10 Ways to Make a Small Home Feel Larger

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know my husband and I have been remodeling a 40-year-old, 900-square-foot duplex. We’re finally finished. Woo hoo! I can finally share some before and after photos to help those of you who have downsized or are considering it. I’m sharing 10 ways to make a small home feel larger.

By the way, we were going for a modern rustic look that is popular with many boomers right now and which I wrote about in a previous blog. We wanted a minimalist look, which is great for smaller homes, but with plenty of warmth.

Ready? Here we go!

Remove Walls for an Open Concept Kitchen

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

This part of the remodel was left up to the pros.

This one is a no-brainer. Our living room and kitchen felt claustrophobic. Tearing down the wall gave us an open concept feeling and made the small spaces seem so much larger.

However, beware, this option takes some planning and I’d highly advice hiring experts before taking a sledgehammer to your wall.

Call in the pros to assure you’re not removing a “load-bearing” wall that is providing structural support. If that’s the case, there are other options such as support beams and wide doorways you might consider. However, a professional will be needed to make sure the substitute support construction is strong enough to compensate for the removed wall.

Also, consider what may be contained inside the wall you want to remove. In our case, we had electrical wiring and a plumbing ABS pipe located inside our wall. A professional electrician and plumber were necessary to reroute the wiring and pipe into an adjacent wall. Be aware, depending on what you find, this could add to your remodeling costs significantly.

Even though removing the wall became a bit complicated, the results were amazing. It’s hard to describe how much larger our home felt. Leaving a pony wall, we added a bar with a butcher block countertop. The bar not only looks amazing but also provides extra seating for dining.

To illustrate, I’m including before and after photos of our kitchen below.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

Tearing down the wall and removing the upper cabinets opened up this narrow space.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

After photo of our kitchen. We painted the cabinets, which were in good shape, white and changed the hardware. We also removed the old tile countertops and replaced it with white quartz and replaced the stove, dishwasher, and microwave.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

Kitchen Remodel From Another Angle

Keep Flooring Consistent

Consider installing the same flooring throughout your house which gives your home a seamless flow from one room to another and creates an illusion of increased space.

Our house had smelly, old carpet along with different tiles and laminate flooring. We removed all the flooring and installed inexpensive rustic laminate flooring throughout. This added a cozy, warm feel without making the space feel small or too dark.

The exception were our two bathrooms which are water-prone areas and required tile.

To make your flooring count, create more visual space by keeping the floor as clear as possible. Avoid cluttering the space with too many rugs and several large pieces of furniture.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

Out with the stinky old carpet and in with new flooring throughout.

Use Light and Bright Colors

You may think white walls are boring or cold, but I beg to differ.

White walls not only give the illusion of a larger space, but look modern, calm, and chic. Rooms seemed to expand before my eyes.

Our duplex doesn’t have windows in the living room and kitchen. The bright and cheerful walls transformed these dimly lit spaces.

This was out of my comfort zone, but after looking at photos of various kitchens, we decided to paint the kitchen cabinets a bright white, install a light colored quartz for the countertops, and white subway tiles for the backsplash.

That’s a lot of white, which made me apprehensive, but installing black hardware, butcherblock countertops on the bar, and stainless steel appliances brought much needed color and warmth to the area.

Remove Doors to Make a Small Home Feel Larger

If possible, remove as many doors as possible or use pocket doors to increase the sense of space. This simple decision will open up the whole room, making it feel more spacious than before.

In our house, previous owners enclosed the patio to create a sunroom. However, they didn’t remove the sliding glass door between the living room and the sunroom. After removing the door, our space seemed to grow miraculously.

We also removed a second sliding glass door that led to one of the bedrooms and replaced it with beautiful French doors. This not only made both rooms appear larger, but helped make the sunroom look like a living space and less like an add-on.

We used our sunroom as a much needed office space. We applied a drywall skim coat over the stucco and painted the awful burnt orange walls the same bright white used in our living areas. We replaced the carpet with the same laminate wood flooring used throughout.

I couldn’t be happier with my writing space which has plenty of light, an inspiring and relaxing view out the window, and my beloved collection of books nearby.

Our sunroom before removing doors and carpet and repainting walls a bright white.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

Our sunroom after we removed one of the sliding glass doors and replaced a second one with French doors.

 

A corner of our sunroom was transformed into a beautiful writing space just for me.

Let the Outdoors In

We did not put any drapes or blinds on the windows of our sunroom. It is the only source of light for our living room and kitchen and the greenery is beautiful to behold. We are fortunate that our backyard is private and doesn’t require window coverings, so let the light shine!

