5 Tips for Fooling the Eye and Making a Room Look Bigger

5 Tips for Fooling the Eye and Making a Room Look Bigger

In a small space, everything counts. This is the main idea behind this article, which will teach you how to make a small room look bigger, by simply applying a few clever tricks. Small rooms can feel confining and uncomfortable. Luckily we can utilize certain design concepts that fool the eye and make interiors seem much bigger and spacious than they are in reality. Color techniques, furniture arranging and smart lighting ideas are just some of the topics we will cover in this post. These ideas will hopefully bring inspiration and help with your future projects, such as decorating or even property selling.

 1. Use Light Colors and Clever Contrasts

A while back we covered a post on Freshome entitled “Room colors and their influence on our moods“. Today you will learn how to use colors to make a room look bigger. Cream colors and icy blues are just a few of the best color combinations that can convert a tiny interior into a seemingly bigger living area. It is all about optical illusion. It is a generally known fact that light colors make a room look bigger and brighter. Light and brightly colored walls are more reflective making a space feel open and airy, which helps maximize the effect created by natural light. Dark colors on the other hand absorb light, making a room look smaller. For an optimum effect, select soft tones of blues and greens, and always remember that brighter rooms look bigger and more inviting. A good way to go is painting your wall trim and moldings in a lighter color than your walls. When you paint your moldings light, the wall appears further back, making your living room appear bigger.

#2. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space.

Buy allowing natural light to flow freely inside the room, you will be surprised at how this will open up the interior and make it look larger. If you do not have a lot of natural light, you can add some creative lighting effects. You will be amazed at how this small addition can make a big difference. If you do have access to natural light, make full use of it and bring it into your home with the help of large windows. This will instantly connect the room with the outdoors, no longer limiting your space. Make sure window coverings are sheer, or are pulled back, to bring more light in. If the view is bad, use hanging plants and potted flowers near the windows. Lamps will bring in special color and focus attention.

#3. Cut the clutter

Keep your room tidy and organized. There’s nothing that makes a small space feel cramped more than having too much stuff. With things neatly arranged and out of sight, the space that is in view will feel orderly and open. A cluttered room equals a smaller room. Don’t cove your walls with a lot of pictures. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings. If there’s too much going on, all clamoring for attention, it can make the room feel busy and crowded. When decorating a small room, create a focal point, one area or feature that will draw the eye. In the dining room, the focal point will probably be the table. In the bedroom, it will most likely be the bed. Make that focal point the star of the room. Arrange the furniture so that focus is drawn to that area, and keep the décor in the rest of the room to a minimum ( limit the number of accessories ). Keep the floor as clear as possible. This is one of the most important ways to maintain a sense of spaciousness. And one more tip : take out large rugs to create the illusion of more floor space.

4.  Well Placed Mirrors Can Do Wonders

Mirrors can make your room look larger. Use a focal point and angle your mirrors towards it, which will give the illusion of depth. The mirrors also reflect both natural and artificial light to make a room brighter during the day and night. They bounce light deep into the room, making it appear larger. Placing a mirror near a window to reflect the outdoors is especially effective.  Mirrors on the walls and glass tabletops will make it seem like there’s a more open flow. You can also use mirrored cabinet doors to make spaces feel large and uncluttered.

5. Inspired Furniture arrangements


Sometimes furniture can take a lot of space. To avoid that here are some useful tips :

  • Use multi-function furniture like a chest that can be used as a coffee table, sofa beds, chest of drawers, and beds with drawers for storage. Use an expendable dining table, folding tables and nest of tables, which can be tucked away when you don’t need them.
  • Place the large pieces of furniture against the walls so the open space in the middle is not broken up.
  • Scale the furniture to fit the size of the room and don’t block walking pathways. With furniture and accessories blocking the view into a room and to open spaces, a room will look cramped. By moving furniture out and away from walkways, you’ll open up the space and make it feel larger. If you can see the floor, the room will look larger. Having oversized sofas or too much furniture will make the living room look smaller.
  • Consider having at least some of the furniture pieces the same color as the walls. Even the bigger items like armoires and chest will begin to blend in to the room and widen out the room.
  • Setting your furniture at an angle works because the longest straight line in any given room is it’s diagonal. When you place your furniture at an angle, it leads the eye along the longer distance, rather than the shorter wall. As an added bonus, you often get some additional storage space behind the piece in the corner, too!
  • If the furniture in your room is tall, that might be making it seem as though the ceiling is lower than it actually is. Make sure there is plenty of space between your furniture, too.
  • Choose a sofa and chairs with open arms and exposed legs. A glass table, will keep keep the appearance of a open and free space. This allows light to filter under the furniture, making the room appear airier.


