Small Spaces, Big Problems: Your Most Asked Questions

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Design: TRNK NYC

We know that sometimes living in a small spaces can lead to BIG issues. A compact floor plan brings its own set of challenges, and it can be a hard knowing what works and what doesn’t. So that’s why we’re here to answer all your pressing questions about how to make your small space work best for you.   

QUESTION: 

Can you use a dark color in a small space?

 

ANSWER: 

Short answer, ABSOLUTELY! Long answer, if you do it right. While we have often heard that painting a small room dark will only make it appear smaller, that actually isn’t always true. Painting a small room dark can sometimes even make the room appear larger and more dramatic. But there are a few things to pay attention to when going dark in a small space.

 

KEEP IT TONAL:

If you decide to go dark with your walls then keep things more monochromatic elsewhere. The drama will come in through the dark color on your walls so you don’t need to bring in a lot of other color or pattern.

Paint Sheen:

Not all paint sheens are created equal and not all of them work for every space either. In a smaller space, we usually like to use a matte finish (anywhere from flat to eggshell) the matte finish will help to hide imperfections in the wall which will help the dark color feel more expansive visually.

Metallics can be your friend:

Be sure to create balance in the room by having a few areas that pop. In this case, metallics can do just that. By metallics we mean, golds, silvers, coppers, rose gold – anything that has a little bit of sheen. Bring in a brass lamp to the corner of a dark blue room and you’ll instantly have that pop that will help balance out all the dark color and give your eye a break from the darker paint color.

 

 

 

“While we have often heard that painting a small room dark will only make it appear smaller, that actually isn’t always true.”
Bobby Berk

QUESTION: 

I work from home in my bedroom. Do you have any tips on making a workspace in a minimal area?

 

ANSWER: 

The key with any workspace, especially one that is integrated into a bedroom – only have out what you truly need. Typically when you are working you really only need a small space (the size of a laptop). So, everything else should be cleared away or at least visually cleared away. And by that, we mean hidden in storage containers. Once things are away your brain and your room will feel larger and more ready to work.

In addition to having things put away that don’t need to be out. You can maximize a small space by using a double duty piece of furniture with a small footprint. Here are a few of our favorite small size desks that also double as a bookshelf giving you plenty of extra storage space.

 

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Design: TRNK NYC

QUESTION: 

I have a long and narrow living room, help me!

 

ANSWER: 

There are a few tips to keep in mind when designing a narrow and long living room.

 

CREATE SEPARATE AREAS:

Because of the way the floorplan is in a long and narrow living room, most likely you won’t be able to have all of your furniture centered in the room. So rather than having your chairs across from your sofa, try creating two different seating areas. One at the front of the room with a narrow credenza across from the sofa that can house your media equipment and then at the other end of the room you could create a smaller seating area with two chairs and a side table.

ALLOW A PASSTHROUGH:

If your living room is a passthrough to another space, be sure to keep walkways open and accessible. If you still need to place a coffee table in front of your sofa and there is no way around it then instead of a traditional rectangular coffee table you could opt for an ottoman or oval piece which will not only visually appear less intrusive to walk around but will also provide extra seating for when you have additional guests over.

GO VERTICAL:

If you have a long and narrow living room, then employ the vertical space as best you can. If you are able to, a large unit across from a single sofa can act as your living area and then you can add in a chair to accent if you have space for it. The vertical piece will not only bring your eye up making the room feel larger but will also give you a lot of storage and keep things off the floor that don’t need to be there.

 

QUESTION: 

What are your favorite storage pieces that don’t look like storage?

 

ANSWER: 

This question really is two-fold in its answers. With storage, you have small storage pieces like bins, and boxes and then also larger pieces like wardrobes and bookcases. Here are a few of our favorites for both types to get you started. Our trick when using glass front storage pieces is to use smaller bins within it to really keep things organized and looking clean.

Stick to a few different sizes of the same type of bin and mix 2 different styles of bins to create interest. We would start with the grey linen bins we linked below and then mix it up with the leather or the rope bins.

QUESTION: 

Do you have any tips for differentiating between spaces in a small open concept, without crowding it?

