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DIY design tips for small spaces

From the Resene decorating blog

Not all great interiors need to be vast spaces with lofty ceilings and endless walls. Being constrained by small spaces can really spark creativity as you’re forced to think outside the box to solve issues like storage and functionality while sticking to your design vision.

Here are some of Resene’s favourite small-space hacks and DIY tips:

Use your light

Make the most of any natural light sources you might have. Pull curtains back and lift blinds during the day. On top of that look for ways to move light around the room. Mirrors are a great way to do that, as are metallic surfaces. The trick is to find the balance of a few light-bouncing features near your light source, without turning your room into a glitter ball!

A painted arch screen provides structure to this small nook

The arch screen painted in Resene Half Alabaster with Resene Pattens Blue stripes, gives structure to this small nook.

Using moveable dividers like this can help create different use areas from small communal spaces. The rear wall is also painted in Resene Half Alabaster, floor in Resene Rakaia, side table in Resene Code Red and vase in Resene Pale Rose. Lamp from Lighting Plus, artwork by Brenda Clews, olive chair from Contempa, cushion from Adairs, boots from Zara, tiny ceramic vase from Formantics. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

A pop of yellow adds depth to this small dining area

The pop of Resene Hypnotic yellow pulls your eye into the geometric design of this tiny dining area, making it feel much deeper.

The unexpected colour combination of the yellow with shades of grey also distracts from the room size. The grey triangles are painted in Resene Quarter Stack. Walls, chairs and small vase painted in Resene Quarter Surrender, table in Resene Half Carefree, candlestick and tall vase in Resene Sublime and floor in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue. Light and mug from Citta, cushions from Shut the Front Door, wooden fruit from Kikki K, wooden shapes from Country Road. Project by Emily Somerville-Ryan, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Elevate everything

Where it’s practical, lift furniture like chairs, sideboards and bathroom vanity units off the ground. This helps increase the sense of airiness and floor space in smaller rooms, if you have hard floors like tile or wood laminate it also helps bounce light around.

Neutral backdrops

Painting all four walls, the ceiling and even the floor of a small room blurs the edges of the space and can make it feel larger. Opt for a soft, light neutral like Resene Half Tea, or Resene Half Truffle, rather than a bright white.

Don’t be afraid of the dark

While light colours do make small spaces feel larger, if you have a good light source in your room darker shades can still work. Using a dark colour your walls can actually make them recede. This works best when you have a high contrast with your furniture. For example, if you have light cream or pale wood furniture, paint your walls in a deep blue like Resene Coast or charcoal, Resene Bokara Grey.

A contrasting colour scheme adds a sense of extra space in this home office

The contrasting colour scheme in this open office area creates the sense that additional space has been added to the room.

Upper wall painted in Resene Cashmere with the curved lower design in Resene Nocturnal over two coats of Resene FX Magnetic Magic. Desk, shelves, coat rack and light fitting painted in Resene Nocturnal, pencil cup and desk file in Resene Cashmere, rubbish bin in Resene Sepia and painted books in Resene Zeus and Resene Double Cod Grey, cork tealight holder in Resene Rebel and decorative vases and bowls in Resene Sepia, Resene Rebel, Resene Zeus, Resene Double Cod Grey, Resene Swiss Coffee and Resene Triple Rice Cake. Chair from Mood Store, rug from Freedom. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Wendy Fenwick.

A compact living room

A muted shade in Resene Canterbury Clay painted on the lower walls and floor anchors this compact living room, while pale neutral in Resene Spanish White, makes the room feel large and airy.

