Cheap tricks that will make your home feel bigger
There are hundreds of ways to keep your home environmentally friendly, but the single most important factor in a home’s sustainability is size. Large homes are far less sustainable to build, more expensive to heat and cool, and use electricity much less efficiently. Downsizing is a great idea for both environmental and economic reasons—but if you’re worried about how your family will cope with a smaller space, here are a few quick fixes that will make your home more livable.
The simplest fix for a cramped bedroom is to show off your baseboards—the more of the walls your eye can see, the more open the room will feel. Remove your bed skirts or footboards, and, if possible, raise the bed frame. Instead of a bulky nightstand, opt for an end table with a thin profile. Depending on your closet space, you may also be able to clear the floor in your bedroom with a closet organizer, instead of a bulky dresser or vanity.
Also, any room in the house can be made to appear larger with an “accent wall”. Paint one of the narrower walls in the room with a deep, bold color that complements your overall color scheme—this will visually stretch the room, especially if it’s very narrow, and make it feel less tunnel-like.
Half the battle in opening up your living room will be picking the right furniture. Select one or two large pieces—they’ll look less cramped than a lot of small pieces, and they’ll be easier to match. Avoid furniture with big rolled arms and rounded edges—these take up more space than right angles. If possible, remove the sofa skirts to expose your baseboards. The more of the walls your eye can see, the more expansive the room will feel.
Also, make use of the room’s vertical space. Wherever you can, replace floor lamps, bookshelves, and potted plants with sconces, wall-mounted shelving, and hanging plants. This will make your floor feel less mazelike.
The kitchen is potentially the busiest and most cramped room in the house, so it’s important to open it up. A unified color scheme will help –pick one or two light, cool colors to give the room a sense of order and structure. Then, think about opening up your kitchen cabinets to increase the visual space—when you can see through to all four walls, the room will feel much larger. Remove the doors at the hinges with a screwdriver, fill the holes with wood putty, then sand them down and repaint. (This tip works better if you have matching dishware, to avoid looking cluttered.)
If your kitchen has space above the cabinets, run a string of Christmas tree lights along the top (out of sight, of course), and keep the line taut so that the lights show evenly. This cheap “recessed lighting” will draw the eye to the vertical space and make the room feel bigger.
Your paint or wallpaper will make all the difference in a cramped bathroom. Dark, rich colors will soak up the light and make the room feel cave-like, so go for a light, breezy color scheme, preferably with textured wallpaper or spackling. Any room will benefit from the addition of large mirrors to increase visual depth, but this is especially true of your bathroom.
If you’re looking for a slightly involved project, you can replace a bulky vanity with a pedestal sink, and move most of your hygiene items into a larger, recessed medicine cabinet. (That will involve knocking into your drywall a bit, but any good store-bought kit will provide simple instructions.) The ability to make use of your inter-wall space will do wonders to reduce the sense of clutter and busy-ness in a tight bathroom.
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.