How do you style a small house? 11 ploys interior designers use

Take inspiration from designers and discover how to style a small house

Small house styling - three rooms: a living room, bedroom and living room
(Image credit: Emma Green Design Photograph: Chris Snook Photography / Future/Polly Wreford / Corine Maggio / CM Natural Designs)

Styling a small house can seem challenging, but it needn’t be. You can adopt many of the same strategies you do when styling a larger house, paying attention to proportion, allied with tactics that keep it feeling spacious.

The key to styling a small house is avoiding overcrowding the space while still creating interiors rich in interest. And great styling in a small home will mean it doesn’t feel compact but open and airy as well as super chic.

Whether you’re curating small room ideas for a living space, bedroom, or another part of your home, these interior design tips will give you the knowhow you need to style a small house.

How do you style a small house?

Editing is key to styling any interior, but especially when it comes to a small house, and one key aim with your styling is always going to be to make a small room look bigger

‘Avoid making a small house feel overwhelmed with too many accessories and “objets” to keep the space feeling open and more spacious,’ says Jessica Hubner, founder of Hubner Studio (opens in new tab). ‘Instead, carefully select certain memorabilia that complement your interiors scheme to curate a more considered approach when decorating open shelving or arranging artwork.’

Discover how to style a small house successfully with this advice from designers.

1. Plan a color thread

Living room with gray couch with blue throw and red patterned pillow and red cabinet

(Image credit: Emma Green Design Photograph: Chris Snook Photography)

Styling a small house successfully should make it feel open and spacious, and the careful use of room color ideas can be a way to help achieve this goal.

‘Use a general color thread through the house,’ advises BIID registered interior designer Emma Green (opens in new tab). ‘Not the same color in every room, but a thread that links all the rooms to provide a cohesive overall look and feel creating the feeling of space and flow.’

In the home pictured above, Emma used a common thread of various blues, punctuated with different reds and burgundies. 

2. Make an impact with standout furniture

Small bedroom decorated in neutral colors with 4 poster bed

(Image credit: Katharine Pooley)

Both decor and furniture still need to make an impression in a compact home.

‘For styling a small house it’s all about a choosing a handful of impactful, striking, details,’ says interior designer Katharine Pooley (opens in new tab). ‘Too much and the space is overwhelmed, too little and it risks being non-descript.'

This can work whether you are looking for small bedroom ideas or hope to make a small bedroom look bigger.

‘I love a four-poster bed in a small bedroom, it adds impact and interest, and if you go for a clean-lined contemporary design it actually makes the space feel larger. I had a bespoke oak design made for my Lake District cottage (above) and then added some pretty handcrafted ceramic flowers to the wall behind for a pretty additional detail.’

3. Be bold with wallpaper

shaker kitchen with blue and yellow cabinets and patterned floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Sanderson)

You can choose striking patterned wallpaper ideas to style a small house.

‘A big mistake many homeowners make is playing it safe when it comes to their wallpaper selection, especially in smaller spaces but walls and even ceilings are the perfect place to add some designer flair and make a statement – so don’t ignore them,’ says Avalana Simpson of Avalana Design (opens in new tab).

‘Homeowners are easily swayed into going plain and light in cottages, small apartments and cozy kitchens but don't be confined to going for clinical white or greige paint as it doesn’t always create the illusion of space,’ she continues.

You can use this technique in your search for small kitchen ideas

‘In fact, using darker tones on kitchen cabinets and tiling for example and opting for a contrasting statement wallpaper can draw the eye; it also helps to blur the harsh lines and edges of the room to add depth and shadows.’ Not to mention these tricks will make a small kitchen look bigger.

4. Incorporate soft textures

Textured wallpaper, mirror and side table

(Image credit: Juliettes Interiors)

Think about using texture in interior design as well as the color selection to create interest in a small house.

 ‘I’d recommend a soothing color palette with soft textures and fabrics such as bouclé and velvet to allow for a cohesive scheme that flows from room to room, paired with beautiful pieces of stylish yet functional furniture,’ says Juliette Thomas, founder and director, Juliettes Interiors (opens in new tab).

‘You can then have fun with your accessories and lighting, for example, without the finished look being overpowering.’

5. Use lanterns as statement lighting

Kitchen with blue island and white cabinets and glass pendant light

(Image credit: Katharine Pooley)

To style a small house, you may need to change your approach to pendant lighting. 

‘A small home can’t take a chandelier, in fact it would look quite wrong, and that is when interior lanterns can look very smart and stylish,’ says Katharine Pooley.

