10 tips from designer Tyler Karu

1. Form Meets Function

With limited space it’s important that the main pieces in your home are functional. There’s not a lot of room for extraneous pieces, so carefully selecting sleek, timeless elements that serve a purpose in your house is the key to a successful small space.

2. Color Magic

Use uniform colors to create a feeling of space. Paint bookcases and bedside tables the same color as your walls. Skip the floral patterns for bedding and opt for soothing solids or subtle stripes in neutral colors. Select accessories in the same palette and collect them over time. Every space looks better when it’s considered and curated.

3. Re-Imagined Space

Look beyond the obvious when assessing space. Take the door off a coat closet and turn it into an office alcove, display your favorite pottery on top of your refrigerator, put shelves above doorways and windows for additional display space and storage. Unconventional niches can make for some of the most unique details in a small space.

4. Lofty Thoughts

Utilizing the space above doors will help maximize the usage of your space.

Use volume to your advantage. There is usable square footage beyond the footprint of your space. If you’re lucky enough to have tall ceilings, consider lofting your bed or office space to essentially double your usable space.

5. Pendant Power

Rather than using table lamps, hang pendant lamps over bedside or other occasional tables. These don’t necessarily need hardwiring or extensive electrical work. They can be wrapped around brackets or hooks to create a bit more real estate on your tabletops. If you happen to have a canopy bed, consider wrapping pendants around the bed frame.

6. Peg Up

Pegboard isn’t just for tool storage any more. Designer pegboard and hooks can make a plain wall both pretty and practical, in the kitchen, entry hall, or bedroom. Proudly display a collection of cool pots and pans, cutting boards, or anything that doesn’t stick too far or too sharply off the wall.

7. Drop Down

Whether it’s used as a dining table, a desk, or for folding laundry, a drop leaf table is a problem-solving workhorse in tight quarters. Then think about all the possibilities for the underside of that table when it’s hooked to the wall. Clad it in wood; spray paint it street-art style. Instant art!

8. Bathroom Basics

Save space in a small bathroom by mounting towel rods on the back of the bathroom door. Use stacking baskets to store cosmetics, extra toilet tissue, and towels. Medicine cabinets are super helpful storage in small bathrooms, as is shelf-based wall mounted storage. Mount shelves on an open wall and select simple, white fluffy towels that can live on the shelves. Woven baskets would look fantastic on your bathroom shelves as well.

9. Seeing Double

Photo by Justin Levesque

Hang a large mirror in the living room to reflect light and give the illusion of space. Mirrors can solve a multitude of problems. Not only will they reflect space and light, but if you have a large empty wall, a big mirror is a great way to make that wall a decorative feature.

10. Fool the Eye

Sofas with exposed legs, Lucite chairs, striped rugs, wallpaper on the ceiling can all make small rooms look and feel larger. Small spaces also benefit from a play on scale. An oversized tripod standing lamp can make a bold statement as a focal element in a small room, as can an extended arm sconce. Just because a room is small doesn’t mean all of the pieces in it need to be as well.

Tyler Karu is a Portland based interior designer. She studied at The George Washington University and New York School of Interior Design. Her company, Landing Design focuses on working with clients through renovation and the new construction process. When not working, Tyler is either working out or hanging with her dog, Haddock. You can see Karu’s designs on Instagram @tylerelizabethkaru or at


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