I would love some ideas on how to make the room attractive.  My room needs to appeal to older kids, teenagers and adults.


In terms of colours, I will keep the brown carpet, but I can add a rug to tie other colours in. In terms of style I will probably look for a closet and desk that go well with the white IKEA daybed. The house is over a hundred years old and has mostly traditional features (although I like modern furniture too and in this attic room only really the windows are traditional).


Thanks so much in advance.




Hi Susan, 

It looks like the IKEA bed would look great.  If we can pretend for a minute that money is no object, I would use a built-in bed, behind which, built-in shelves, with a false back.  Your room is very small.  (I'm sure I didn't need to tell you that.)  Don't over-furnish the space- it would be easy to do.  For a desk, I would use one like the wall mounted desk above.  (available on etsy).  

I would find a cute wallpaper or mural- like the one below from anthropologie.  Your wall is smaller than the mural- which is perfect, because it can be trimmed to fit perfectly.  


I would have paint matched to the background white shade for the rest of the room.  

I'd add a cute chair- like the Elowen chair from Anthropologie.  I especially like how cute it is from the back- looking at my floorplan (below)- you'll see that the back of the chair is what you see when you enter the space.  

Add a Roman shade, overmounted above your windows in a fun whimsical fabric.  The fun part about a guest room is that you can be less conservative than you might feel comfortable with in other spaces in your home.



Throw a fiddle leaf fig in the corner and your room is perfect.  


Finish off the space with white bedding and colorful patterned pillows.  You just might want to make this your bedroom when you are done.  






Big Ideas... Small Spaces

Hi Christine,

 My name is Amanda and my boyfriend and I live in the upstairs of my parents house... it's about 420 sq feet.

The room is almost smaller than the hallway...
There are no windows in that room and because it's an older house, the ceilings are slanted downward.

What my dilemma is-- I don't know how to make the room look bigger. I want to go with a
light, nature-inspired living space, something along the lines of "country modern," but my
boyfriend doesn't want light colors or anything "girly."

It is a small room with medium to dark paint, no windows, no paneling, everything is primer so far,
I don't know how to make this whole living space look bigger than what it really is.
Please help.

Thank you,



Hi Amanda,

I know you wrote for interior design advice- but living with your boyfriend in your parent's home?  Girl- there are some better ways to go!  When did kids start moving back home? I'm only 40, and I swear people my age didn't try that one. Are my kids going to try that on me?  And with their boyfirends?  If I were your mom, I'd be telling that boyfriend ...  OK- I'd better get off that soap box and on to my interior design one before you decide to simply not read the post.

I have come up with 12 tips for you to make a small area look larger:

1.  Furniture is the trickiest part.  For the most part, you have to use small items, like a 36 inch round table instead of a 48, etc.  But sometimes I like to break this rule.  Sometimes a big old four poster bed or overstuffed sofa will really make the room look bigger.  Keep in mind, only a few larger pieces- not all of them.  If ALL of your furniture is small- it won't look great- and if it is all full size- it simply won't work.  Don't go too deep in your upholstered furniture, but don't shy away from taller pieces.  Without photos and floor plans I can't get very specific    Note to everyone: For the best advice, send good photos and floor plans.

2.  Eliminate unnecessary items.  Do you need two end tables? No.  Do you need an ottoman and a coffee table? No. This starts with your personal items.  If no one plays the guitar- it goes.  Have only one set of dishes, one set of glasses, are you going to read that book again?  Get rid of them...the cleaner the feel, the better it will look.

3.  Make sure your space is well lit. 

(photo from the letter red cottage)

4.  Use white on the walls.  It can have a tint of some sort, but anything darker- sounds to me like it would be too dark.  If you had a large amount of natural light, I might say something else, but with no windows at all...  go white.  I'd consider adding a window or a skylight.  Is that too much?  Sometimes the dark small room is really a fabulous look, but I think that's more the case with a powder bath than my entire living space.

The white furnishings above continue to open up the space.

5.  Use mirrors.  It is true that they reflect light and visually open up the space.  I am not saying, hang a mirror.  I am saying, hang a collection of mirrors.  Get a large oversized mirror.  Mirror an entire wall!  Really use mirrors and light in conjunction with one another.

6.  Use furniture with a light visual weight.  Items light in color, with "see through" qualities are lighter in visual weight than darker, more solid pieces.  For example, the "see through" cane back chair below and legged desk have lower visual weight than an upholstered chair and solid desk.  Even if the square footage of the floor they take up is the same, a lighter visual weight will visually enlarge the space.