Keeping the dividing line above the height of the furniture amplifies the sense of height. The dividing batten between the two colours is painted in Resene Brown Sugar to match the rear cabinet. Small coffee table in Resene Rusty Nail, large bowl in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect, round ball in Resene Brown Sugar, tall vase in Resene Calico and Resene Canterbury Clay and short vase in Resene Wood Bark. Cushion cover from H&M Home, Harvest Bunch artwork by Kirsten Katz, sofa and chair from Freedom, cushions, bowls and tumbler from Citta, throw from Adairs, tablecloth from The Warehouse. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Raise the ceiling

While actually raising your ceiling is usually impractical, not to mention expensive and messy, you can give the illusion of more vertical space in your room by painting the lower half of the walls and the floor in a darker shade, then going lighter for the top half and the ceiling. You could opt for a tonal neutral combo like Resene Double Napa on the lower half and Resene Quarter Napa on the top, or experiment with bolder shades like rich Resene Pohutukawa on the bottom and dusky pink Resene Dust Storm on top. When it comes to how high to take your darker shade, think about the scale of your room and mask the line to give you a sense of whether it’s in the right place before you start painting. Another good guide is to take your deeper colour slightly above your main furniture items like sideboards and sofas.

Create depth

Adding three-dimensional decorative features to your wall help give the illusion of more depth to a room. For example a pattern of wooden battens, with a space between each batten, creates the optical illusion that the walls are further away. Paint the battens in a shade that’s tonally similar to your walls. Another way to add depth with paint is to create a geometric design that plays with light and dark colours. It creates the illusion of light and shadow which your eye sees as extra depth.

Create fake rooms

If you have a small home with a limited number of rooms that need to pull double duty as a study or children’s play area, try painting out a section of the room in a different, but complementary colour scheme. For example in a bedroom or lounge, mask and colour block a corner including the floor and ceiling. This creates the optical illusion of an additional room within a room, ideal for creating a study zone, reading nook or play room. If you don’t have space to use a whole corner, paint a block shape around your desk up to the ceiling and add a couple of wall shelves in the same colour.

A lightly painted corner adds the illusion of natural light

A corner painted in a lighter shade to the rest of the room almost creates the illusion of a window and natural light in this small neutral space. Background wall and floor painted in Resene Ravine with a lighter corner block in Resene Pewter, Resene Haven and Resene Harp, plant pot in Resene Yucca, vases, bowls and smaller accessories in Resene Napa, Resene Yucca, Resene Blue Smoke, Resene Pewter, Resene Ravine, Resene Haven, Resene Pumice, Resene Armadillo, Resene Eagle and Resene Harp and frames in Resene Napa and Resene Duck Egg Blue. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Get creative with storage

Having a small space doesn’t need to mean living a minimalist lifestyle if that’s not for you, it just means being creative with storage so everything has a place to go. Add built-in bench seats that double as storage, or build cupboards and shelves into wall cavities. Divide rooms with mobile shelving units, raise beds on sturdy platforms and use the underneath as a study area or wardrobe.

Fool the eye

If you have connecting spaces such as ensuites or walk-in wardrobes, paint the smaller space in the same shade as the main room, but in a slightly lighter or darker colour. This gives a sense of hidden depths and makes both spaces appear roomier. The Resene whites and neutrals collection has up to six strength variations of the most popular Resene colours so it is easy to choose a lighter or darker version.

Keep your furniture to scale

Having the right size furniture is vital to making your rooms feel bigger. Oversized furniture not only takes up valuable space, but it makes the room feel much more cramped and tiny. If any piece of furniture is squeezed between the room boundaries, it’s too big. To create a sense of space always leave a little air gap between the back and sides of your furniture and the walls. Towering cabinets and shelving units can also make the ceiling and floor feel much closer together.

Play with pattern

If you have large unbroken sections of wall in a smaller space think about breaking them up with a pattern, rather than painting in a block colour. Geometric shapes like triangles, diagonal lines and stripes break up the space (and are easy to measure and mask up) and actually make it feel bigger, whereas a block colour can sometimes feel a bit dominant over a small space.

Painting tip: If you’re painting in a small space, keeping the floor clear of clutter helps prevent tripping and paint spill accidents. Cover the flooring and decant your large can of paint into a small Resene paint pot. It’s lighter, takes up less space, and if you spill it, you’ll have less clean up to do.

April 25, 2022

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