15 Tricks to Make Your Rental Home Feel Bigger
There’s a key to smart decorating and organizing a small home: fool the eye into perceiving the living space is far larger than it actually is. It’s done with three simple concepts: maximize light, balance the scale and make efficient use of movement through your home.
To help you create a spacious and airy feeling in your living space, here are fifteen tips that offer a guide to decorating a rental home to make it feel bigger. Use this guide to decorating a small home, so you can fall in love with your living space all over again.
- See the Light
Utilizing natural light is the most effective way to maximize space because light is the primary source for our perception. It may be as simple as pulling back the drapes and raising the blinds. An increase in natural light will change the feel of a room like the clouds lifting and exposing a sunny day.
The brighter a room feels, the more open and airy it appears to the senses. Light reflects from one surface to another and tricks the eye into believing the space is larger if there are many reflective surfaces. Bright light also works with colors, making dark hues seem brighter and letting lighter shades better amplify reflection.
Natural light also brings in the expanse of the outdoors, making it feel like indoor spaces are blending with nature. Whether the view is unobstructed to a park, over a pond, onto the street or at your fence, the eye captures the distance and makes it feel as though it’s in the room. It happens whether you’re standing, sitting or lying in bed.
Most rental apartments or manufactured homes come supplied with window coverings, but most landlords allow tenants to change window treatments to bring in more light. Dark blinds or shades can be inexpensively replaced with white or opaque coverings. Long drapes can be taken down and stored, which frees up more window area and wall space. Maximizing natural light is one of the best tips for decorating a small apartment with minimal effort.
Artificial light is not to be overlooked. Ceiling lights can be brightened with higher wattage bulbs and the spectrum can be changed from cool white to warm white or vice versa for a dramatic effect. Don’t overlook the energy-efficient LED or fluorescent lamps as they too provide a great source of lighting.
Placement of lighting is also effective in making a room appear larger. Floor lamps that shine toward the ceiling and table lamps that illuminate a desk need to work in conjunction with natural light sources for a positive spatial effect. Kitchen areas instantly appear larger when equipped with under-cabinet mounted lights, and bathrooms seem to magically expand when the candlepower is increased.
Don’t overlook multiple light sources and dimmer controls when developing an overall lighting strategy to blend natural and artificial light.
If you’re planning to make your small manufactured home or tiny apartment appear bigger, start with lighting.
- Go for Height
Most people see a floor plan as square footage in a two-dimensional world. The reality of any living space is that it’s three-dimensional. The height of a room is often neglected when trying to make a small space feel larger.
Like floor space, the height of a ceiling is restricted by the design and not something you can change in a rental home. You may be fortunate to live beneath nine- or ten-foot ceilings instead of the regular eight-foot height, and maybe your place includes vaults or skylights. Height effects dramatically change the feel of spaciousness, but you can achieve some of the same perceptions by giving an illusion of height in your furnishings and decorating.
Light colored floor-to-ceiling fabrics — such as drapes hung at each side of windows or sliding patio doors — immediately give the appearance of height as they draw the eye from bottom to top instead of side to side. Vertical blinds are another great illusion of height, as well as pendulum light fixtures.
Taller and narrower furniture add to the feeling of height. Bookcases that fit snug against the wall and extend to the top of your reach give the appearance of spaciousness, yet allow excellent storage of smaller items and convenient displays of collectibles.
Also, consider hanging your artwork higher on the wall. Human nature urges us to look up, and high-mounted pieces naturally draw the eye upwards to where the light is usually more intense. The combination of an illusion of height with a brighter light source makes a small space seem larger.
- Paint It White
There’s a reason almost all rental units have white walls and ceilings. It’s not the cost of white paint, which is less due to the absence of pigments. It’s the simple and time-proven effect that white surfaces make space appear much larger than it actually is. Painting your walls white is a simple way to make your apartment feel bigger.
Depending on the age of your apartment or rented manufactured home, you may already have light-colored surroundings. But if your place is a product of the 70s or 80s, you may have dark and drab wall colorings.
Savvy decorators know there are many shades of white, and they work them together to create bright, reflective ceilings and soft, inviting walls. If your landlord will allow it, consider painting the cabinets and countertops light shades. Often, landlords will readily cooperate with their tenants to improve and modernize the appearance of a small and dated home. Sometimes the landlord supplies the paint and the tenant puts in the labor — it’s a win-win way of brightening a home and giving it the appearance of a much bigger space.
- Coordinate the Colors
A timeless decorating tip in making a small place seem larger is to work with a monochromatic paint scheme — or at least to keep color changes within the same hues. Sharp contrasts in colors tend to make a harsh division between spaces. Like dark colors, significant changes in shades tend to give a closed-in feeling.
