10 Small Space Design Mistakes We All Make (And How to Avoid Them)

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Design mistakes are always painful. After all, they mean you have wasted your time and effort. Even worse, you have to spend more of your time and effort to put things right. Unfortunately, small space design mistakes are even more painful because you have less room for error. As a result, it is a good idea to read up on small space design mistakes so you can avoid them.

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1. Being Stubborn

For starters, you shouldn’t be stubborn. Different spaces follow different design rules. Due to that, you should be very careful about implementing choices that don’t work with what you have on hand even though they work elsewhere. Instead, you should be flexible. That is because you should have a much better chance of finding something perfect for what you have on hand when you are willing to consider the full range of possibilities. Being stubborn about supposedly universal design rules blinds you to potentially superior alternatives.

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2. Buying Single-Function Furniture

Efficiency is one of the most important principles when working with a small space. After all, it enables you to squeeze the most utility out of what you have on hand, which is critical for ensuring a smooth living experience. There are countless ways to make more efficient use of a small space. However, buying multi-function furniture rather than single-function furniture is one of the best.

If you aren’t sure what that means, you should know The Spruce and other sources offer plenty of suggestions. One example would be chairs that fold out into beds. Another example would be shelves with built-in seating. You don’t even necessarily need to buy purpose-made pieces if you want multi-function furniture. Some pieces are just inherently more versatile than others. The classic example would be a dining table that doubles as a work table.

Multi-function furniture is great because it lets you pack more functions into your home while using up less of its limited space. Better still, it can save you a fair amount of money because you are using single pieces to replace multiple pieces. You can use your savings on much better uses elsewhere, which is good because interior design is a surprisingly hungry beast.

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3. Failing to Use Vertical Space

Most of the time, we don’t use our vertical space as much as we should. That makes sense to an extent. We can’t put exactly suspend things in empty air, meaning we face a major obstacle to the use of vertical space when we don’t face the same to the use of its horizontal counterpart. Fortunately, this is a long-recognized issue. Thanks to that, you can find suggestions for accessing your vertical space even from sources such as Apartment Therapy.

The easiest way to access your vertical space is by stacking things on top of one another. Be warned that this has some serious limitations. For example, stacking makes for a lot of cumulative weight, so make sure whatever is at the bottom can bear that burden without breaking. Similarly, stacking doesn’t make for the most stable structures, so being pelted by falling objects is a real concern.

Instead, if you want something more reliable, you should get a sturdy storage solution that can give you access to your vertical space. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are a great option for this task. However, you also have alternatives ranging from hooks to open shelves.

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4. Getting Oversized Furniture

Another common mistake people make when working with small spaces is buying furniture meant for their bigger counterparts. Always choose appropriately-sized furniture. Working with small spaces just makes that even more important because you will burden yourself with a whole host of extra complications if you make an error of judgment.

Imagine the hassle of getting oversized furniture into your home, realizing it isn’t a good fit, and then getting it out of your home. If you are lucky, you will come to the realization early so you can just return the furniture to the seller. In contrast, if you aren’t lucky, well, suffice it to say you won’t get full value for used furniture. The process is even worse if you aren’t in good physical condition. Plenty of people hurt themselves moving furniture because furniture is heavy.

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5. Having Too Much Clutter

Letting clutter build-up is one of the worst mistakes for anyone living in a smaller space. Your situation is already bad. Unfortunately, it can steadily worsen if you do nothing about the natural tendency for people to accumulate clutter. The more you put off this problem, the more intimidating it will become. As a result, you need to be proactive about clutter when you live in a smaller space.

The Simplicity Habit offers several ways to prevent the accumulation of clutter. Many of these ways are simple but effective. For instance, you should always question yourself when you are about to bring something home. If you don’t have a clear use for it and a clear place to store it, you should rethink your decision. Similarly, you can ignore freebies, go paperless, and buy individual items rather than sets of items.

Decluttering Simplified

Other ways are more complicated, particularly since they often involve better ways of organizing your belongings. Consider storing your belongings in places close to where you expect to use them. You can’t do this for every item because you won’t have enough immediate storage space. Due to that, you should prioritize items you expect to use regularly while storing their less-used counterparts in more remote and inaccessible locations.

You also need to learn the art of decluttering from Parade and similar sources. The general idea is straightforward. If you haven’t used something in a long time, you should get rid of it. Under ideal circumstances, you can either sell it or donate it. Failing those, you should toss it because that is better than letting it take up your limited space. You don’t necessarily have to declutter your home in a single go.

