A Room Design Plan to make the most of the Space in Your Home

publication date: Jun 15, 2010
author/source: Guest article by Sarah Walker, Freelance Property Writer & former presenter of BBC1’s ‘To Buy Or Not To Buy’

A Room Design Plan to make the most of the Space in Your Home

If your property, or even just a few rooms are a bit on the small side, the good news is that the human mind can be tricked, and there are a number of things you can do to give the impression of space and light and visually open up any area.

Ceiling Height and Dado Rails
The human eye naturally scans vertically before horizontally, so the height of a room can be a major influence on our perception of its size.  Anything which interrupts the flow of form or colour, will ‘trip’ our eye and temporarily halt its smooth progression, so dado and picture rails, borders and horizontal lines will always make the ceiling appear lower.  When ceilings are at the 10’ mark, or above, horizontal lines can help create super features, but when you have an 8’ ceiling, standard in most post-war homes, horizontal lines won’t do you many favours.

A simple solution, which works very effectively, is simply to paint the dado or picture rail in the same paint as the wall, so it melts into the background, and a vertically striped wallpaper below a dado will make the area seem ‘taller’ than it is.  The eye will now happily travel upward, with a kick-start at the bottom and an unbroken sweep to the ceiling.

Mirror, Mirror ...
To add to the illusion of height, try hanging mirrors and pictures in portrait orientation rather than landscape, again focusing on the vertical rather than horizontal.  And on the subject of mirrors, I’m always amazed at the number of homes which don’t have them because as far as I’m concerned you can’t have too many: they reflect light and give the illusion of depth and are such a simple solution.  In a hallway they can visually double the width and they’re particularly effective when hung at a right-angle to a window in a small room, helping to bounce extra light at the same time as giving the impression of more depth.

Colour Schemes
As for colour, the darker you go the less white content there is in the paint, and therefore less light is reflected, tending to make a room appear smaller.  So in sitting rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, where we generally want a spacious feel, a pale colour is best.  In rooms where we often look for a more intimate atmosphere – dining rooms, snugs and studies – people often use deeper colours, like red and green, but do remember that there may need to be a trade-off between atmosphere and space, and in smaller dining rooms, I would always recommend sticking with a light colour on the walls.

The skirting and coving define the boundaries of the room, and you want them to be as unobtrusive as possible, so that your eye’s travels don’t come to an abrupt halt.  Your internal woodwork should be painted in either white or off-white, and eggshell blends much better with the rest of your paintwork than gloss, as well as being very much the current finish of choice.  Then, as a general rule, ceilings should always be white and smooth, because you want to feel that there is as much space above your head as possible, so try to make your ceiling invisible. Texture will cast shadows and create a pattern which will jar the eye and make the ceiling a ‘feature’, and you don’t want a feature at eight feet!

Flooring Ideas
The floor works in a similar way to the walls: you want to make it feel as big an area as possible, so eliminate barriers to the eye, such as rugs and runners.  One continuous finish, colour or texture allows the eye to travel quickly over the entire floor area, so stick to one type of floor-covering, wall to wall.  If you’ve chosen wooden flooring or laminate in a narrow area which you want to make appear wider, then go for wider boards which will let your eye travel further without visual interruption.

Bay Windows
And finally, make sure you’re taking full advantage of the available space.  People often see bay windows as a feature to be looked at and waste a perfectly usable area, but don’t make the mistake of pushing all the furniture to the furthest extremities of a room.  Leaving a small gap between a chair or table and the wall will allow the eye to travel beyond the piece itself and give the illusion of there being extra space.  It’s also a good idea to position a lamp, plant or some focal feature at the farthest point from the door, in order to immediately draw the eye to the depth of the room.

So there you have it: vertical lines, soft continuous colours, eggshell and mirrors.  Take a day and devote it to your home’s image; move the furniture around, experiment with mirrors, just try different things and really look at whether you’re maximising light and space, and you could be surprised at what a difference you can make for very little outlay.

Read on if you want to know how to Prepare a Property for Sale. Do you have a property question, contact us or tel 0845 838 1763 for an independent unbiased answer.

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