House magic

Six design mistakes that make your home feel smaller

By Crispin Butterfield

Everyone craves a home they can retreat to at the end of the day that makes them feel inspired, safe, and super comfortable.

Even if you have extra space to spare, how you decorate and set up your rooms can make your home feel smaller and more cramped than it really is (oh, the horror).

Did you know there are six key mistakes many homeowners often make without realizing, that contribute to cramped quarters and zero flow? Read on to see if any of these design culprits are holding your spaces hostage…

1. Everything matches

  • When you match your sofa to your paint colour, to your flooring, to your end tables (you get the picture), your colour scheme suddenly becomes mushy and bland. The greatest spaces implement layers of tone-on-tones in similar colour families, and always have a pop or two of a fantastic accent colour. The end goals are materials and finishes that support and relate to one another, but never match exactly.

2. Excess furniture

  • You may not have been able to put your finger on it at the time, but we’ve all been in spaces over-crowded by one too many pieces of furniture. You can’t see much of the floor or lower wall space, and the room has a slightly uneasy feeling to it. Just like the perfect resume, every home needs some white space; the seamless airiness and pause created by the opening up and spreading out of upholstered and occasional pieces. That might require some editing and purging, but the final result is well worth it! A top design trick for you here: pull furniture out and away from your walls to help create a more intimate and cozy atmosphere.

3. You’ve gone too dark

  • I love a dark and dramatic feature wall, but using a statement-making paint finish or wall covering throughout an entire space will visually shrink the room, making it feel boxy and airtight. Consider instead doing a powerful feature wall at the head of your bed, or in a front entry for the perfect amount of drama and impact.

4. Décor overdose

  • Less is more. This is usually the case in nearly 90 per cent of all homes. Not just for the minimalists and purists of the world; even truly avant-garde and ornate spaces don’t need an overkill of knick-knacks and accessories. They simply need the right ones. When you tailor your spaces to include decor pieces with an exact amount of intrigue, scale, and purpose, your home immediately opens up and showcases only the items you love.

5. Boxy drapery

  • I’ve added this as No. 5, because many homes now have decorative curtains and drapery panels hanging out on their windows. It used to be customary to have the drapery rod installed mere inches above the window casing, which doesn’t fully take advantage of the prime real estate above the windows, and therefore creates a shorter, and more boxy-looking appearance. New builds often include nine feet and 10 feet customary ceiling heights, and the most beautiful drapery panels sweep the full height of the walls. Invest in new 96-inch panels if your ceilings are a traditional eight-feet tall, and help raise the roof visually by installing your rods right at the ceiling line.

6. Bad lighting

  • You can have the most stunningly decorated home, but the absence of great lighting will eradicate all your incredible selections and hard work in a heartbeat. Often the most over-looked element in every room, lighting plays a crucial part in the atmosphere and ambiance you’re able to create in your spaces — and bad lighting can actually draw attention to areas requiring extra detail or TLC. In a perfect world, your home would have a mixture of recessed pot or track fixtures, hanging pendants and feature fixtures, and table and floor lamps to help highlight architectural details, and to create warmth and vibrancy as desired. If your home is feeling a bit shadowy and closed in, even when it’s sunny out, consider adding a floor lamp or two in darkened corners, or switching out aged pendant fixtures for something that adds a dash of sparkle and liveliness every space desires.

Crispin Butterfield owns Urban Theory Interior Design in Kelowna, and has been designing soul-hugging residential and commercial spaces across Western Canada for the past 13 years. 

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