Interior design for small homes: 7 expert tips

tobyshome sitting roomBe it a bijou apartment, a country cottage, or a marvellous mews house… a smaller size is no barrier to interior design stylishness.  Here are some expert interior design and lighting tips for the more compact abode…

Tip 1: Emphasise the vertical space 

Make a small home feel bigger and more open by maximising the amount of visible floor space, and making the most of the vertical space. Aim to keep the floor and surfaces free from clutter, and place larger items around the perimeter of the room – be sure to leave a gap between the wall and any large pieces of furniture to help maintain the visual flow and avoid that cramped feel.  

Built-in or wall-mounted cupboards and floating shelves are space-efficient storage options that will help to reduce the footprint of your furniture. Meanwhile, a set of wall-mounted lights will cast a lovely warm light up and along the wall, drawing the eye upwards and emphasising the vertical space, without encroaching on valuable floor space. 


Tip 2: Go big on combining style and function  

While it’s important to avoid overcrowding a small home with furniture and accessories, at the same time opting for compact furniture can actually make a small space feel even more restricted. The trick is to choose a few select items that will really add value to your home in terms of both style and function…and go as large as you can.

Toby Perryman-Payne (@tobyshome), small interiors expert and Instagram star, recommends opting for furniture that’s specifically tailored for your space: “Going bespoke in cabinetry and furniture is crucial in helping smaller spaces feel more functional”.

tobyshome kitchen

Above and top: kitchen and sitting room in the famously small cottage styled by Toby Perryman-Payne. Note the layered light and bespoke, multi-purpose features. Images: @tobyshome.

Tip 3: Add warmth and atmosphere by layering your lighting

Lighting plays an essential role in styling a small home, helping to open up the space and eradicate dark corners, and adding warmth and atmosphere. The best lighting schemes use a combination of different types of lighting, as designer Toby Perryman-Payne explains: “It’s important to have a layered lighting scheme in every room – a mix of ceiling, floor, table, wall lighting will help create a comforting, welcoming environment”. 

Your choice of light fitting can also make a striking style statement in its own right. Even in a small space, a feature pendant light or chandelier can create a lovely focal point and add some real wow factor – and you can normally afford to go bigger than you might think! Meanwhile, designer table lamps are like little works of art in their own right, and a strategically placed table lamp will double up as both useful task lighting and a beautiful statement piece.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to embrace colour and pattern

Just because you’re styling a smaller home, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with neutrals! While whites and lighter tones do indeed reflect the most light, introducing some colour and texture can really add depth, character and cosiness to a small space. 

Try using a deep colour on a single wall to draw the eye, or introducing colour accents via accessories and soft furnishings such as throws, cushions and rugs; alternatively, go all-out and embrace your small space with a rich, bold colour scheme, for a lovely cocooned feeling. 

amara bathroom

Two very small but very stylish rooms that prove you don't need to rely on neutrals in tiny spaces! Photo top by Amara @thepajaamahub; and (bottom) bathroom styled by Anna Haines (photo: Andrew Steel).


Tip 5: Use artwork to add depth and character 

Some carefully chosen artworks can really add depth and character to a small space. Make a statement in a sitting room with a large, eye-catching artwork above the fireplace or over the sofa, or use a gallery of smaller pictures to give visual interest to little nooks and feature walls.

You can also make a feature of your chosen artworks by illuminating them with some stylish picture lights, which are specially designed to make the most of your masterpiece. 

alice grace interiors

Artworks and a Carrington lantern make a wonderful feature of this little space by Alice Grace Interiors.

Tip 6: Use mirrors to enhance the sense of light and space

Mirrors are a great way of increasing the sense of light and space in a small home, and they’re also fabulous decorative items in their own right. Again, it’s best to go as large as possible: an oversized mirror can actually make a small space feel and look bigger and more open. 

Try placing a large mirror, or a row of mirrors, opposite a window to instantly amplify the natural light. Meanwhile, placing a large mirror behind a table lamp or floor lamp will reflect the light back into the room, effectively doubling the amount of available light. Finally, hanging a mirror opposite the doorway will help to reflect additional light around the space and improve the sense of flow between rooms. 

mytinyestateA Feathers mirror in antiqued gold brightens and enlarges this bedroom by @mytinyestate

Tip 7: Transform a small space with lampshades

Lampshades are a simple and effective way of adding colour and texture to a small space – even when the lights are switched off! The beauty is they’re so flexible, and by simply changing up your lampshades you can instantly transform a space, without the need to redecorate.

Lampshades come in a huge range of colours, patterns and materials, from deep rich velvets to cool crisp linens and eye-catching ikat designs, so you can easily find a set to suit your space. 

tobyshome sitting roomSitting room by @tobyshome.


Pooky make beautiful lights for beautiful homes of all shapes and sizes. View our full range of light, shades and more.

See also:

Meet the interior design star: Toby Perryman-Payne (@tobyshome) 
Interior design tips: Buying and displaying decorative art for the home 
How to light an open plan space - 5 top lighting tips 
How to boost the natural light in your home