  • John May 30, 2007 at 14:20 PMLogin to Reply →


  • Buğra May 30, 2007 at 19:16 PMLogin to Reply →

    Wow… Good work. Thanks for this cool ideas.

  • Tuomas June 1, 2007 at 08:32 AMLogin to Reply →

    Gaaaa! I’ve been blinded by the obvious!

  • Anne June 1, 2007 at 17:56 PMLogin to Reply →

    You have missed some points that could have been made for visual uniformity and sizing. A couple of suggestions: Gradation of shade/colour of paint on opposing walls to either lengthen distance (lighter shade) or shorten distance (darker shade) between walls is a very good tip. How about small but tall rooms…a darker shade on the ceiling of the main colour on the walls eliminates walls meeting ceiling difference and visually brings the ceiling down a bit. I have been teaching colour, design, fabrics and form with style forecasting for over thirty-five years and these are very important tips to convey to those readers who wish to appreciate your expertise. My daughter is also an international interior designer and new product developer in cabinetry (based in Canada) with membership in the international colour forecasting group. Thank-you for your efforts to bring knowledge to the appreciative ones.

  • Michael June 1, 2007 at 18:16 PMLogin to Reply →

    I’m not super human, I might miss some of them.

    Thanks :)

  • Melody June 15, 2007 at 19:16 PMLogin to Reply →

    Wow!!! These are some awesome ideas! Thanks

  • Ken L. June 22, 2007 at 14:49 PMLogin to Reply →

    Good post. But, IMO, mirrors are terribly tacky. I’m actually looking at houses now and when I see pictures of rooms with mirror walls I cringe. :)

  • David June 22, 2007 at 14:57 PMLogin to Reply →

    Thanks for the great information. My daughters room is dark and feels very small. Your ideas will help.

  • Risky June 22, 2007 at 15:00 PMLogin to Reply →


    Painting moldings lighter would make the walls appear darker and would therefore make the walls ‘advance’.

  • SuperJdynamite June 22, 2007 at 18:29 PMLogin to Reply →

    I find that in the bedroom placing the bed as low to the ground as possible makes the room appear larger. A super stacked frame, box spring and mattress overwhelm the room.

  • Mike June 22, 2007 at 20:14 PMLogin to Reply →

    I agree completely with SuperJdynamite — a low platform-style bed is a great way to make the room feel larger. I have a TINY urban “studiette” apartment. (“Studio” sounds deceivingly large, with that big “O” sound at the end.) By using a platform bed, modern furniture with low, clean lines, and short, exposed legs (i.e. open underneath — no dust ruffle), the apt feels much larger than it is. Guests frequently compliment me on how comfortable the apt is, especially given its size.

    As always, lighting was *extremely* important in making the room seem larger. Dark corners make a room look smaller, as does a brightly-lit ceiling, or a single central down-light (think interrogation chamber!). Instead, I used ambient light in the corners to eliminate the shadows (one lamp is sculptural, the other was a ’60s-mod child’s tracing table that works perfectly as a nightstand), and then bright, directed halogen task lighting pointing down above the desk, behind the TV, and softened reading lights above the bed. I also have uplights on a fabric screen (see below).

    A nice way to create space, without making the room look busy, are the seemingly supportless shelves from Ikea, called “Lack”. They use a steel bracket that is bolted to the wall, then a lightweight wood cover slides on. Following Ikea’s lead, the halogen downlights I mentioned above are affixed underneath, which eliminates the shelf’s shadow, making it seem to float, and really opening up the space underneath.

    Also key for studio living was deciding upon key living functions, like “sleep”, “work/study”, “entertain/eat” (I faced the fact that, for me, a dining table would just collect junk — I eat in front of the TV anyway), and carefully planning those as focal areas so that when spending time on each, I feel like I’m in a separate space. The spaces face away from each other, and I hung a very straight, clean-lined, sheer fabric blind between the sleep space and the entertain space. You can see through the fabric, but it divides the room mentally without dividing it visually. In the evening, I can uplight the fabric, which gives a dramatic look, plus somewhat masks the bed from my guests view by making the fabric seem more opaque.

  • Expert Elsewhere June 22, 2007 at 20:32 PMLogin to Reply →

    @ Anne – I’m a professional in another field. It is a field that individuals with no formal training often feel that they are qualified to discuss simply because of their own personal experience. Just today I saw a blog entry hit the social networking aggregators, that any first year master’s student in our field could have torn apart in seconds because it was so wrought with misconceptions that have been thoroughly disproven with extensive research. It only reinforced that before believing anything on the web, a reader must validate that the provider of the information is qualified in the area they are discussing and that there is often much, much more to the topic than can be represented in a single blog entry.

