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bright small living room illustration Are the tiny rooms in your house giving you cabin fever? Increasing the square footage takes a good contractor and some serious construction, not to mention a big dent in your pocketbook. Fortunately, there are many ways to make a small room look much bigger — and as an added bonus, most of these tips are inexpensive or absolutely free. Here’s how to trick yourself into thinking that little room is a much bigger space!

1. Adjust your lighting

Overhead lights can be harsh. They can also be very limiting, as they cast a uniform glow over your space, highlighting every flaw. When light flows from overhead, the room naturally looks smaller, even if the fixture is absolutely gorgeous. Fix that problem by using lamps that make the most of the areas of the room that you love the most, like a reading nook or a particular piece of artwork.

2. Mirrors are your best friend

A well-placed mirror is a trick many interior designers employ, and you can use the same technique in your small space. A mirror that catches the light and reflects it throughout the room works well, but what works even better is a mirror strategically placed. Try hanging a large mirror right across from the doorway, so that visitor immediately see the illusion of a much larger space. You can get the same effect with a mirror across from a window.

3. Make use of unusual space

Forget that couch that touches the floor — opt for one with legs, so the space underneath is clear. You know that strip of dead space at the top of the wall? Pull the eye upward by placing suspended bookshelves in that area, then fill it with colorful books. Both of these tricks make the room look taller than it really is.

4. Opt for lots of glass

Dark colors seem to suck the air out of the room. This is especially true if you are adding in a bulky coffee table or desk. Remedy that problem by going for glass or a clear, durable plastic surface, such as Lucite. The see-through quality will take up less visual space and make the room seem bigger, even if the coffee table is exactly the same size as your old one.decorative bottles window sill house plant

5. Use a single flashy piece of art

When you use several frames or pieces of art on the wall, it breaks up the space a bit. Remedy that problem with one large canvas, preferably a work of art that is flashy, colorful and sassy. This will provide a strong focal point for the room and keep that disconnected feeling at bay.

6. Seriously reconsider curtains

Natural light falling through a window can open up the space in a way that nothing else can. But what if you really need a covering on the window? Don’t stick with traditional curtains — give the room much-needed height by affixing the curtains at the top of the wall, and use simple panels that fall to either side of the window. Make sure that they gently brush the floor, thus completing that long, luxurious effect.

7. Go with vertical stripes

Women have known for decades that when you wear clothing with vertical stripes, your body naturally looks longer and leaner. You can try the same trick with your room. A rug with vertical stripes, pointed in the same direction as the longest wall in the room, will make the entire space seem longer — and thus, larger.

8. Use tall, thin tables behind the couch

It might be tempting to press the couch up against the wall; after all, you want to maximize every square inch of space, right? But when you do this, it emphasizes how small the room is. Combat that with a trick for the eyes — a very thin table between the couch and the wall. This allows a little space for a lamp and other knicknacks, but the biggest benefit is that pull away from the wall, making the room look bigger.

9. Go with light colors

Dark colors close the room in, making it more cozy. Light colors open it up, making it feel breezy. A cheery yellow or a bright white on the walls can make a room seem much bigger. Be sure to choose accents wisely, and opt for big color on the furniture to make up for a so-so look with those white walls.

10. Wallpaper the ceiling

Finally, look up! Anything that draws the eye upward is going to complement the space. Attractive wallpaper on the ceiling can make big use of that space that is often forgotten. Since you won’t have overhead lights in the small room, the wallpaper options are virtually endless. Just be sure to keep it light and airy — darker colors will seem to draw the ceiling down and defeat the purpose of a larger room look.

Airy and roomy!

So the next time you look at that tiny room in your house and sigh, take heart — there is something you can do to make the space light, airy and roomy. If you are working on a tight budget, remember that just one of two of these tips can be enough to transform your room into what you have always envisioned. Start with the simple and work your way up, and you just might be amazed at how much space you find!

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.