When it comes to homes in America, the ethos for a long time has been that bigger is better. And although McMansions are still being erected all over the country, a newer trend has emerged in recent years, as people consciously choose to design and live in smaller spaces. Unless your name is Ant-Man, moving into a smaller home comes with many challenges, particularly if you’re downsizing. If you don’t want your home to feel like an overstuffed shoebox, consider the following when decorating a small space.

bedroom with TV and tall curtainsPractice sleight of hand. Effective usage of smaller living spaces requires a bit of sleight of hand. It’s all too easy for a poorly designed space to feel cluttered and claustrophobic, but this pitfall can be avoided by using mirrors, curtains, and partitions to make the space seem larger. To give the illusion of a higher ceiling and a more spacious room, place your drapes as high up on the wall as possible. Even something as simple as painting the entryway floor a different color can easily communicate the function of that space and separate it from other parts of your home.

Make your rooms multitask. Having smaller spaces means you’ll have less room to work with. It’s still a great idea to have spaces with specific purposes, but making them work well means most spaces in your home need to serve multiple purposes. Having separate zones for sleeping, eating, and working will help keep your design—and home—organized. In addition to creating the illusion of a larger space, the use of partitions or dividers establishes “rooms” in a larger space. For instance, a curtain could set your workspace apart from your leisure or entertaining spaces, and so on.

Create clever storage solutions. There’s no way around it: storage is a huge issue in smaller spaces, and it’s probably one of the biggest challenges. To deal with a dearth of storage options, a good motto to keep in mind is to think up and not out. Make full use of your walls to increase storage space, and install shelving all the way to the ceiling. Also make use of traditionally unused spaces like underneath staircases, and invest in furniture with built-in storage—bed frames or ottomans, for example. If you don’t do much entertaining, opt for smaller furniture. To that end, consider going retro—older furniture and appliances can have a smaller footprint, not to mention a lot of style. Lofted beds and stackable washers and dryers also save valuable real estate.

cardboard box holding items to be donatedPare down your possessions. Even after transforming your space into a well-thought-out beacon of minimalism, the simple truth is this: the less you have, the easier decorating a small space will be. If you’re moving into a cute little apartment near the heart of downtown, it probably isn’t a stretch to say that the china hutch may have to go. When moving into a smaller space, some downsizing may be in order. You can donate to charity or gift to friends, and anything you want to keep but don’t have room for can always be put in storage.

Making the most of a small space requires a bit of creativity because it requires you to envision the space in a completely new way. While decorating a small home can be a real challenge, when done right, it results in a unified, efficient space where every element is purposeful and deliberate.

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