The Dos and Don’ts of Decorating Your Small Space

Living in the city means sacrificing space. These 11 design tips will give your small space big style

Credit: Alykhan Velji Designs

Local designers share practical tips to make your condo look its most stylish – no matter the size

Can condo dwellers still have it all while living small?

“Yes!” insists designer Karin Bohne of Vancouver’s Moeski Design Agency.

Although space is often sacrificed for urban living, Bohne says a ton of square footage isn’t a requirement for a well designed home.

“A little strategic planning can go a long way in a small space,” says the designer.

A common mistake people make when decorating a new condo is rushing out to a couple stores to buy things just to fill the space.

“Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy everything at once,” explains Bohne.

Oftentimes the space will end up looking more like a catalogue than a home.

Instead the designer recommends taking your time, doing your research, and selecting pieces that will enhance your home and represent your personal style.

“Pieces should be collected over time and curated rather than just purchased all at once on a whim.”

Click through for 11 designer tips for small space decorating

Credit: Provoke Studios

Don’t Assume You Need Small Furniture

“The most common mistake people make when choosing furniture for a small space is assuming that all furniture pieces also need to be small,” says Bohne.

Filling a tiny living room with tiny furniture and tiny accessories only results in producing a tiny home, explains the designer.

“You want to avoid selecting small pieces whenever possible. A good-sized sofa, for example, will actually make a living room feel a lot bigger than a mini sofa in a tiny living room.”

“Don’t assume that every piece needs to be a small version of itself.”

Credit: Provoke Studios

Do Minimize the Clunky Factor

“A great way to avoid items feeling ‘clunky’ can be to purchase items that have an open base, such as an upholstered sofa (where you can see the feet) rather than a slipcovered one, or an open-based coffee table.”

According to Bohne, being able to see through the pieces will make items feel lighter as you get the illusion of more space.

Bohne’s Pro Tip: “Go for clean, tailored furniture and try selecting pieces in soft neutral colours, then accessorize with bolder colours and pattern. A bright blue sofa, for example, can feel a lot ‘chunkier’ than a nice neutral sofa with blue accent pillows.”

Credit: Provoke Studios

Do Go Light on Decor and Accessories

“Another common mistake is over-cluttering with decor and accessories,” says Bohne.

In order to keep your small space feeling clean and open, keep accessories to a minimum and maximize your organization and storage.

Credit: Provoke Studios

Do Decorate Vertically

Remember that surface area in a condo or apartment is always in high demand.

“This goes just as much for your kitchen countertops as it does for your coffee and dining table – always try to avoid decorating with a number of sculptural accessories that take up valuable real estate.”

Instead, the designer suggests opting for artwork or decor you can hang on walls.

“This will keep the space nicely decorated without feeling overly cluttered.”

Credit: Provoke Studios

Do Keep it Neutral

For modestly sized rooms, Bohne recommends neutral paint colours instead of going dark.

“Dark colours can make any room feel closed-in and you want to avoid making your small space feel even smaller.”

If you want to bring in some colour or pattern to complement neutral walls, Bohne recommends layering those elements throughout the decor with art, throw pillows and accessories.

For the West-Coast look: Incorporate natural materials wherever possible (pictured). Bohne says this keeps the space from looking too manufactured or thrown together, while the natural materials provide a sophisticated and high-end aesthetic.

Credit: Provoke Studios

Don’t Get too Matchy-matchy with Artwork

“When decorating, people will often select an accent colour and showcase it throughout their home accessories, such as art and throw pillows,” says Bohne. “This can feel a little overwhelming in a small space.”

“A more sophisticated or refined approach would be to decorate with meaningful, interesting pieces, which will actually open up your space and make it feel more timeless.”

Credit: Provoke Studios

Do Maximize Storage

“Because space can be so limited in a condo or apartment, think about storage when you’re selecting your furniture,” says Bohne.

“For example, can your coffee table double as extra storage, or can your shelf double as a work desk? This will help to keep your small space really functional and organized. Maximize every nook and cranny.”

Credit: Provoke Studios

Don’t Think Bigger is Better

“A powder room is always better small,” says Bohne. “In fact, the smaller the better!”

According to the designer, a large powder room can be a waste of space when a toilet and sink take up little room. Instead, use this room to flex your decor muscles by experimenting with wall coverings, decorative lighting and accessories.

“The fact that the space is small allows it to not feel overwhelming when it is extensively decorated.”

Credit: Alykhan Velji Designs

Do Use Mirrors

According to Canadian celebrity designer Alykhan Velji, mirrors go a long way in making a room look bigger.

“Whether on walls or in furniture pieces, mirrors are the way to go when decorating small spaces.”

Credit: Alykhan Velji Designs

Do Layer Lighting

Ample lighting in the petite condo is a must, insists Velji.

“It’s all about layers of lighting from floor, table and ceilings — you want to ensure you have all types to make a space dynamic.

Credit: Alykhan Velji Designs

Do Invest in Pieces that Work Double Duty

“Always think of items that can serve more than one purpose to help with space,” says Velji.

“A coffee table that has storage, side tables that can be used as stools, or even dining tables that serve as kitchen islands and that case be used for an extra work surface when not in use.”