5 practical ways to make your downsized space look much bigger

Dec 08, 2020
When moving into a smaller space, it's common to feel cramped. Source: Getty.

Downsizing from your big family home to a smaller space can do wonders for your retirement income and your lifestyle – and you might even find you enjoy life without some of the items you’ve accumulated over decades and now guilty of gathering dust!

(Downsizing expert Rachel Lane and money guru Noel Whittaker explained the financial and lifestyle benefits of downsizing during Starts at 60’s recent webinar with Ingenia Lifestyle. You can watch a video of the online event here.)

Fitting everything you own into a home that’s smaller than you’re used to can seem like an intimidating process but once you’ve decluttered, there are some simple decorator’s tips for maximising your new space so that it looks great and makes the most of the belongings you really treasure.

Opt for lighter colours

When it comes to the colour scheme for a smaller space, you’re better off choosing lighter, cooler colours for the walls and furniture to make the space feel more open and airy. Warmer colour tones like oranges, reds and browns help to make a room feel more cosy and intimate so to achieve the opposite effect, head for cooler tones like soft blues, creams and greens. And if you opt for basic white, that can provide a good backdrop for your favourite pictures and pieces of furniture to really stand out.

But a tip to remember is that when it comes to colour schemes, consistency is key. Keeping a room within a monochromatic palette will help to calm it down and avoid the colour-chaos that can make a space look smaller.

Choose furniture wisely

A piece of furniture and where it’s positioned in a room can make or break a space, so when deciding on what to bring into your new home, it’s important to be strict with yourself and only choose the ones that really suit it. The good news is that, although it seems counterproductive, in some cases, going with larger pieces of furniture can help open up a space – the theory is that one big piece is better than multiple smaller items that could make the space look cluttered. Bigger pieces can also cover problem areas like power points or loads of electrical cords.

When organising a room, don’t forget to leave a reasonable about of space to walk through and around a room and pick shorter items of furniture like ottomans, low tables, armless chairs or benches to make the area feel less cramped. And a tip to remember for most rooms is that if you can see the floor, the room will naturally feel bigger, so don’t position everything so closely together that the floor ‘disappears’.

Let the light in

As with warmer colours, a darker room makes everything feel more cosy and small, so if you’re trying to open up a space and make it feel bigger, let as much light in as you can. If you’ve got access to natural light, you could use sheer curtains that offer privacy while still letting the sunlight stream though.

If that’s not an option, standing lamps are a great way to bring in more light without taking up too much space – they also help prevent you cluttering sideboards and tables with smaller lamps.

Get reflective

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it works! Mirrors make everything more spacious because they visually double the room you appear to have. If your space doesn’t already have reflective surfaces fitted into it, standing an oversized framed mirror against a wall is one of the best ways to open it up. This trick is perfect for an entrance walkway or for a living room because it won’t take up wall space you might need in a bedroom.

Some clever gardeners even use mirrors in courtyards or narrow areas such as down the side of the house to give the impression of much more green space than really exists.

Don’t stop now

Your new, smaller home may look sleek and streamlined now but if you’re like most people, the temptation to collect new items will be strong! You can keep a grip on how much you bring into your new space by using the old ‘one in, one out’ rule – as soon as you buy something new, something ‘old’ must be removed. (Julia Zaetta, the former editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, shared some great decluttering tips with Starts at 60 recently, which you can read here.)

If that seems a little too harsh, some declutterers do monthly sessions where they spend a day sorting through old items to make room for fresh ones. And if you really can’t bear to get rid of  anything else, storage boxes stowed away in the garage or under beds will be your best friend.

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Did you struggle with downsizing? How did you maximise your smaller spaces?

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