For another example- the kitchen below has open shelves instead of upper cabinetry.  This is much lower in visual weight, making them area appear much larger than traditional cabinets would have done.  By the way, I am sick of people telling me they can't do this because they don't have nice clean cabinets.  Throw away your husband's free mugs that he has gotten from conferences and clients, buy a nice set of white dishes, spend $20 on some matching glass glasses and do it.  It's not that big of a deal.

7.  Have a minimalist color pallet.  I would use a maximum of three colors, one of them being white.  This will keep your space cohesive, and looks decorated rather than a mismatch.  Yes- that color pallet carries through to the bath and bedroom.

8.  Large open graphic patterns work better than small busy patterns.


9.  I love Murphy beds.  I wish I had them in all of my kids' rooms.  Murphy beds are terrific.

(photo from Barbara Purdy Designs)

10. Consider multipurpose furnishings, like a sofa table with fold out leaves that will double as a dining table. 

Above is the Normandie Manor Flip top Console table by Bernhardt.

Use an ottoman with storage instead of a coffee table, or if seating is more of an issue than storage, use a bench as a coffee table.

11.  Make good use of your vertical space.  Is there a place you can add wall shelves or wall mounted cabinets?

(photo from design sponge)

12.  Do something fabulous.  Find a fabulous painting, or amazing wallpaper, a stunning chair.  Draw the eye to something great rather than your too small architecture.  In the photo below, do you see that the dining area is less than ten feet wide?  No.  You see the fabulous pink chairs.  Oh yes, and that bit about your boyfriend not wanting anything girly?  Tell him what I learned in my environmental psychology class, if the female feels more feminine in her surroundings, she will...  how should I say it, be in the mood more often.  There.  That should get you some pink chairs.

(all other photos from House Beautiful)

Check out this video, for more small space decorating ideas.


Storage Meets Style

Hi Christine,

I just recently moved into an apartment, from a home. I have an open living/dining area that is not large to begin with, and I want to add a computer desk that can fit two monitors as well as dining and living room furniture. What do you think? I like a more modern look. Can you make it look less like an cookie cutter apartment and more like a cool NYC apartment? BTW- my husband likes black leather...


Hi Shelly,
I made some plans for you.
  1. Window treatments. Add drapes. They will do tons to make your place look finished. The panels above are on clearance from West Elm for only $15 each.
  2. Area Rug. Don't think that just because you have carpet- you don't need a rug. A rug adds texture, style, pattern, and helps to separate areas in an open floorplan.
  3. Use a bookcase for a sofa table. You can use it for books, or put baskets on it with any type of storage. It's like adding another wall to your room. Also add some wall shelves in the dining area. Lowe's sells some great ones- 36 inches wide- only $27.
  4. In small spaces- nothing works so nicely as mirrors to open up space, reflect light and honestly make a room feel larger. The mirror above (uttermost) is 30 x 60- I would use two- and hang them horizontally on top of one another.
  5. The console table above would make a great computer desk. It is 87 inches in width- giving you some good elbow room- but only 20 inches deep. Not to mention that it is the latest washed finish.
  6. Use stools at the computer desk. They tuck away nicely- but can also double as extra dining seating.
  7. Watch your scale on your furniture- don't go too deep- 4 inches really does make a difference in your room.
  8. I would get a dining table that starts pretty small- but will open up larger. Then use a chair out of a clear translucent material. I found this cool one that comes in translucent black or clear. I think I'd use black.
  9. No- I have not forgotten about your husband- let's make your chair in the corner a nice black leather one. ;)

I can see the place in my mind and it looks fabulous! I am sure it will be the best looking apartment in the complex! Don't forget lighting. Add some wall mounted swing arm lights at the desk- an uplight on a timer behind the plant- and a pharmacy floor lamp by the chair, and a cabinet light on the top wall shelf. If you have a hanging light in the dining area- consider replacing it with a cooler one than came with the apartment.

As a side note- my sister Jackie is a fabulous cook- and has started a blog sharing her amazing recipes- check it out! She also has sprinkled in some fun stories from when we were kids.


Wallpaper Wednesday For the Wallpaper Wimps

I found this in Country Living and loved it! I love the wallpaper- love the organization- love the color- love it! Any other fans out there? Ready to re-do a closet into an office?