5 simple ways to make your home feel bigger
An architect shares her secrets for making a home feel larger without expensive renovations.
With home values falling and job losses mounting, Americans are putting their spending habits under the microscope. For would-be homebuyers, that might mean purchasing a smaller house that fits more comfortably into your budget. For homeowners, it could mean putting off plans for that family-room addition. But even if your home has limited space, it doesn’t have to feel cramped, says Sarah Susanka. Instead of expanding the size of the property, Susanka, an architect and author of the best-selling book “The Not So Big House,” says homeowners should make better use of interior space. In an interview with U.S. News, Susanka shared five simple ways that homeowners can make their houses feel bigger without expanding the size of the structure.
1. See it, use it: Often, rooms in American homes are located behind staircases or are otherwise hidden from main thoroughfares. “If you can’t see a room, you tend not to use it,” Susanka says. Leaving one or more rooms unused can make the house feel cramped, since activity is concentrated in a smaller area. “If you can open up the view from the kitchen or the family area to that underutilized space, you will start to use it merely because you can see it,” she says. To open sightlines, Susanka recommends building a “framed opening,” which is usually a foot or two wider than a doorway, into the wall that’s obstructing the view. “If you can’t open the wall completely, you can make an interior window instead,” she says. “That little strategy by itself will make your house both feel and live bigger.”
2. Diagonal view: Another secret to making a house feel larger is opening up what Susanka calls a “diagonal view,” or a line of vision that extends from one corner of the house to another. To do this, homeowners may need to remove some segments of the wall that’s blocking the line of vision. Once again, you might consider installing a framed opening or an interior window. “It can be a fairly narrow split that allows you to see from one corner to the other,” Susanka says. “I’ve had a lot of people over the years tell me that that little trick has served them extremely well. Their house instantly feels larger because they are able to look along the longest vista that’s available.”
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3. Double duty: Susanka says the floor plans of many of today’s homes have failed to keep pace with changes in lifestyle. For example, many homes still have formal dining and living rooms. “As a residential architect, I learned from my clients that 85 percent of them literally never used their formal living room and only occasionally used their formal dining rooms,” she says. When remodeling or building a home, Susanka suggests combining one living area and a dining area so that the new space can serve both formal and informal functions. “I call it doing double duty,” she says.
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Consolidating will free up space that can be used for something else, such as a home office or a media room. If you are really attached to your formal dining room, consider lining it with bookshelves so it can also serve as a library. “Plenty of people have too many books and no place to put them,” Susanka says. “Books are a type of interior décor that can’t be beat.” If you convert a rarely used room into one that’s more suited to everyday use, the entire house will feel more spacious, she says.
4. Get comfortable: Along the same lines, Susanka says that many American homes are decorated with visually appealing but uncomfortable furniture, especially in formal dining or living rooms. “Nobody is going to sit on that furniture,” she says.
That’s one reason rooms with such furnishings often remain empty, which in turn drives a greater share of household activity into a smaller area of the house. Simply find furniture that’s both comfortable and functional, Susanka recommends. “If you don’t like sitting in it, nobody else is going to like it either,” she says.
5. Vary ceiling heights: Many houses built in the past few decades include a great room, which Susanka describes as an open space that contains an informal living room, an informal dining room and a kitchen. Although such spaces often are expansive, they don’t have anything that distinguishes one activity area from another, so the whole space ends up feeling awkward and ill-fitting, she says: “If there is no contrast between spaces, we end up seeing it all as one large, amorphous nothing.”
In order to establish some contrast, Susanka recommends adjusting and varying the height of the ceilings. “Maybe a lower ceiling over the kitchen, a medium-height ceiling over the dining area, and the tall ceiling over the living space will give the contrast you need to make the area really begin to work together,” she says. “It often comes as a surprise that by lowering some ceilings to create a hierarchy of activity places, the whole space actually ends up living larger.” Raising a ceiling can be an expensive proposition because it requires changes to the support structure of the house, but “when you lower a ceiling, you are not affecting the structure,” Susanka says, “so it is usually quite easy to do.”
Buy a 50's house. Well built, with hardwood etc. and room to expand up or down. All the rage now. And the baby boomers snubbed their noses at them 30 years ago!
Let me offer another idea on how to save money and go green with your home remodeling. Low water use, green gardening system that provides nutritious food and gives you more bang for your buck. I have seen the system myself at one of the Garden clinics they provide and I was amazed. His name is Ted Hallett and they call him The Garden Master. Search for him on Google and you will find his website as well as some interesting articles.
a few simple almost $0.00 expense ideas. for storage use hanging shoe pocket storage. use them in closets to organize office supplies, kitchen stuff, bathroom supplies, make up, household tools, great for garage small items. also ON ANY DOOR u feel comfortable having it on.
if floor space is limited go narrow and up, use the top portion of a credenza, china cabinet, headboard, for entertainment cabinet. u can get them very cheap as they are sold with the bottom as sets the bottoms get damaged or out dated and the stores cant sell them alone. good quality furniture ,narrow book shelves etc.... i took the center shelving out of mine put it on the living room floor it has shelves on sides and it looks like a fire place mantel. i put my small stereo speakers in side shelves. just cut out holes in back for air circulation for electronics. put tv on wall above.
