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Big Thinking

Simon Stevenson

 In a small living area, everything counts – wall and ceiling colours, lighting, furniture, right down to your choice of window coverings. If knocking down walls is not your preferred option, and it’s usually not, here are a few clever tips you can use to make your small space look and feel bigger. Best of all they are things you can do yourself, won’t break the bank and shouldn’t take more than a weekend.  

Generally speaking, light colours can make a room look larger while dark colours can close it in.  This is especially true with ceilings; dark colours can visually lower the height of a room while light colours can lift it. Here’s a little trade secret that you might want to try. Painting your walls and ceilings the same colour can give the impression of a more spacious room.  There is no break in colour so it’s harder for the eye to tell where the walls end and the ceilings begin. It’s a clean and smart look that creates a light and airy feel. Alternatively, paint your walls, cornice and ceilings in different shades of one colour.   

Mirrors will do wonders in making a small space look bigger. Not necessarily a wall-to-wall, but a well-placed mirror is very effective. One smart and quick idea is to place a mirror close to a window. This will reflect light and make the room feel larger than it actually is.  A big mirror can give the illusion of an extra door or window. Mirrored wall to ceiling wardrobe doors in the bedroom will also give the same result. 
A place for everything and everything in its place’ is the golden rule when it comes to small spaces.   

You also need to cut the clutter and be relentless about it.  If you haven’t used an item in a year or more, chances are you’re not going to miss it. Think of some creative storage solutions like the unused space under your stairs or the rafters in your garage. There has been a huge boom in storage products over the past few years, just take a look in the aisles of your local hardware store. There are even shops that are specially designed to solve your all your storage needs. Racks, hooks, shelves and baskets make it possible use every nook and cranny for extra space.   

Then let the sun shine in. Take advantage of as much natural light as possible. Preferably ditch the curtains altogether but, if privacy is an issue, consider blinds or shutters. Having them recessed inside the window frame won’t crowd the room.  If you’ve got your heart set on drapes, choose them in the same colour as your walls and attach the poles higher than required to give the impression of bigger windows. Short on windows? Check out the fantastic selection of skylights and sun tunnels available these days, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Best of all, there will be one to suit your needs and budget.  

Struggling with a small kitchen? Paint the cupboards in the same colour as the walls or consider open shelves.  Another option is to replace the front of your top cupboards with glass panels, this will give extra depth. Benchtops in a solid, light colour will also brighten up the room. 

If you’re purchasing new furniture, consider buying multi-functional pieces.  A timber chest or trunk can double as a coffee table, giving you a bit of extra storage space and a sofa bed is always a practical, space saving idea.  

Simon Stevenson hosts the very popular Simons House Home Improvement Show on 2UE 954am Saturdays from 1.00pm and Fridays from 1.00am.  His handy home improvement tips can be heard on radio stations all across Australia.  You can visit or send an email to

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