Good things come in small packages. Think of little teal Tiffany boxes and newborn babies. Your bedroom is no different; you don’t need a palatial floor plan in which to rest your head. In fact, a small bedroom can be cosy, cocoon-like and minimalist, the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day.
Of course, you need somewhere to store your stuff and furniture, and no one wants a bedroom that feels like a cell. Thankfully, there are plenty of clever tricks and tips to help you optimise a compact bedroom layout, incorporate storage and make it look bigger if that’s what you want. We canvassed the experts for their best advice and ideas.
1. Don’t shy away from colour when painting a small bedroom
Do dark colours make a small bedroom feel oppressive? Not at all, says Julia Canella, Stylist and Content Manager for Linen House. “Rich colours and textural pieces in deep hues set the tone for a space bursting with mood. Earthy tones are easy on the eye, too, and make the space ideal for sleep-time, lounging around or sneaky daytime naps.”
Opting for warm neutrals on the walls, such as Dulux Warm Neutral and Mellow Beige, or soft pastels, such as Bunny Soft or Wasabi, is a great way to introduce colour to a small room and still have that inviting feel, says Andrea Lucena-Orr, Colour and Communications Manager for Dulux.
“If you want to make the space appear larger, the best way is to introduce light greens and blues, such as Dulux Pre School or Lamb Ears, as they are receding colours,” explains Andrea. If you’re just besotted with dark shades, painting all four walls in your bedroom can create a luxurious and moody feeling, she adds. “Complement them with a light, neutral colour on the ceiling to make the space feel taller and lifted.”
Verity Kizek, Co-founder and Director of Saardé, recommends keeping the decor colour scheme cohesive. “Choose a palette of two to three colours to make a small bedroom feel thoughtful and uncluttered; a tonal bedding combination is perfect in this context.”
2. Add a decorative bedhead to your small bedroom
Space might be limited in your bedroom, but the wall space above your bed provides an opportunity to add colour, pattern, texture, drama — or all of the above! “A bedhead, whether simple or decorative, has the same effect as wall art,” says Julia. “It usually takes up minimal floor space and adds flair to a smaller room, giving you freedom of expression with almost no impact on space.”
No budget for a bedhead? No stress. You can paint a feature wall in a bold, rich colour or even a textured paint. “There are a number of different looks that textured paint can achieve, including concrete, chalk, metallic, rust and stainless steel,” explains Andrea. “Textured paint can certainly add a layer of interest to a small bedroom, but it’s important to ensure it complements the colour scheme, furnishings and accessories already in the home.”
In regard to what’s happening on the bed, throws and cushions in various textures, fabrics and colours add volume to your bed linen without taking up any floor space, adds Julia. “A handy stylist tip is to give one side of your bed one more pillow or cushion than the other to create an ‘L’ shape, which gives it a relaxed look that still honours stylish, luxe balance.”
3. Use mirrors to make a small room seem bigger
Mirrors are an interior decorator’s best friend: they trick your mind into thinking there’s more room in, well, your room. If you don’t have a mantel to play with, or a lot of wall space, resting a vertical mirror against a wall is really effective. The taller the better, since this will give you the illusion of height, as well.
“Secure a full-length or head-height mirror to the wall to really save on space,” advises Julia.
4. Update your room with striped wallpaper or V-groove panels
Stripes are timeless. Look at Breton and seersucker stripes — they have literally never been out of fashion. Consider vertically striped wallpaper for your small bedroom and you’ll never regret it (and if you do, just replace it… it’s only wallpaper!).
“Vertical stripes can create an illusion of height and make the ceiling appear higher, which makes the room feel more spacious,” says Sarah Jobse, Co-founder and Director of Oak & Orange. “On the other hand, horizontal stripes can make a room appear wider, which can be useful if you have a narrow space that you want to visually widen.”
V-groove (or, VJ or ‘shiplap’) panelling can have the same effect, drawing the eye up to take full advantage of ceiling height and make a space appear larger. You can also design a bedhead using V-groove panels.
When using striped wallpaper or V-groove panels to make a room appear bigger, choose a design that’s in proportion to the size of the room, advises Sarah. “Large stripes or panels can overwhelm a small room, while very small stripes or panels may not have the desired effect in a larger space.”
5. Build vertical storage to create more floor space
Look up! Keep the floor as clear as possible and add wall-mounted storage, if your budget allows. For example, Shaker-style cabinetry around and above the bedhead, space that’s typically under-utilised, looks chic and is oh-so-practical.
Add a small, sculptural piece or artwork to your shelving to create a focal point for the room, offers Verity. “This will help draw the eye and add interest to a small space,” she says.
6. Light up a small bedroom with wall sconces
Chucky pendants and table lamps will just add clutter to a small room, so think about installing wall sconce lights on either side of the bed so you can read, file your nails, journal or stare disdainfully at your snoring partner.
Pendant lights flanking the bedhead will work, too. “They should be small and simple in design, rather than large and elaborate. This will help to keep the focus on the room itself, rather than on the lighting fixtures,” says Sarah.
Choose wall sconces that direct light upwards and downwards, rather than outwards, Sarah adds. “This will help to create a more intimate and cosy atmosphere in the room, while still providing adequate lighting.
“Another great option for small bedrooms is recessed lighting. Recessed lights are installed directly into the ceiling and provide a clean, modern look. They can also highlight specific areas of the room, such as artwork or a reading nook.”
7. Opt for low-level furniture in a small bedroom
We’re not suggesting you revert to your uni days and sleep on a futon with a milk crate for a table, but selecting ‘short’ furniture can give the illusion of height, since you’re lengthening the gap between the top of the furniture and the ceiling.
And keep it simple. “Stick to minimal furniture, and leave the TV in the living room,” advises Julia. “A neat, uncluttered aesthetic allows your eye to travel to just the essentials, which is obviously your bed.”
8. Consider floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains in a small room
The right window treatment can make a big different in a small bedroom. Opt for sheer curtains versus heavy drapes. “Lighter-coloured fabrics, such as white, can help to reflect natural light and make the room feel brighter and more open,” says Sarah.
And if you hang curtains from the ceiling, or just below it, rather than the top of the window, this tricks your brain into thinking the top of the window is the same height as the top of the curtain. It’s not! It’s all a ruse. Allow the bottom of the curtains to pool softly on the floor, too.
9. Go for ‘double-duty’ furniture in a small room
Look for pieces that perform more than one function, so your furniture and decor doesn’t take up too much precious real estate. For example, a floating shelf with hooks for bags and coats; a bedside table with drawers; or a dresser (chest of drawers) and mirror combo.
“One of our favourite double-duty furniture pieces is an ottoman — a great multi-functional item that can serve as a footrest, extra seating and even storage,” says Sarah.
If the bed’s not in nightly use, consider a sofa bed. It’ll free up floor space and provide you with an extra spot to put your feet up, read, sip a G&T or entertain guests. “Look for a couch that’s designed for small spaces, so it doesn’t take up too much room,” offers Sarah.
Another fave of Oak & Orange’s: nesting tables, a set of tables that stack on top of each other when not in use, taking up minimal space. “They’re great for entertaining, as you can easily pull them out when you need extra surface space,” says Sarah. Good for any room, really.
10. Invest in a bed with storage underneath
Under-bed space is one of the most untapped resources of a compact bedroom. Slide storage boxes under the bed, or if you have the budget invest in an ensemble bed with built-in storage.
“With so many bed bases with storage on the market, it’s an obvious choice for small bedrooms,” says Jullia. “This helps to free-up floor space for shoes, clothing — or anything else, of course.” Anything but monsters, right?