    As a non-designer, I appreciate both the simplicity of Michael’s post, as well as the nuances you highlighted in your comment.

  • Ozh June 22, 2007 at 21:45 PMLogin to Reply →


  • Anne June 23, 2007 at 00:13 AMLogin to Reply →

    Now we are really pulling this thing together. You are right, a solid block bed does not allow the visual spread of the floor that can be achieved by a platformed bed. Similarly when purchasing chairs and sofas for a small room, purchase furnishings that are lighter looking without jeopardizing comfort. Avoid solid decks or valances (no legs showing)to the floor and solid high fabric backs that offer no opportunity for spread of light. Aim for interest in variety through height differences (not everything on the same plane) and textures blending all larger pieces visually rather than blocking up the room with heavy patterns. Wonderful stained glass pieces (virtual artwork) can introduce natural light in walls of interior washrooms where no window existed. I have used these extensively to the delight of my clients.

  • Victor S. June 23, 2007 at 00:17 AMLogin to Reply →

    Great work, thanks for the tips!

  • Bassem June 23, 2007 at 01:20 AMLogin to Reply →

    Thanks alot for these cool ideas because I am having new home and started to design my own room.

  • gasfgfgfg June 23, 2007 at 08:02 AMLogin to Reply →

    take out all the furniture

  • Wally June 23, 2007 at 14:02 PMLogin to Reply →

    Paint checkerboard patterns in forced perspective and fading to nothing wherever possible.

    Buy midget furniture and suspend with mono-filament. If budget allows, purchase same furniture types in varying sizes and place according to receding distance. With this technique, one can create a depth of infinity if needed.

    Install many very tiny windows. If possible decorate these windows with with short curtains and miniature balconies (may need to check with building codes).

    Lastly, place lifelike, small dolls in corners to open them up.

    If you have enough filament, you could also have the dolls to appear flying throughout room, creating a large heaven like space.

  • Michael Maggard June 24, 2007 at 01:31 AMLogin to Reply →


    #3 Light

    Lighting is a key element in opening up a space.

    Let the light into the room too. Buy letting the natural light flow into the room, you will be surprised at how this will open up the room and make it look larger.

    Just so you know.

  • Pearl June 24, 2007 at 08:41 AMLogin to Reply →


    You rock.

    Such insightful design technique is… more than a little tempting! ;)

  • jon June 24, 2007 at 15:37 PMLogin to Reply →

    Make sure you never push furniture all the way to the wall, always pull it out an inch or two from the wall. It will make the room seem much larger, like everything isn’t crammed in there. Sounds counterintuitive, but it works, try it!

  • Seth Woodworth June 24, 2007 at 15:47 PMLogin to Reply →

    One you missed:

    Tile. In vogue these days are larger tiles for floors, in the 18″x18″ and up range. While more suitable for bathrooms or lower traffic formal areas they make a room look much larger. They are also easier to clean, and allow me to decorate with rugs rather than carpet.

    I and my girlfriend are constantly spilling things anyway. Tile is easier to clean, and if properly sealed, is very hard to stain.


  • Drebar June 29, 2007 at 17:18 PMLogin to Reply →

    Question, I love the texture and color of the lighted area above the bed. Saw it in a West Elm picture too. Is that wallpaper?

  • Millicent August 27, 2007 at 16:52 PMLogin to Reply →

    The front page of your website contains a powerful error!

    as follows:

    Small rooms can feel confining and uncomfortable. Luckily we can utilize certain design concepts that fool the eye and make our rooms seem much bigger and spacious. Some solutions for small spaces, that can make a room in your home look larger are color techniques, furniture arranging, and lighting considerations can give the look of space.

    [This following line is the one that made me go “Oh GEESH!]
    “gonna to present” (WOW!)

    These are a few of the topics that we are gonna to present in this article. By the way …

    Maybe you want to sell your house and there is one thing you can do to make the house easier to sell. This thing is make the house look bigger. So let’s begin …

  • hiutopor September 17, 2007 at 11:52 AMLogin to Reply →

    Hi all!

    Very interesting information! Thanks!


  • cscape November 15, 2007 at 21:32 PMLogin to Reply →

    I have an average size living room with hard-wood floors that I am concerned about the rug I want to place under my coffee table (I don’t want to make the room appear any smaller). I want to use either my natural cowhide rug which has a rather large abstract shape (you know the kind I mean) or my Kona rug made from coconut wood links (from Crate & Barrel) that is much smaller (4 x 6 feet). Any suggestions?