 

ANSWER: 

Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean that you have to specifically designate each area visually. In other words, it doesn’t need to appear that you have an office in one corner, an eating area in another corner and a bedroom in a separate corner. Let the spaces speak to each other, and you can always use one space for multiple uses. Like your dining area can also work as a makeshift office area when you need to work. Here are a few of our tips when rooms have to do double duty.

 

GO MONOCHROMATIC:

The first rule when decorating a space (and what we mentioned above in another answer) is to keep it minimal in tones. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be colorful but that does mean to stick to a tonal palette, whether that be cool tones like blues and greens, or warmer tones like terra cotta, beige and rusts. By keeping things within the same tonal palette, the space will feel larger and more cohesive which will allow it to feel less disjointed.

USE FURNITURE WITH BUILT IN STORAGE:

When you lack on space, then the best thing to do is make up for it with built-in storage. Whether that is a bed that has pull out storage under it, or a bench that opens up to reveal some extra space – always look for pieces that have a little extra room to store things which will help keep everything hidden that doesn’t need to be out.

 

LET RUGS DEFINE SPACES:

In a large space, you want to use a large rug to ground everything and act as the anchor in the room. In a small space, you can use the opposite trick. To visually give separation to different areas within one floorplan you can add smaller rugs that help to define each area. Just be sure to pick rugs that tonally work together and are within the same color palette.

 

  1. Bobby, this is fantastic! I have used several of these tips for my small Palm Beach Apt.
    Thank You for sharing! Keep up the amazing work!
    -Andy

  2. Hi Bobby
    Reading through the questions above, it made me think how I should best lay out furniture in my living room. It’s an L shape!!! And not very wide. But that’s possibly the lounges I’ve put in. Would love any suggestions as I’ve moved things around zillions of times.
    Silvana

  3. We were super inspired by these tips for small spaces, and were able to create small distinct areas that flow together for our client’s new home. Thank you Bobby!

    1. Glad it was helpful! Thanks so much for reading.

  4. Hi Bobby thank you for these great tips! You are a talent and inspiration! How would you incorporate wallpaper into a small space to make it look bigger and what patterns?
    Xtina

    1. I would use a subtle pattern in a more muted tone- nothing too busy or brightly colored. Thanks for reading!

  5. Great blog! Thanks Bobby. Love your work. ❤️

  6. Just moved into my apartment after being caretaker for Mom but something missing! Green like in plants but they die just looking at them! You mentioned fake if I find the right ones can look good around the apartment right? If so will begin to look around plus allot of photos of family so need to find where to hang some! Sorry for long email! Love all you do! Handy tips ! 😊

    1. Thanks so much. There are definitely lots of good faux plants out there now, so if you have trouble keeping the real ones alive, they’re a great option.

  7. We have a small, one room cabin with ceiling and walls all in aged but beautiful cedar. I want to brighten the space by covering some of it with white. Should that be one wall, the ceiling, or half up the wall? Love your fresh looks!

    1. I love the look of cedar walls. It really depends on where windows are located and how much natural light comes in. Perhaps try bring in some white furnishings to brighten things up? -B

  8. Hi Bobby,
    Do you have any suggestions about how and where you can use wallpaper? I have seen wallpaper used on one wall as an accent.

    1. I like to use wallpaper as an accent wall when you want to draw the eye in and create interest (like behind a bed or in a dining room with a large piece of art). You just want to make sure the pattern is not too overwhelming and that other items in the room are more simple and don’t “compete” with the wallpaper. You can check out my line with Tempaper here for some ideas. Thanks for reading. xx -B

  9. I have a problem with spacing and balancing a room. No matter how hard I try, it looks like someone spun the room and all of the furniture stuck to the walls.
    My TV/living space is part of an open plan. I cannot figure out how to arrange the furniture in that space. I’m working with the theory that the couch goes on the biggest wall. It that a starting place or a rule?

    1. It really depends on the layout of the room. You could place it in front of a window, across from a window, or in front of a mantel depending on how the room is arranged. Check out this guide for more tips. Thanks for your comment! xx -B