‘I recently hung a pair of clover-shaped lanterns in the orangery of a mews house. They add lots of light for the evenings and their clean lines suit a smaller space. 

‘Similarly, consider an open-faced lantern for a smaller kitchen: polished nickel works well, adds a sculptural sense of “wow” but doesn’t fill the space or block the light.’  

6. Cocoon in color

Living room with blue walls and cabinets and fireplace

(Image credit: Article Design Studio)

You definitely don’t need to rule out cocooning color when you’re styling a small house.

‘Do not be afraid of rich colors to give each modest space an identity and warmth,’ says BIID registered interior designer Katy Manolescue, director, Article Design Studio (opens in new tab).

This works particularly well in small living rooms, and although this technique won't make a small living look bigger, it will make it feel cozy.

‘In this north-facing living room we chose Farrow & Ball Inchrya Blue and paired it with ochre and wine-colored upholsteries resulting in a warm, enveloping space to relax and entertain in.’

'Color drenching', as it is known, is a simple way to make a small living room look nice

7. Conjure up a slimline headboard

Green bedroom with a hanging fabric panel in Lewis & Wood's Coromandel linen

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

Thoughtful solutions can be required to include headboard ideas in a small house. 

‘Upholstered, paneled headboards create a statement of pattern and allow a large-scale item while still keeping an insignificant footprint in a bedroom as compared to a whole bed with frame and footboard,’ says Kristin Kong of K Kong Designs (opens in new tab)

But if there’s insufficient room for one of these, there is still an answer. ‘In a condo with a tiny bedroom, we even hung a drapery panel from the ceiling to create height where a headboard would take up too much real estate,’ says Kristin.

8. Choose a floor mirror

Graham & Green large window pane mirror

(Image credit: Graham & Green)

That decorating with mirrors can visually expand space is well known but, when using them in styling a small house, try sizing up.

‘The most effective of all is an oversized mirror as it will inevitably make your room feel larger,’ says Jon Sharpe, chief creative officer of LuxDeco's Interior Design Studio (opens in new tab)

‘Try a floor-length mirror behind a piece of furniture (it needs to be roughly the same width or it will look like it’s just been placed there to be out of the way rather than being a considered design choice) if your space is limited.’

living room with red chair and gallery wall

(Image credit: Corine Maggio / CM Natural Designs)

Gallery wall ideas aren’t just for large homes. As well as adding individuality in a small home, one of these can perform a neat visual trick.

‘By covering a large portion of the wall it will help to open up a space and draw the eye up,’ explains Freya Reed, senior interior designer from Vesta (opens in new tab). ‘It will make the space feel expansive whilst displaying personal mementoes and photographs.’

10. Enjoy chic storage

Walk-in closet in alcove

(Image credit: Neatsmith)

Walk-in closet ideas can undoubtedly be stylish, and living in a small house definitely needn’t mean missing out on the chic way to organize clothes, store shoes, and bags.

But how to introduce it? Take inspiration from Philipp Nagel, director at Neatsmith (opens in new tab). ‘We are creating more mini walk-ins than ever before. These are created within alcove spaces and while they look like a fitted closet from the outside, when the doors are open, they reveal a space you can step inside, often with double clothes rails, drawers and illuminated beautifully by LEDs.’

11. Lead the eye

Hallway with striped runner and view out of front door

(Image credit: Kersaint Cobb)

Decorating with stripes is a technique worth making use of to style a small home. Not only are they enduringly on trend, as well as smart, but they can also allow you to play with the proportions of the space. Using line in interior design in conjunction with stripes is incredibly powerful in helping you create perfectly proportioned spaces, too.

‘Using stripe designs in your flooring can stretch the dimensions of the room by drawing the eye to the direction of the stripe,’ says Jon Flannigan of Kersaint Cobb (opens in new tab)

Opt for wood flooring and you can achieve a similar effect lengthening or widening a room according to the direction in which you lay the boards.

How do you make a small house look bigger?

To make a small house look bigger, decluttering should be your number one priority. This doesn't just mean daily clutter but also superfluous or tall furniture; low-slung, glass, mirrored or wall-hung furniture will all stretch space visually. Paint walls pale colors, choosing a ceiling finish that's two shades lighter and decorate with subtle stripes to create visual tricks. Ensure your storage ideas are they best they can be – fitted furniture is more space-efficient than freestanding. Hang light-colored wall decor or large mirrors, clear windowsills and ensure window treatment ideas let in as much light as possible; artificial lighting should be optimized to mimic daylight where possible and to create softer, warmer pools of light, too. 

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.