Tricks of the Trade for Small Spaces

Small spaces can present interior design challenges and plenty of questions. David Kaplan of David Kaplan Interior Design LLC has some basic—and maybe not-so-obvious—tricks of the trade in dealing with those small spaces in your home.

The Question: Other than building an addition or getting into a major renovation project, can you offer us some helpful hints to make some of the smaller rooms in our home feel less cramped and flow better with the rest of the house?

The Answer from David Kaplan of David Kaplan Interior Design LLC: Firstly, let’s review the current and desired function of the room to see if perhaps activities can be switched up between existing rooms, make a checklist of what is lacking and what are dreams vs needs.

From there, it helps to prioritize by level of importance and work from the top of the list down to incorporate as many of the ideas as are feasible.

Next, it is time to think and look “out of the box.” Perhaps a simple renovation is in order, which might involve removing a wall and combining adjacent rooms into one larger one, “borrowing” a small portion of the next room or even a closet and turning it around to carve out storage space within the smaller room, or raising a ceiling to add extra height which always feels better and could also provide vertical storage options.

To get the maximum amount of function out of any space, I recommend custom built-insdesks, open shelves, storage cabinets, banquette seating.

Furniture should be scaled down a bit so that the room still remains comfortable while eliminating excess. Everything selected should be in proportion. Avoid over-crowding with furniture. And definitely forget about that over-stuffed chair! Stick to smaller-scale patterns on surface treatments such as tiles, area rugs, fabrics, etc. More intricate and more colorful palettes provide added visual movement but be mindful to keep walking space as clear and open as possible. A high level of illumination is also a plus.

While mirrors may seem an obvious way to expand a room care must be taken not to give it the “funhouse” effect. Limit mirror to one wall (not opposing walls) and opt for a wall-to-wall seamless installation wherever possible, or try shorter bands of mirror—not at eye level to avoid seeing your own reflection.

4 Examples

David Kaplan Interior Design LLC
Designer Show House NYC: Guest Bathroom

Photograph 1 (Designer Show House NYC: Guest Bathroom): I utilized this mirror technique along with canvas art applied to the ceiling, effectively pushing out the spatial boundaries. I specified custom handmade concrete tiles in a checkerboard pattern on the floor with simple squares on tub/shower walls. The demi-lune style sink vanity was also scaled in proportion to the overall size of the room, maximizing function and open floor space.

ASID Show House Scarsdale NY: Fireplace Inglenook

Photograph 2 (ASID Show House Scarsdale NY: Fireplace Inglenook): I located or custom designed all the furnishings for this space to serve as a useful sitting room in a French/Asian motif, in unison with the French Mansard style of the house.

Guest Powder Room/Bathroom: Fort Lauderdale FL

Photograph 3 (Guest Powder Room/Bathroom: Fort Lauderdale FL): I found available space behind a column wall by re-routing some plumbing along the lower portion and created an open niche shelving unit for towels, etc. Glass wall tiles are small scale. The vanity cabinet was designed to recede back with side wings to minimize extension into the very limited floor space.

Kitchen: Atlanta GA

Photograph 4 (Kitchen: Atlanta GA): We expanded the center island to include adequate sit down space with counter stools, and turned the breakfast table area into a casual hang-out space with comfortable seating and custom built-in TV/bookcase/storage (not in view).

Have your own questions about small spaces in your home or another interior design project of your own? You can contact David Kaplan at David Kaplan Interior Design, LLC at 212-462-4329 or online at

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