Ideas for making small flats seem larger

Emma Smith comes up with some clever ideas to make small flats seem larger

Some of the best things come in small packages and this can also be translated into interior design. Living in a small space does not mean you have to compromise on the design and decor. In fact, there are a number of clever and innovative ways to make what may have become a cramped and cluttered space seem like an expansive, airy and blissful retreat.

[For landlords, the following tips could also help increase your yield and make your house or apartment more appealing, particularly to those wanting the lifestyle choice to suit their image.]


When you enter a room, if your eye is automatically drawn to the next, your brain is tricked into the illusion of more space. Therefore, it is important to create as much physical space as possible. By removing unnecessary walls and doors and even making the bathroom smaller you can easily create more living or sleeping space.  However, be aware of structural and load bearing issues and before you start looking for that sledge hammer, do consult a professional.

Optimising space in kitchens and bathrooms can be achieved by consulting a professional design & build company – some offer a free design service even if you choose not to use their products.

To give an element of privacy, less permanent divisions like portiere curtains or portable screens are great solutions.  Sheers and voiles can be strategically placed within studio apartments or open plan living spaces, to give privacy without impacting on light or flow. They generate romance and intrigue without compromising those precious square inches.


The easiest way to create space is with mirrors. By using large mirrors or a group of smaller ones, immediately both natural and artificial light are reflected to give a more spacious and airy feel. Have mirrors facing each other on opposite walls for the most dramatic space enhancer. Mirrors are available in every conceivable size, colour, and style to suit all budgets. Home stores like The Range and Dunelm Mills have large wooden framed mirrors available at budget prices. They can be painted, gilded or customised for a more individual and upmarket finish.


Dark, rich colours create cosiness and drama so the opposite is required to create an open and airy feel.  A monochromatic palette of whites and neutrals will give an immediate feeling of space.  Using different textures such as linens, velvets and silks will add depth to the scheme without compromising on the feeling of space. It is essential to have continuity of colour and texture throughout to enhance the feeling of flow. Rooms which are visually connected appear larger. Steer away from too much pattern as this can make a room seem smaller.  The same flooring throughout, whether it be wood, carpet, tiles or laminate will help enhance the illusion of space.

Go for tonally coordinated window dressings. Blinds recessed within the windows will always add the illusion of more space. However, if curtains are your chosen treatment, it is always best to choose colours which coordinate with the walls as this looks less intrusive. Fix the poles higher than required to give the impression of bigger windows and have your windows cleaned regularly in and out to let in more light.


When space is at a premium, it is easy to fall into the trap of the ‘personality-free’ zone. Do not be fooled by the show home ideal, as your dream of light and airy living can easily turn into a nightmare of blandness and beige. Use carefully chosen accessories to add a splash of colour or personality without compromising on the space. Fresh flowers are the ultimate in short-term accessorising because you can change the colour and style as often as you like,  depending on your mood. Be inventive with the flowers you choose and how you display them. For example, keep roses short and in square vases for a modern contemporary look. Cushions are another easy accessory to use. Two or three on a sofa or one on a chair is plenty. These can be purchased for just a few pounds to add an individual and updated look. They also allow you to add texture, depth and drama to your scheme without the expense of new window treatments or carpets.


This is an obvious tip, but living in small spaces does mean that a spot of de-cluttering is essential on a regular basis. However, if you do have a tendency to hoard, clever storage and multi functional furniture will help keep the clutter at bay while still maintaining your collection. Individuality is the key to clever interiors so do keep some of your personality on show to avoid the ‘Land of Bland’. Use alcoves with recessed lighting for displaying your treasures or space above doors for hanging a collection of coordinated plates or photographs. In small spaces, the walls are often the only place for you to express yourself so be inventive but avoid cluttering.

Dead space under stairs or windows will optimise storage options without impacting on the already limited area. For example, in a smaller kitchen, create a ‘booth’ style eating area around the window, which includes a built-in cushioned bench with concealed storage. Perfect for hiding shoes, excess kitchen equipment or toys.  Be sensible when buying appliances. Small Meile or Dyson vacuum cleaners are ideal;  or choose an under-counter fridge with a small freezer compartment rather than a tall fridge freezer. Have your television wall-mounted to give more floor space to essential furniture.

Other clever solutions like blanket boxes or fabric covered ottomans are genius creations for small living spaces. They can be used for storage, coffee tables or as an extra seat. Sofa beds and folding tables help to accommodate extra people without impacting on the floor area. This type of multi-functional furniture can be recovered or painted to update your look when the mood takes you, keeping your scheme fresh without blowing the budget.

Choose small, well designed pieces of furniture and avoid overfilling every spare inch. It is more sensible to keep a few stylish folding chairs in a cupboard to accommodate extra guests, and if you can see the floor, the room will automatically look larger.


This should be your mantra as the occupier of a small space but do not let the reduced living area limit your innovation and individuality. Use professional advice to maximise physical space. Use a monochromatic colour palette, with added texture and carefully chosen accessories to create the feeling of space and depth to your interior. A carefully placed mirror will give the illusion of extra space. Clever storage built into dead-space areas and multifunctional furniture will make the most of those precious square inches, while enabling you to update your look on a regular basis. Do not be afraid to express yourself even in a limited area but avoid clutter to make your dream of a light, spacious retreat a reality.

Emma Smith is an interior designer and can be contacted at Emma Smith Interiors, tel: 01749 675644