Although maximizing space while also taking design and function into account might seem to require a little smoke and mirrors (mirrors will, in fact, make a space look bigger), it mostly takes smart shopping for "decorative choices in a scale appropriate to the space," says Mary Douglas Drysdale, a Washington-based interior designer and 2009 nominee for a Cooper Hewitt Design Museum Interior Design Award.
In the living room, for example, instead of a room-dominating L-shaped sofa, a cozy settee might make more sense -- especially when paired with slipper chairs and poufs -- and will provide more flexibility in function and furniture layout.
When you are ready to shop for quality furniture pieces that will fit your space, "it's worth it to hire a decorator for a couple of hours," says designer Jennifer Wagner Schmidt. As owner of Northern Virginia-based JWS Interiors, which focuses on affordable design, Schmidt says that buying furniture is an investment in your home, and hiring a designer is a good way to protect your investment.
Double-duty pieces, abundant lighting and a monochromatic palette are other sleights of hand that will visually expand rooms. But above all else, make sure to edit, edit, edit. "You really have to have organization when you have a small space," Schmidt says. "I think that should be your first goal."
The designers added these tips for decorating a small space:
• If you love color, Schmidt says, "add special details and pops of color with accessories to make the space you your own.
• Both Drysdale and Schmidt recommend as much light, natural or artificial, as possible. Mirrors can bounce extra light around a room.
• Demilune tables are half tables that can tuck into small spaces, making them ideal for entryways.
• A trunk is a prime example of a multifunctional piece. Fill it with board games, seasonal throw pillows or extra blankets, and then put a tray on top for use as a coffee table.
• Don't be afraid of making a big statement in a small room. For example, Anthropologie's Italian Campaign Canopy Bed adds drama, yet the thin metal lines won't impair your line of vision.
• The most important piece for small room is "a great place to sit," Drysdale says, such as Crate and Barrel's Klyne Chair and Half, which offers a generous, loungey space to read, or room for two friends at a party.