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The Number-One Small-Space Decorating Mistake, According to Nate Berkus

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Photo courtesy of Studio McGee.

The options for decorating a small space can be frustratingly limited. Some pros dictate that you must maintain a clean white color palette; others advise you to throw out your clutter in the name of a simplified aesthetic. Nate Berkus would like you to consider a different approach. The designer shared his go-to tip for designing a small space—and it turns out, going bold may actually be the solution to your tiny-home woes. 

One design mistake that people make in small spaces is buying the wrong-scale furniture,” he explains in an Instagram post. “Going with small pieces of furniture might feel like the right move, but then you end up with tiny, uncomfortable pieces that you’ll leave behind.”

His advice? “Commit and buy a full-size sofa—and stretch all the way out on it.”

Screenshot_2020-06-01 The One Small Space Decorating Tip Nate Berkus Swears By.jpg

Other small-space design pros are in agreement. “Keep in mind that one larger accessory or piece of furniture is oftentimes more appropriate than several smaller designs,” says Whitney Leigh Morris. “For example, in our tiny cottage, we have a sizable built-in sofa that can comfortably seat five or host two (tall!) overnight guests. The space would be more difficult to navigate with a small couch, ottoman, accent table, and armchairs.”

So bulk up, small-space dwellers. We’ll gladly rebuke this decorating myth in the name of statement-making style—it’ll take a little digging to find the best furniture. In the meantime, here are some other smart ways to make the most of a cramped spot:

Go Heavy on Greenery


Photo courtesy of Emily Henderson Design.

Having an overflow of plants is not clutter. It’s a healthy choice that will help keep your air pure and your stress level low. For proof that it can be done to the max in a minimal space, look to Chelsae Sahlman’s 650-square-foot home. To start off, try hanging a few trailing plants from the ceiling, which won’t take up any valuable shelf space. 

Draw the Eye Up


Photo courtesy of Camille Architectures.

If you’re stuck in a small, narrow space but are blessed with high ceilings, maximize their benefits. Go the gallery wall route, adorning your walls with a collection of your favorite photos and prints all the way up to the molding. Or try adding floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to sneak in extra storage.  

Make Storage Stylish


Photo courtesy of Kara Mann.

If you have to organize everything in plain sight, make sure that your storage vessels mesh well with the vibe of your space. “The functional things in a home can be beautiful, so shop smart. Buy pots, pans, and plates you don’t need to hide. Linens can be stored in vintage suitcases,” suggests designer Kim Lewis, whose 560-square-foot home is chock-full of great examples. It can be as simple as using a trunk as your coffee table—no one will ever know there are bulky sweaters or throw blankets hiding inside. 

Elly Leavitt is an Associate Digital Editor at Domino.

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This post originally appeared on Domino and was published February 2, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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