The best approach for a small living space is to make the outer perimeter blend by working the hard surfaces like walls, ceilings and cabinets in neutral, lighter tones and varying the rooms. Select contrasting yet complimentary furnishings and artwork. This tactic works especially well in confined spaces like kitchens and baths, which often have little or no natural light. A one-tone paint scheme can be freshened with small accents with a splotch of color strategically placed where it catches the eye. Remember, it’s all about illusion. Color, like light, offers the best illusion at the best price.
- Kill the Clutter
If you’re wondering how to maximize space in your apartment, look at your current load of possessions and get rid of any clutter. “A place for everything and everything in its place” should be your mantra in the quest to open your tight living area. There’s a guideline: If you haven’t used an item in the past year, you don’t need it. Get rid of it! You might consider extending this guideline to a six-month rule when you’re cramped for space. Pick it up, place it away or throw it out.
- Plan Your Storage
If you plan to keep an item but have no immediate use for it, send it to storage. Creative and effective storage solutions are crucial, and there’s an endless supply of storage containers and storage racks available at a cost-friendly price.
Wire shelving units and plastic tubs are inexpensive and effective. Clear tubs let you see what’s inside and wire shelves let you conveniently hang items you only use occasionally. Both are great products that work in vertical stacks from floor to ceilings, and they also work well in tight spaces.
- Use Existing Storage
Look around your home. Whether it’s an apartment or small manufactured home, the designer was likely thinking of storage when the plans were created. Unfortunately, most homes don’t come with instructions, and the occupant is left to decipher what’s available for storage.
Usually, there are many nooks and crannies to utilize, even in little homes. Closets typically offer plenty of space if properly stacked. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets are often half-full and can be filled with other things besides pots, pans and plates.
Use locations like under the stairs and behind the hall doors. Crawl spaces and attics, if you have them, usually have extra room to help eliminate clutter.
- Hang Mirrors
Next to windows, mirrors are the best light-supplying sources. There’s an old saying that illusions are done with “smoke and mirrors.” Smoke definitely isn’t the best trick to use in improving your sense of space, but mirrors certainly are. Think of a mirror as another window in your home. Properly placed, one mirror can reflect one or more windows and provide a sense of expanded space. Two mirrors increase the effect, and so on.
Don’t restrict mirrors to wall spaces and windows. Mirrors hung on bedroom doors will make a small room instantly appear larger. Mirrors are often used in kitchen backsplashes to give a sense of expanded space, and mirrors in the bathroom are obviously a necessity.
- Uncover the Windows
Uncovering the windows in daylight makes a small space appear much larger. There’s always a need for privacy in certain areas, but keeping your windows partially covered during the day gives a closed-off, dark effect, which is not inviting and works against space-saving techniques.
- Avoid Furniture Fails
Large furniture pieces don’t necessarily lead to a closed-in feel. It’s an abundance of furniture that causes a crowded feeling. Keep main pieces like sofas and tables away from the walls and use pieces that can expand or offer additional storage. A classic great piece of furniture in a small room is a large, old trunk that serves as a side table and voluminous storage container.
- Create a Focus
Create a focus in your living space. For instance, an old trunk can work more magic. Giving the illusion of bigger space depends on fooling the eye. When the eye is automatically drawn to an item or area of the room, particularly when it’s in the center, the rest of the wall space seems to expand. Tables, singular large seating pieces and striking works of art also accomplish a similar focal point effect.
- Learn to Multitask
Like the old trunk, making use of other furniture pieces or storage containers clears the clutter and maximizes space in a rental home. Think of the space under beds and on top of dressers. Underused drawers and cabinet shelving often can hold three times what’s already inside. Stackable tables can stay out of the way when not in use, as can leaves for dining sets and fold out couches.
- Rotate Seasonal Items
Each season brings a different challenge to an already crowded small space. Christmas decorations displace furniture and other decor for up to a month. Winter also brings out extra clothes, boots and belongings. You need to store away items for spring, summer and fall. Proper planning and storage of your seasonal items and rotating them on an as-needed basis will free up critical space in a small home.
- Make Your Bathroom Appear Bigger
In a small home, the bathroom will be tiny, but it doesn’t have to appear miniscule. Use a little imagination and effort to apply light colors to the walls, extra wattage to the light fixtures and color coordinate the towels and shower curtains. An over-john is a huge space saver, too.
- Smell the Breeze
You won’t find this tip often, but it works tremendously well to help a small space feel larger. Trick your sense of smell, along with your sight. Stale, smelly air immediately gives a sense of stuffiness and tight spaces. Crack the windows, run the fan or keep a few dishes of baking soda around your rooms to open the senses and create a feeling of roominess.
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