  • linda December 26, 2007 at 19:48 PMLogin to Reply →

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! nice but can be better

  • Billy Bob Joe February 4, 2008 at 23:08 PMLogin to Reply →

    Well…DUH! Thanks for pointing out the obvious, *dur dur dur*

  • impuLsive February 12, 2008 at 11:22 AMLogin to Reply →

    Haha, very nice pics!

  • vintagegirlk February 26, 2008 at 15:54 PMLogin to Reply →

    I was wondering if Anne or someone would help me. I have a room that is long and narrow. It is our kitchen /dining and living area, all in one. 48’x16. The problem is, now that the sheet rock is up it looks too narrow . The ceiling is tall with exposed beams.19′ Are there any ways to trick the eye with paint color or wainscotting on the wall where my dining table is to help break up the long look? My wooden ceiling is painted a color called dry earth. It is a medium shade khaki w/ a hint of moss green. What color walls should i go with? Darker or lighter? HELP….

  • Anne February 28, 2008 at 16:50 PMLogin to Reply →

    For Vintagegirl. Such a long, narrow and tall space can work beautifully with gradation of colour.
    You did not mention where your natural light enters. If you have a decent sized window in the 16 foot width, playing up/allowing that natural light can make a huge difference during the daytime with the natural light spread into the room across the narrower end. Window treatments should accentuate cleanly with horizontal preference (no side swags please). Light, neutral Roman type, fold-up blinds are perfect for clean light entry during the day and privacy at night. Again considering natural light coming from the narrow width, returning the colour of the floor (should be on the same hue but better to be several shades lighter than the ceiling), up the long forty-eight foot wall on a deep baseboard, will spread the sixteen foot width visually. As this is a multi-purpose room, choose and place artwork/wallhangings very carefully. You can define/create focus areas with art work and plants around sofa seating area. Avoid floor clutter around dining area and kitchen for practical purposes. You can take advantage of wonderful storage areas in the work/creative spots in this location and use wall hanging live plants if light levels allow (good for the air too).

  • caroline March 2, 2008 at 21:45 PMLogin to Reply →

    humm……it doesn’t answer my question thow.
    my room is really small but i dont understand how to make it prettier?

  • Chris April 5, 2008 at 07:39 AMLogin to Reply →

    Dope article. really useful as I am de-cluttering my room. Peace out

  • Hunter June 22, 2008 at 10:24 AMLogin to Reply →

    Great info. Needs spell check

  • fizza June 28, 2008 at 19:06 PMLogin to Reply →

    ewz awsome

  • Phill Devinport August 1, 2008 at 21:46 PMLogin to Reply →

    yeah -well plenty of so-called experts on designer websites giving tips on designing for small space – unfortunately, all talk. No photos and frankly pretty bad advice (put furniture against the walls ?).

  • Thisjustin August 19, 2008 at 12:19 PMLogin to Reply →

    Hi there! Thanks for the tips, they’ve been great!

    I do have a question though that is concerning me at the moment. Mine and my husbands bedroom will soon be turned into a study, and it has shelving literally on every wall from ceiling to floor – the shelves can’t come down because they’ve been bolted to the ceiling rafters, and with over 1000 books on them it wouldn’t be sensible anyway. The problem is in redecorating the room (currently it’s all green) – I don’t know what to colour the room in order to make it look larger, but at the same time not have it just in a neutral colour. Do you have any suggestions on how to redecorate this room?

  • Aaron October 25, 2008 at 03:49 AMLogin to Reply →

    Excellent article, this is especially useful in Miami with all the new condos being built, many of them have small living spaces and any way to open the space up is always useful.

  • Hannah November 7, 2008 at 02:44 AMLogin to Reply →

    this information was very helpful so thankyou who ever made this website your awesome ;hearts

  • Hannah November 7, 2008 at 02:50 AMLogin to Reply →

    i love this web site its very helpful and i think that the person who made this web site is awesome and not a geek or nerd but a true self appered rockin out rockin out out rock star doesnt everyone think they are because i do ♥ ♥

  • Ria December 6, 2008 at 17:48 PMLogin to Reply →

    I was wondering if anyone could help me choose some colours for my bedroom to make it appear bigger. I have one window and a couple of big pieces of furniture that I can not get rid of due to buget constraints. I would like to paint each wall in a different colour. Any suggestions?