That tends to be a bad idea because making something too laborious and time-consuming increases the chances of procrastination. Instead, you should spread it out over several days, thus making it that much more manageable. Indeed, it is a good idea to get into the habit of daily decluttering because that is the least stressful way to push back against the natural tendency to accumulate clutter.

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6. Not Having Enough Lighting

Adequate lighting is extra important for smaller spaces. It is already easier for people to feel cramped and closed in under such circumstances. Inadequate lighting makes it even worse because darkness strengthens such negative impressions. To ensure sufficient illumination, you must have the right mix of natural and artificial lighting.

Windows will be one of your best tools for this task. They let in the natural light. Furthermore, they let in the fresh air. As such, windows are extremely effective at making a home seem open and spacious. To ensure the best results, you need to prevent your windows from being blocked. You should choose lighter window treatments because anything too dark and too large will take up too much visual space.

Obstructing Windows

Simultaneously, you should place your furniture so that nothing will obstruct your windows. Done right, you can expect a notable improvement in your well-being. That is particularly true because Healthline points out you are healthier when you get enough natural light.

With that said, you can’t count on natural light for everything when illuminating your home. Fortunately, we live in an age when we can choose from a wide range of artificial lighting. Consider layering artificial lighting for the best results. Yes, more lighting means more clarity. Still, that is just the start of things. If you are interested, you can get an incredible degree of control over how your home looks by playing with angles, tones, and intensities.

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7. Putting Down Rugs That Are Too Small

Rugs are another versatile tool. For starters, they make their surroundings feel warmer and more welcoming. Thanks to that, rugs are wonderful for softening harsher settings. Better still, they come in a remarkable range of colors, patterns, and materials, meaning they can fit everywhere so long as they have the right combination of characteristics. Best of all, rugs are excellent unifiers, thus making them the easiest way to set up a separate space in the home for whatever reason.

Amusingly, one of the most common small space design mistakes is putting down a rug that is too small. That might seem strange. After all, it makes intuitive sense that a small rug suits a small space. The issue is that a small rug lacks the visual presence to pull a set of pieces together, thus making the latter look messy. At the very least, a rug should be big enough to go under the front legs of every piece. Putting down multiple small rugs is even worse because they will make for an even bigger visual mess.

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8. Failing to Use Your Dead Space

Dead space refers to space where nothing is happening in interior design. If you are working with a small space, you can’t afford to leave dead space alone because you are already short on space. Instead, you should do your best to put dead space to productive use.

For example, the nooks and crannies often wind up as dead spaces in a home. Due to this, you should come up with various ways to use your nooks and crannies. If nothing else, you can always put either shelving or some other storage location in said locations because you can always benefit from having more dead space. Please note that using dead space doesn’t necessarily mean filling it in.

Sometimes, you would do well to reposition pieces so that dead space is minimized rather than occupied with something physical. For instance, a lot of people push their furniture against the wall when they decorate a small space. They do so because they think that is the most efficient use of their limited space. In practice, that tends to create dead space at the center, thus resulting in an eyesore. The better solution is to have some furniture floating away from the walls, particularly if they are supposed to be a part of a scene.

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9. Using Dark Colors

Dark colors tend to be bad choices for small spaces. The fundamental issue is that they make their surroundings seem smaller, which is not a good thing when you are already struggling with a real lack of space. As a result, you should stick to using dark colors to accent various elements of your home. In that role, they work well to enhance their surroundings through the magic of contrast. The problem doesn’t come up unless you are overusing dark colors.

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10. Using Too Much or Too Little Color

On a related note, you should be careful about using either too much or too little color. Putting too much color in a single space creates similar issues to putting too many things in the same space. The colors won’t take up physical space. Unfortunately, they will exert a visual presence. As such, putting too much color in a single space makes for messy visuals, causing it to look more crowded than it is. Simultaneously, you don’t want to paint everything in your home white.

That offers the benefit of making your home seem somewhat bigger, which makes sense because white is opposed to darker colors. In exchange, that much white will make your home seem stark, which is not the welcoming impression you want for somewhere you expect to rest and relax. Under these circumstances, you are best off restraining yourself to a relatively limited palette for each room in your home. That way, you will neither overload your senses nor starve them by exposing them to a bland expanse of pure white. Balance is the best approach in this matter.

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