Thanks to nationwide stay-at-home orders, we’re all suddenly spending a lot of time in the same small spaces. To combat the coronavirus cabin fever, we’ve talked to professional organizers, interior designers and an organizational psychologist about ways to make your home feel more spacious.
Before you begin, think about spaces that have made you feel calmed and how they were arranged. Shalae Price, a professional organizer, gives hotel rooms as an example, “Most hotel rooms are designed to feel much bigger than they actually are. The furniture placement is well thought-out and the decor (in most cases) would be considered minimalist.”
Decluttering is an obvious first step to clearing up your space. Anyone can do it and with few resources. Walk from room to room and put things away, clear up random papers or cardboard boxes, and collect together small things that don’t have a home. If an item isn’t for decor and isn’t used on a regular basis, consider storing it out of sight or donating it if your local donation centers are still in operation.
Craig Anderson, Editor at Appliance Analysts, says you have to earn your free space. “Any good minimalist will tell you that free surface space makes you freer. It’s also the first thing to go when we get lazy and leave clutter around. Having unused surfaces (desks, tables, counters) makes a room feel MUCH larger.”
A good way to get into the habit of regular decluttering, according to Amy Bloomer, a professional organizer with an MA in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, is a bin dedicated to clutter. “I encourage clients to keep a basket at the bottom of their stairs. This becomes the “catch-all” for things that have migrated downstairs and/or out of place. Once a day, make it a habit to put back everything you’ve accumulated in the basket. It won’t take long and it will help to maintain clear, calm spaces before retiring for the night.”
The more floor space, the bigger the room will feel.
“The floor is not a storage space but we often create piles in corners that grow and expand over time. These piles tend to be delayed decisions, items that have no home so they get set aside on the floor. As these piles encroach on our living space we feel weighed down. Our actual physical living space shrinks. Tackling these piles and freeing up floor space will immediately create lighter, brighter spaces. In our experience, if you haven’t looked at items in these piles for a long time they are often items that can be let go.”
– Andrea Walker, Certified Professional Organizer, Smartly Organized
This applies to the floor space between furniture and walls, too. When all your furniture is set against the walls, it really outlines the boundaries of your room and highlights how small that space is. By making sure some of your furniture has a little air between the wall, it creates a better sense of roominess.
Get creative with the way you store things and be more critical with what you choose to have out. You can keep it simple by folding blankets into a chest or basket, having a dedicated basket for pet toys, and hanging photos instead of resting them on furniture.
Multi-functional furniture that doubles as storage is a great way to optimize your space. Seats, coffee tables and ottomans with hidden storage can help keep blankets, movies, games or clutter off of furniture and the floors. You can also install floating shelves to elongate the walls and store things away from the floor.
Anderson advocated for putting away the things you don’t use every day, “There are SO many things we own that we use maybe once or twice a year. These should be kept well hidden in a chest, under the bed, or in a DIY-cupboard.”
Debra Newell, owner and President of Ambrosia Home, told us that “large mirrors are a must. You want to reflect back into the room and give the illusion that you have more space.”
Mirrors will bounce more light around, give a sense of movement, and visually double the size of your space. You can use floor-length mirrors, mirrored closet doors or hang smaller mirrors on the walls.
Decorate your space with intention and don’t be afraid of some dead space. A bunch of small things scattered around can feel more like clutter than a few larger statement pieces. Walls, shelves, dressers, countertops and computer desks can all benefit from a critical “do I need this?” scan.
Price advised us to, “Pick one room at a time, then look at your walls and surfaces. Do you really LOVE everything you see? Remove the items that you don’t love, and of course, keep the items that mean something to you or define your style.”
Concentrate that decor in a few spaces, like an accent wall, rather than spreading it out all over. Leaving some surfaces and walls open will visually elongate the room.
If you’re in a position to buy new furniture — keep it low. Furniture that is generally lower can help an area feel much bigger simply because it leaves more open space above. This applies to the leg style of furniture too; open or post-style legs will show more space and appear to be floating, compared to large furniture that rests directly on the floor.
Newell advises: “Keep the arms and backs of chairs and sofas low, even legs on a sofa are important. Add ottomans for seating. No floating large furniture in the middle of the room.” She also recommends dining chairs you can push all the way under a table to store when you’re not using them.
Light is a simple and powerful tool that can completely transform a room. Lighting up dark corners and having multiple sources around the room will create space.
“Spread out your lighting. It may be more cost-efficient to just use one large light in the center of the room – but it’s a sure way to make everything seem smaller. Cultivate an atmosphere using 2 or 3 ambient lamps around your space. By literally spreading out the lighting, you’ll also be metaphorically stretching out the room.”
— Craig Anderson, Editor at Appliance Analysts
Now is the perfect time to rearrange your space. Use what you have at home, order online, and minimize trips out. You can also use this time to prepare and plan bigger projects for when stores are open and it’s recommended to go out again.