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5 tricks for opening up small spaces—without knocking down walls

Maintaining Your Properties

Renting out a small space can be challenging. We all want the most space for the lowest price—and prospective tenants don’t want to worry about outgrowing their apartment before they’ve even moved in.

So how can you make a small space feel open and expansive without a costly, messy remodel? Here are home designers’ 5 tried and true tips to make small rooms look bigger. Give them a go before your next tenants move in!

5 Smart Ways to Make Small Rooms Look Bigger

Small Spaces Design Tip #1:

Start with the Kitchen Cabinets

The kitchen is a natural gathering spot; so if the kitchen is small and cramped, it limits your tenants’ ability to entertain friends or even prepare meals efficiently.

For a kitchen that feels light and airy, Lily Gahagan at Apartment Therapy suggests:

“Get rid of upper cabinetry. This simple step alone adds a foot or more of space around the room right at eye level.”

To make up for lost storage space, you can add ceiling or wall racks for pots and pans, mugs, and more, in addition to open shelving (details in the next section!).

Small Spaces Design Tip #2:

Open Shelves for Increased Visual Flow

Open shelving is another strategy to apply in any room of the house. Open shelving provides the storage capabilities of cabinets without blocking the visual flow of the room. The ability to see through the open shelves to the wall behind it makes the room feel bigger than it might be in reality.

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Small Spaces Design Tip #3:

Choose a Neutral Color Scheme

Color plays a primary role in how large or small your space feels. Painting spaces in neutral color schemes is a technique that many designers utilize to give the illusion of more room. (Plus, it’s a quick, affordable update to make between tenants!)

Take this strategy a step further with this idea from Brian Patrick Flynn of HGTV:

“Make sure that you tie the trim and ceiling colors into the rest of the space. One rule of thumb is to use a shade slightly lighter than the wall shade for your ceiling and a slightly darker shade for the trim.”

Small Spaces Design Tip #4:

Use Mirrors—Not Just to Look In

One of the most popular recommendations for creating the illusion of extended space in a small home is to utilize mirrors. Whether you’re staging a vacant apartment or decorating your building’s lobby, the key is placing mirrors in optimal locations.

Experts at Empire Siding and Windows explain:

“Use one or two mirrors in a small room to reflect light and distract from confining walls. If you plan to use more than one mirror, point each of them in the same direction. Throw in a mirrored desk or coffee table to increase the effect.”

Small Spaces Design Tip #5:

Window Treatments Matter

There are two ways to use windows to maximize your space. One is to leave your windows bare, with no window treatments on them. Bare windows instantly open up a room, letting in more light and drawing the eye to the property’s surroundings.

Another trick is to hang curtains from floor to ceiling to make the space appear larger. This works because it creates an elongated line that draws your eye towards the ceiling. This makes the windows and the room feel taller.

Finally, consider the use of lightweight sheer or gauzy fabrics for your window treatments, which also bring an open and airy feeling to any room.

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With the right advice, it’s relatively easy to make small rooms look bigger—without knocking down any walls. What are your tricks for making small spaces appealing to prospective tenants? Let us know in the comments!

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Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She's worked with a variety of real estate clients, and has been featured on Forbes and Market Watch. She's also an author for Inman, House Hunt Network, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter at @Jlsander07 or connect with her on LinkedIn.