A recent health study says the average American is bigger (and heavier) than ever before. The size of the average American home has grown, too – the latter, perhaps, a result of the former. Though many new houses are larger, often they contain many small rooms. Entryways are more elaborate, kitchens are more spacious and great rooms are greater, but there is still no shortage of small spaces that could use a little more elbow room.

With today’s high housing costs, “smaller” does have an advantage – affordability. Unfortunately, small can be confining and uncomfortable. When you first walk into a room, the eye automatically and subconsciously does an accounting of the area and, without measuring, tells the brain whether it has entered a large room or a smaller one. But, the eye can be fooled.

Mirrors help, but paint color, lighting, window treatment, floor covering and furniture also can affect the perceived size of a room. Disregarding these elements can cause a relatively large room to look small. Dark colored walls, heavily lined dark drapes, dim lights and oversized furniture make a room seem small. Increasing the apparent size of a room can involve factors that are interdependent.

Light – both natural and artificial – has an important impact on room size. A well-lighted room appears larger because it is easier to take in the entire area. Also, light adds shadows which create depth and interest. If you want a room to seem smaller and more intimate, simply dim the lights.

So, is it OK to have blackout drapes in a small room? Of course. However, when fully opened, drapes should completely clear the window opening and they should be light in color. This will maximize reflectance and, therefore, the presence of light in the room. Artificial light should be ceiling mounted, but if wall sconces are preferred, the fixtures should be small so they won’t overwhelm the walls.

Light, brightly colored walls are more reflective and will maximize the effect created by both natural and artificial lighting. If wallpaper is used, be careful. Solid colors are the safest, with tiny patterns taking a close second. A large pattern grows smaller at the opposite end of a large room, thus enhancing depth by increasing apparent perspective. On the other hand, viewed from across a small room, a large pattern continues to appear to be about the same size and therefore, perspective is not enhanced. This can reduce depth in a small room. Whatever the wall color or finish, we recommend the ceiling in a small room be painted stark white to maximize brightness.

Scaled-down furniture also can help to improve room size. There are stores that deal exclusively in furniture for apartments and mobile homes. Despite its slightly smaller size, scaled-down furniture can be beautiful. Heavily padded furniture can look bulky in a small room. The same is true of overstuffed bedding, pillows and padded headboards. An open headboard is best for a small room. When furnishing, keep the view at eye level unobstructed. Taller furnishings should be placed at the end of the room opposite its main entry.

A bright, uncluttered room that displays a substantial expanse of clear floor and wall area will appear larger to the eye. The eye doesn’t come with a measuring tape; it only perceives the size of a room and, therefore, the size of a home. Decorate wisely and enjoy a roomier surrounding.

Mirrors can have a favorable impact on a room’s appearance. Visit model homes to see how effectively professional decorators use mirrors to “grow” the size of an otherwise small, confining space. The mirrors also reflect both natural and artificial light to make a room brighter during the day and night. The use of many mirrors can cheapen a space and make the room seem confusing and cluttered. Large, expansive mirrors over vanities, mirrored wardrobe doors or a floor-to-ceiling wall of mirrors (combined with our decorating suggestions) can make even the smallest of spaces seem larger.

For more home-improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com.


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