6 Small-Space Decorating Rules You Should've Broken Yesterday

Photo: Courtesy Sebastian Marin.
Anyone who lives in a small space can attest that it’s easy to feel like you’re doing it wrong. Is the furniture too big? Are patterns a poor choice? Should everything that isn’t essential be eliminated, Marie Kondo-style, so as to make strategic use of every square inch?

Rest easy: Not all of the prohibitive “rules” you've been hearing are true. Here, interior experts debunk six popular myths about diminutive dwelling decor. Good news: (almost) anything goes!
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Photo: Courtesy Nicole Crowder.
Rule: Stick To Small Furnishings
“Keeping pieces small-scale just because your square footage is modest doesn’t necessarily make your space look bigger — in fact, it can make it look outdated,” says New York-based interior designer Jenny J. Norris. “Bigger pieces are grounding. Unless a piece of furniture is literally too large to get through your front door, skip ‘apartment-sized’ versions and go for the real deal.”
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Photo: Courtesy Amelia Alpaugh.
Rule: Small Space, Small-Scale Art
“Totally not the case,” says artist and textile designer Caroline Z. Hurley. “I love hanging massive paintings and textiles on my walls, and I like to change them up often so I don’t get bored. In my mind, disproportionately large artwork looks amazing in small spaces.”
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Photo: Courtesy Eva K. Salvi.
Rule: Purge, Purge, Purge
“A space should feel curated,” says designer Kiel Wuellner of Even Kiel. “Don’t be afraid to collect things that speak to you, and to layer new, store-bought pieces with vintage or salvaged items. Your space should reflect you." Ultimately, though, he says, “the rule I disregard the most is ‘play by the rules.’ I like an element of the unexpected. I like a space that doesn’t look like a page out of a catalogue.”
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Photo: Courtesy Sebastian Marin.
Rule: Keep It Light
Says Tyler Karu of Landing / design, “Dark paint can add drama and architectural interest to spaces that lack those characteristics to begin with. And, besides upping the cozy factor, using a dark tone makes for a bold backdrop for furniture and accent pieces that might otherwise have seemed like an afterthought.”

Sheena Murphy of Brooklyn’s Sheep + Stone agrees, adding: “The color of the ceiling actually makes more of an impact on how big or small a room feels. Keep the ceiling light to create a sense of height when using darker tones on the walls.”
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Photo: Courtesy Sebastian Marin.
Rule: Pare Down Patterns
“The beauty of a small space is that you can achieve the bohemian, layered effect we often see and love in loft spaces with less,” say Danielle Walish and Jessica Stambaugh, founders of Brooklyn’s Decorative Traces. “Don’t be afraid to layer textiles and patterns on furnishings or on the walls. We absolutely love using wallpaper in smaller spaces and upholstering furniture in contrasting patterns.”
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Photo: Courtesy Maria Del Rio.
Rule: Rule Out Rugs
“Rugs can actually provide the illusion of having more space by helping to mark off different areas of a room,” Sheena continues. “In the end, they can help make it feel like there are actually several ‘rooms’ in one.”
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