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An interior designer's advice on decorating for small spaces

For Chesapeake Home + Living
An interior designer's advice on making the most of limited space:

Interior designer Mary Yeager maintains that the environment in which we spend our time impacts our emotions, which, in turn affect how we interact with others. “If we come home to a place that gives us joy, pleasure and peace, then we’re recharged and changed internally,” says the owner and operator of Singular Design Interiors. And when space is limited, finding that joy requires extra care. Yeager shares her advice on making the most of the space you have.

What’s a common mistake people make when decorating their homes?

People don’t take the time, initially, to think about how they are going to live in the space — what each part is going to do for them or how they will use it. You need to have some sense of that before you start buying furniture and putting things together. I feel that is the biggest problem — not thinking through function.

When space is limited, what’s the best way to determine what’s necessary and what’s not?

Start with a blank slate and remove all the furniture and accessories from the room. Start the “re-entry” process by bringing in the large pieces that support the function of the room — for example, a living room sofa and a dining room table. Do not bring back pieces that are extraneous.

What are some tricks for making a small space feel larger?

I think storage is a major consideration … because you do not want visual clutter. There are pieces of furniture that can act as storage units — multifunctional — instead of having a lot of pieces that have only one use.

One thing I have done is color blocking on walls to designate and identify various sections of a long and narrow room. Consider paint and wallpaper. Sometimes it’s a big piece of art that defines an area, or a rug on the floor. Edit to get rid of a lot of clutter and excessive pieces. Then put in colorful accessories. For me, it’s not about making the space feel bigger, it’s about utilizing the space to make it livable.

What role does color play in the well-decorated, smaller space?

Unless you’re selling, you don’t need to make your space look bigger. It is the same square footage regardless of paint color. A space with color can be cozy and dramatic. It should be appealing to you; it should make you happy at the end of the day when you walk into your home.

Does the same hold true for lighting?

Lighting is probably the most important factor in design, yet it is ignored, left until the end of the project when it really should be at the beginning. That includes light fixtures in addition to natural light sources. Lighting changes everything; it increases the volume of the room and the functionality of the room at night. It can be used to highlight art or architectural elements, create a mood or just add a piece of beautiful “jewelry” to a space.

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