  • PK December 15, 2008 at 12:53 PMLogin to Reply →

    Floors. Any tips about floor treatments? i.e. boarders, wall2wall, rugs? Which direction should a rectangular rug run, and how much border should be left? Light or dark better? Underneath the bed, or at the end. Thanks. Very useful tips and comments.

  • Bailie June 30, 2009 at 17:01 PMLogin to Reply →

    ok… but ive seen so much better. But the pictures were nice ther described what you were talking about well.

  • Poophead August 19, 2009 at 15:43 PMLogin to Reply →

    stick to light airy colours stay away from the darks like purple and red those give you a closed in feeling try something like greens and whites it sets an airy spaceous feel for your room.

  • anto020681 August 20, 2009 at 15:55 PMLogin to Reply →

    It’s help me to share another idea on creating another or special room with small space, this tips to fooling the eyes is a smart solution to get the most expensive way to get our room looks more convenience

  • chloe December 24, 2009 at 20:46 PMLogin to Reply →

    well my house is huge. for poor pple like you, this tip will sure work

  • English January 20, 2010 at 16:07 PMLogin to Reply →

    I just wanted to say that under your lighting article you used buy instead of by, and on a professional website you might want to change that.

  • Vanessa March 6, 2010 at 16:45 PMLogin to Reply →

    Great article. Great tips!

  • Martin Peck March 29, 2010 at 02:17 AMLogin to Reply →

    I’ve been searching for this precise info on this topic for a long time.  Bookmarked and recommended!

  • Carmin April 11, 2010 at 13:34 PMLogin to Reply →

    My room looks like crape!!!!!!!!but my sisters worked

  • compact mirrors April 22, 2010 at 21:12 PMLogin to Reply →

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  • Da Buddha Vaporizer July 2, 2010 at 00:55 AMLogin to Reply →

    Great article! I have a small room and have been trying all sorts of ideas to make the most out of my space. These tips will definitely come in handy.

  • Anna November 2, 2010 at 22:25 PMLogin to Reply →

    The practical idea of removing large rugs to increase the look of floor space was really helpful. Trying to sell our house and the bedrooms are small and I haven’t been taking out the rugs…so made me review what I’m doing. Next week rugs are going and cream paints are coming in!

  • George December 1, 2010 at 00:36 AMLogin to Reply →

    I sent your article to my wife a few days ago, and since then she hasn’t stopped talking about the tips you mentionned here. She also moved a lot of furnitures in our apartment and I don’t know if I have to thank you for that or… to hate you! :-) Just kidding! I want you to know that you made my wife happy. And for that, I only tell you: Thank you so much!

  • Annuity April 5, 2011 at 18:47 PMLogin to Reply →

    Love this and I will try some of the ideas

  • handmade beaded jewerly May 14, 2011 at 22:20 PMLogin to Reply →

    great advice i am ready to use!

  • SEO Miami May 21, 2011 at 15:56 PMLogin to Reply →

    Finally found a decent site to help me with my, shall we say lack of interior design skills. Great article and by the end of this weekend I’ll probably have printed out several articles to help me finish my house.

  • flats to rent in west london May 21, 2011 at 22:53 PMLogin to Reply →

    very informative, balancing the room is vital, lets the energy flow, and has a great visual impact

  • Norelco Electric Razors May 22, 2011 at 12:30 PMLogin to Reply →

    Great tips on how to make any room look bigger. I can’t wait to try them out.

  • Jon May 31, 2011 at 16:27 PMLogin to Reply →

    Natural light and big windows is a great combination for really opening up a living space. Nice article with some good points.

  • shahe June 5, 2011 at 10:26 AMLogin to Reply →

    oh,yeeh, elly ur article portrate so freashness. the tips you shared really nice but give us some tips in which we have furniture already with black color so confusion is for drawing room color combination for paint,so room look bigger.

  • lori bradds June 6, 2011 at 01:18 AMLogin to Reply →

    I loved the insight. i also loved how you explained why

  • spybubble download June 9, 2011 at 11:41 AMLogin to Reply →

    We feng shui’d our home recently and found that the main basis of this was to clear out all clutter and let the light and energy flow freely through your house, pretty similar to what you are advocating here too.

  • Vizsla Club of America June 10, 2011 at 12:02 PMLogin to Reply →

    Great tips! especially if you are selling your home.

  • Kate September 17, 2012 at 14:52 PMLogin to Reply →

    Inside ‘furniture’ spaces, it’s important to think about tables for small spaces. This is very important, especially for very small kitchens

  • seri ilan March 2, 2013 at 02:48 AMLogin to Reply →

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