go up with beds. u can buy 15.00 bed raisers or use wood or bricks, under legs of bed (don't go crazy)bed w/ people are heavy, also u must consider "bed action") to create storage under the bed.
i have gone from a 5 acre large home w/ my greatdane in tow to a one bedroom small apartment. her food is in tall kitchen trash can in my closet. she goes everywhere. i use another hanging shoe rack in my closet for extra storage , anything u can roll. towels sweaters ...
anything that you can be used multiple purposes, in multiple venues, is a big plus. look around what you already have. get rid of things that don't and are just not used a lot.
if you like plants and have a balcony go up use bricks to raise plants so the narrowest part of one (usually the bottom) container meets the largest rim of the next one. terrace. hang them when possible. consider wind. water. to not have immediate run off to someone below, lay cheap painters cloth down it absorbs overflow, and grabs dirt. it will dry fairly quickly depending on weather. u can vacuum or sweep it, cheap to change out in 4-5 months if mold is an issue. or wash. if you use one or more cinder block you now have tool storage or small shelves under your plants.
more storage: if you hang long curtains hang them a few more inches away from the walls. instant storage behind them for folding chairs table bike surfboard.............
clear off tops of dressers. use an old shirt ??? to hang earrings from in your closet this makes it easy to view. hang bracelets, necklaces from hangers. no more knots in chains or missing one earring.
store these between clothes in your closet not in front out in the open for security and theft reasons. i also hang old pair of pants , tattered old or none seasonal coat for other things. don't use good clothes or jeans.
you can a mirror or picture with a firm plastic or wood back hang where accessible, hang using heavy latching hinge with 2 attached chains or rope to make a fold down table , or desk. a little more work using same and box the sides in you now have a cabinet.
if you have no windows make one. on a wall, ceiling or a useless corner, hang cheap window coverings and behind them up top hang a low level light ( one that does not heat up) fixture to give off that outside sun beaming in feel. you will feel less boxed in.
you can use this in kitchens bathrooms, over sinks , under sinks, or on walls for numerous purposes including space for storage depending on the depth from wall.
if you have a dishwasher use it for storage instead. i wash dishes . same w/ compactors. if you can take the tall water heater and replace it w a used newer more efficient small one. then use the rest of it as a cabinet.
well just a few simple, cheap, ideas. and if i can do it anyone can. necessities : glue, nails, home depot, imagination, garage sales, other peoples trash
ps: sorry for format, hands injured
Mirrors, paint and flooring are all great inexpensive options for making a space feel bigger. Times are tough for everyone and making due with what you have and doing work yourself is really the only option for many. Here are a couple articles that can help. One is a DIY Painting article and the other is about general DIY improvements. The author will even take questions and answer them. Kind of like the Bob Vila of the internet...lol
Both are good articles and have valuable information for any DIY homeowners
So these ideas don't apply to you tender readers...go watch another episode of HGTV if you want to see more about paint colors and mirrors. These ideas are all much less expensive than adding on a room to a home, which many people thought they would eventually do and now realize is out of reach. More to the point these ideas speak to the idea of quality over quantity...The title of the article may be misleading, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have merit.
I am fortunate enough to be buying a smaller house (1,100 sq ft) and leaving a small rental house. De-cluttering is a huge necessary (and very hard to do), as well as the suggestions of smaller furniture. (I couldn't even fit the oversized furniture in my larger house.) Paint colors as many of the previous posts mention is a huge consideration. Remember basic art principals when choosing colors - red hues pop out at you while blue tones recede. I have painted my rental house is lighter blues, turquoises, and light browns with white trim and people are amazed when they come over at how big the house feels inside.
I am lucky enough to have a friend who is a contractor and I am considering removing the small half wall the separates the kitchen from the living room/dining room in the house I am buying to make the space feel bigger, but of course like so many of you it depends on the budget. That tip alone makes this article valuable to me because I never thought of doing that before.
Stay positive everyone! I know that is trying times for so many. I wish you all happiness.
Maybe the biggest way to make a small home feel bigger is to de-clutter. I am going through that at the moment. Simple arrangements of furniture to the proper scale can make a small space feel comfortable.
Think also of "up" as in crown moulding, to make the room feel taller. I have 8-foot ceilings in my house. When I added crown moulding to my bathroom, it seemed to add another foot to the height of the room.
As to formal rooms, I like them. I enjoy having company over to sit in a room without a television or computer present. It's calming to sit in a formal room and read a good book. I don't have a formal dining room, yet, but I hope to one day. Casual dining is great but once in a while it is fun to eat in a room without looking at the appliances and dirty dishes on the counter. Not everyone has the space for a formal dining room (I certainly don't), but if they do have it, even a small one, go for it. My house has three small bedrooms: I use the largest as the master bedroom, one bedroom as a study and the third one as a den. Granted, I live alone and can get by with this.
Another thing a person could do is to think about how they paint the house. I once saw a show in which a guy used strong colors on the wall (in a small house) but he painted white below the chair rail and the rooms didn't look smaller.
Personally, I think the key is to think simply. Don't try to throw a lot into a room thinking it will make if feel bigger. Choose some favorite pieces and favorite accessories. Keep the scale in mind.