Tricking the eye to create space in your rooms

PUBLISHED: 14:07 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:07 04 December 2013

Bakkarat glass side table from Tonelli! Available in 2 heights and with 2 sizes of table top.. From £720 020 773 19540

Bakkarat glass side table from Tonelli! Available in 2 heights and with 2 sizes of table top.. From £720 020 773 19540


Small spaces can look so much larger with the clever use of colour, light, mirrors and a spot of de-cluttering as interior designer Charlotte Starling reveals

Space is what we crave most in our homes but often lack. How to arrange small or narrow rooms successfully is one of the most frequent challenges I face. But even if you can’t change the physical dimensions, with a little ingenuity you can do a huge amount to influence the perception of a room’s size or shape.

For narrow rooms, painting the walls in neutral colours will make them appear to recede. Paint the shorter walls a shade darker than the longer walls. This effect makes short walls ‘move’ inward and the long walls ‘move’ outward, squaring out the rectangle. Have some of the furniture in similar tones to the walls, this will melt into the background and widen out the room. To prevent it from feeling bland introduce pattern and texture via soft furnishings and accessories. Open up floor space with low-slung ottomans and armless chairs and scale pieces to fit the room. Glass tables and furniture with exposed legs allow light to filter round and underneath. The more floor you can see, the larger the room appears. Avoid casting light on the ceiling as this will emphasize its shape. Instead use lamps for ambient lighting and colour.

Long rooms need to be broken up visually. Move furniture away from the walls to create flow. Set larger pieces on the diagonal to lead the eye away from the shorter wall. Create zones – for reading, TV, study – and define each area with a rug or furniture arranged around a focal point like a fireplace.

In small rooms, use mirrors to brighten and expand the space. Place a mirror angled towards a lamp or window and the light is instantly multiplied. Mirrors bounce light deep into the room, making it appear larger. Mirrored furniture is also great for creating an impression of spaciousness.

Cutting the clutter will contribute a sense of calm and increase physical and visual space. Tuck anything that is not in continual use behind closed doors. Fill empty fireplaces with books, use multi-purpose furniture – beds with drawers or trunks as coffee tables.

Finally keep window treatments light and open as possible. Overdressing blocks precious natural light. Extending the view extends the space.

Colour Masterclass with Farrow & Ball

Painting is one the quickest and easiest ways to transform a room. Architecture, the purpose, shape and direction of a room and above all light, should all be taken into account as they will contribute to the changing appearance of colours. Before making your final colour choice, we recommend that you test selected paint colours in the room to be decorated. Paint onto a large piece of paper or card and place it in the room looking at how the colour changes at different times of the day. This is particularly useful when you are decorating a room which you will only use at certain times of day. For instance, if you are decorating a dining room which is mostly used in the evening, check the colours in evening light to ensure you get your desired look.

For a sophisticated bold look, pair Stiffkey Blue walls with Brassica woodwork. This combination is perfect for a smaller room as the darker shades will create a feeling of warmth. For a really original and vibrant look try using wallpaper on the ceiling – a refreshing and daring way to add interest to any room! For a child’s bedroom, use Brockhampton Star BP 506 on the ceiling and combine Pointing and Ringwold Ground on the walls.

Sarah Cole, Director -

About Charlotte

Charlotte Starling is Creative Director of Velvet & Dash Interiors based near Dorchester. A keen supporter of local businesses, she works with Dorset-based designers and artists to offer styling and sourcing services for the home. Find out more at or call 01300 320 657.

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