As an Airbnb and vacation rental design firm, we are very familiar with both the good and challenging aspects of small square footage.
There is a fine balance between creating a cozy retreat and a cluttered, claustrophobic mess (yikes!). Designing the charming instead of the crammed requires some purposeful strategy.
Don’t fret! Creating a successful small space layout is easier than you might imagine. The key is to trick the viewer into perceiving more space by employing eight simple concepts:
1. Bright White Paint – in Matte
Bright white paint, as in super bright with a matte finish, is one of our favorite ways to expand small spaces.
White is reflective and therefore opens up a room, making it feel airy, light, and peaceful. If you want a cloud-like effect, paint the walls and ceiling the same shade of white. Blurring the boundaries between wall and ceiling manipulates the eye to travel up, elevating the ceiling.
2. Ditch the Curtains
Curtains bulk up a room. Moreover, they distract the eye from taking in the view outside. Instead of curtains, consider simple white roller shades. They provide privacy and yet keep the space simple. And they’re not expensive.
If curtains are a must, in the case of sliding glass or French doors, for instance, use a bar that extends far beyond the window frame, so you can fully expose the window.
3. Built-in Bunk Beds
Bunk beds are a space saver’s dream, especially in vacation rentals and Airbnb’s catering to families. Unfortunately, bunk beds can easily take over, dwarfing everything else in the room. Building them into the wall, however, makes their footprint less prominent and unclutters the room.
Furthermore, built-in bunk beds are magnets for families! They activate children’s’ storybook fantasies of hidden hideaways, so featuring them in the first few listing photos is a great way to boost bookings.
Built-in bunk beds are not difficult to install; most carpenters can build them in as little as a weekend. Paint them the same color as the walls and they expand the room even more!
Built-in bunk beds are streamlined and less bulky than traditional ones. The best though? Kids love them! The Mas de la Roubine Residence from Kid & Co.
4. Mirrors, Mirrors, on the Wall
Wall mirrors are an old trick most of us learned from our elders (hence the reason why antique stores are filled with them) for adding instant square footage without actually doing so.
Mirrors both reflect light and the views outside, thereby tricking the eye into experiencing a more ample sense of openness.
We favor large mirrors for their power to maximize expansion. You find them aplenty at estate sales and via Craig’s List. Don’t like the finish? Paint them in a fetching high-gloss paint.
5. Keep it on the Down-Low
To create a feeling of spaciousness in a room, buy low to the ground furniture. It’s effective simply because it allows more space above.
For instance, in a small bedroom, a platform or loft-style bed makes the room look bigger. Likewise, in a living room, a low-profile mid-century inspired sofa frees up the room for more upper volume.
6. Leggy, Lithe Furniture
If you want to give the illusion that a room has more space, it’s critical to literally see more air. Lithe furniture allows the viewer to see through it, thereby opening up more cubic square feet.
In this Maui vacation rental, the owners chose leggy dining furniture, allowing the light from outside to stream through. Beach Cottage Maui
7. Banquet Seating in the Dining Room
Have a tiny dining room? Welcome to the club!
This is perhaps the most common challenge for our subscribers and clients.
Either a built-in banquet (with storage underneath) or an upholstered bench you can scoot up against one wall. Eliminating the need to pull out a chair on one side of a dining room not only captures square footage, it also makes the room look bigger.
8. The Lithe Luggage Rack
Luggage racks are cool!
All short-term rental bedrooms should have at least one. Not only do they deter guests from throwing dirty suitcases on your nice clean bed linens, they don’t take up much space. When not in use, they can be folded up and kept in the closet.
Luggage racks eliminate the need for too many bulky storage pieces, such as drawered nightstands and large dressers. Remember a huge percentage of your guests will never want to unpack, preferring to live out of their suitcase while residing in your vacation rental or Airbnb.
Word of caution: don’t cheap out! Avoid flimsy models that easily tip over, spilling out guests’ belongings on the floor. Instead, choose sturdy, long lasting luggage racks if you want to keep people happy.
Speaking of small bedrooms, if you want to literally add square footage to your bedrooms without changing the architectural footprint, check out this post.
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