Small Space Styling Tips from Erin Gates of Elements of Style

Decorating, How-To | | | 2 Replies

Small spaces present their own unique set of decorating challenges. Everything from furniture layout, to color palette, to accessorizing has an important impact on the way the room feels — much more so than more spacious rooms. Erin Gates of Elements of Style is certainly familiar with the issues that come with small spaces, and embraces those problems as decorating opportunities with beautiful solutions. Read on to get her top tips for styling small spaces!

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Gates’ first book, Elements of Style: Designing a Home and a Life, comes out October 7th and is available for pre-order.

Q: Sometimes styling a small space can be intimidating because people don’t want to just add more things to their home. What are your favorite ways to add style to a space without using too many items?

A: My number one piece of advice is to not fill a small space with small furniture and a bevy of small accessories! Think about maximizing your space with fewer, larger items that are functional but also grand: A rug that fills the space fully, regular scale chairs and sofas and BIG art — one big, fabulous work of art on a wall adds drama and makes a space look larger than a bunch of smaller pieces! Also consider painting your smaller spaces darker colors — it seems counter-intuitive but dark colors make walls recede and trick the eye into thinking they’re bigger.

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Q: What are some easy ways to add function and style to a small home?

A: Before you plan your room or buy anything be honest about how the space needs to function for you —not how it would function in an ideal world, but it YOUR real world! This is especially vital in a small home.  If you know your kids won’t put their stuff in a bunch of cute baskets, then it’s a waste to buy them even if they look cute on Pinterest — invest in a bunch of fun, awesome wall hooks instead! The most stylish home is one that serves you best AND reflects who you are as a family. When you have limited space it’s so important that everything not only serve a purpose, but also that it’s something you absolutely LOVE —the real estate in your living room is too valuable for it to be filled with a coffee table you are only so-so on. Wait for something you can’t pass up!

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Q: Do you have any suggestions for people who live in studios? How can you make it feel like a living room and a bedroom at the same time? 

A: Studios are one the trickiest spaces to decorate because you want to be able to entertain a friend or two without it feeling like you’ve invited them to a cocktail party in your bedroom.  I love the use of bookcases and screens to divide a studio space into dedicated areas. Also it’s possible to use ceiling mounted tracks (like those in hospitals) to hang drapery panels into functional room dividers (even when sheer they do delineate “sleeping space” from “watching Scandal” space).

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Q: We love color, but too much of it can feel overwhelming in small homes. What are a few simple ways to make a small space feel bigger without going all white?

A: DO NOT FEAR COLOR IN SMALL SPACES! As I mentioned earlier, dark colors can be your friend in small spaces- but color can be a great way to define one space from another. Just don’t paint every room in your home a different shade — it feels too choppy and scattered.  You want to unify your spaces with an overall theme — say it’s grey — do a light grey in living areas and then a darker grey in the bedroom and maybe a blue-grey in the bath! I find guest rooms and powder rooms to be a great space to go a little crazy and experiment — either with wallpaper or bright color!

Photography courtesy of Erin Gates

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