I’d recommend allowing as much natural light as possible into a room. It will open up your space and give it peace and character.

Shelves are Your Friend

Okay, I have a collection of antique books that makes my husband groan every time we move. Even though they’re heavy as all get-out, my books are the one thing I can’t give up.

Regardless, even if you don’t share this weakness with me, built-in shelves and cabinets are a great way to add space into a small room. They provide open and tall storage, which will draw the eye upward. Cabinet doors keeps clutter hidden.

Aside from that, shelves provide essential storage for things such as books, plants, decor, and a few of your favorite knick-knacks you can’t bear to give up.

Choose Small Furnishings

Opt for smaller furniture in a living room. Couches or coffee tables that are too large for the space will make it look and feel cramped.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make small furnishings multi-functional. Our couch, though small, makes out into a bed for company and the coffee table opens up for game night or snacks.

Floor to ceiling drapes will make a room seem larger.

Consider Long Curtains

Floor to ceiling drapes will add height to a small space and trick the eye into thinking it’s bigger than reality.

We removed the previous owners shorter bedroom curtains and purchased curtains that pool slightly at the floor.

Also, consider longer curtain rods than necessary which helps visually widen the room, making it appear larger.

Make Small Bathrooms Work

Small bathrooms, the tiniest rooms in your house, can be challenging.

You must be realistic about what you want and what is really needed – and fits into the room. Sure, a separate shower and bathtub would be great, but let’s get real here. I’d suggest paring down to the bare essentials. That’s basically a toilet, sink, and a bath or shower.

Use as few bulky built-ins, cabinets, and other items which take up precious floor space and make a room look even smaller. What about storage, you ask? Choose your vanity carefully and you’ll not only have some great storage, but a stylish design feature as well. Keep in mind, wall mounted cabinets or open shelves won’t take up any of your floor space and look great too.

Our bathrooms are about 5′ x 12′. Yup, pretty darn small. Since there are two bathrooms, at least hubby and I have our own separate bathrooms. Which, by the way, I absolutely love.

Adding a clear and/or frameless shower enclosure gives the illusion of more space. In one of our bathrooms we used a modern semi-frameless half wall shower panel. Even though I was a bit nervous about water splashing out while showering, this hasn’t been a problem at all.

Once again, I went outside my comfort zone, inspired by a  Better Homes & Gardens post featuring remodels of small bathrooms. I shared these two photos in my last blog, but will include again for those of you who haven’t seen them. As you can see, the vanity and cabinet installed above the toilet provide much needed storage. Towel bars looked cramped, so we installed a hook for my towel instead.

Remodeling, Moving and COVID

Before picture of my bathroom.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

After photo of my bathroom

In our second bathroom, we removed the shower doors and used shower curtains for the bath/shower. This gave the bathroom a more modern look and opened up the space.

Before photo of my husband’s bathroom.

Make a Small Home Feel Larger

After photo of my husband’s bathroom

Less is More

This tip is especially important.

While it’s nice to display the things we love, it’s better to follow the “less is more” idea when dealing with small spaces. Too many knick-knacks will clutter up a room, so aim for a minimalist design to make your home seem larger.

For more tips on downsizing, see my previous blog, Should Baby Boomers Downsize Their Home?

So, what do you think of our remodel? Have you downsized and have tips to share? Love to hear your thoughts!

 

juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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7 Responses

  1. Your remodel looks great! I really love your kitchen – so nice and bright. I’m curious, did you paint the black door with Chalkboard paint? It might be fun to write notes – or maybe recipes – on it.

    I really like the vanities you selected for the bathrooms. We have a guest bath about that size that really needs to be updated. A shallower vanity and sink would be ideal.

    Oh, and I heart your writing desk!

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks Janis! We did not use chalkboard paint on our door, but what a fun idea. Changing out your vanity and sink is one of the more comparatively inexpensive ways to update your bathroom. And I heart my writing corners as well. One of my favorite places in the house.

  2. Julie, I love, love, love your new home! What a lot of work and great ideas.
    Thanks for sharing your home with us. I can just see you typing this blog post out in your room with a view, now.
    Happy December, Julie and family. 🙂

  3. Hi Julie, I love seeing before and after shots of renos. It’s always fascinating to see the improvements. I can’t imagine what people were thinking when they built that kitchen, it was so claustrophobic. We have no plans to downsize any time soon. I love living on out 13 acres and hope to stay here for many years to come.

  4. Julie says:

    Oh my goodness I love your new writing space so much!

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