The Do’s and Don’ts of Decorating a Small Bedroom

Dreaming your tiny bedroom had space for more than a bed? Or your guest room was more than a dumping ground? Then read on

By Cheryl Freedman / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Small bedrooms can be tricky to decorate. They often end up as unloved spaces with little personality because we’re worried that too much stuff will “shrink” them visually. Conversely, small spare rooms can end up as dumping grounds for old fitness equipment, packaging or clothes-drying racks. 

While a typical master bedroom is usually large enough to accommodate cabinets and chests of drawers, a second or third bedroom may be big enough only for a bed and little else. How can you make the most of every square inch, and ensure that a small bedroom is both stylish and functional? Here are some do’s and don’ts for making a small bedroom look good and work hard.

Do copy hotel style. Many boutique hotels have tiny rooms, yet guests hardly notice since the rooms are so carefully decorated. Copy some of the tricks: A padded headboard, plush throws and multiple pillows offer a similar scaled-down luxury at home. 

Try to slot in bedside tables, even if they’re just small shelves, for somewhere to set down a morning cuppa.

Do build around the headboard. In this airy bedroom, a built-in unit around the headboard makes great use of the limited space without impinging on other walls, keeping an open feel.

Also, as this blue-and-green scheme demonstrates, adding bright colors to a predominantly white room injects energy and life without closing things in. Stick to one or two hues so that the room doesn’t get too busy.

Don’t assume it’s too tiny for two. Even small guest rooms can often accommodate two single beds; consider extra-narrow designs if necessary. 

This chic room doesn’t compromise on style, with painted brickwork and a graphic rug adding industrial attitude. Wall lights are a terrific space-saving solution, but if they’re not an option, try reading lights that clip on headboards. 

If conventional bedside tables aren’t possible, re-purpose something else. Here, two logs do the job.

Do add a feature wall. Painting all four walls the same color can exaggerate the boxy feel of a small square room. Instead, create a focal point by adding a wall of luxe paper, textured paneling or, as here, an interesting paint effect. 

Next to the white walls, the darker shades and ombré effect on the back wall lead the eye to it, creating a depth of field. This room may be compact, but it’s far from a featureless box.

Do go dual-purpose. Multifunctional furniture is your friend in a small bedroom. Here, a bookcase works as a headboard, bedside table and home for books all in one. Stylistically, a piece like this also helps transform a plain white cell into a Zen-like getaway. 

Ceiling-mounted spotlights are another smart move in rooms with low ceilings.

Don’t underdecorate. The temptation in a small space can be to pare back. But that can end up looking dull and undesigned. Don’t be scared to accommodate some of the elements you might find in a larger room, including pictures, rugs and decorative lighting. The result is a “proper” room — a cozy retreat to which you’ll enjoy escaping.

Don’t choose closets with fussy handles. In this snug sleep space, the cabinet almost disappears, thanks to its minimal, hardware-free doors. A glossy finish also bounces light around the room. 

A bed with a simple frame is another trick for a small room since it appears to take up less space.

Do think laterally. Is it a bed, is it a desk … or perhaps it’s a “besk”? Our homes are getting smaller, so in the future, all bedrooms might look like this one. The smart integrated bureau is a good idea for an older child’s room, providing a place to catch up on social media or do homework, while the pullout bed underneath is just the ticket for sleepovers with friends. 

In general, going custom may be the answer to suit your exact needs and dimensions, so talk to a carpenter or builder about the possibilities.

Do use mirrors. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but a wall of mirrored closet doors will help a small room feel larger. But ensure that the room is just as chic, simple and tidy as it is here — reflected clutter and “floordrobes” can look twice as bad!

Do copy houseboat style. A lot of inspiration for small-space living can be gained from houseboats. Here, a low unit around the edge of the room provides storage and a bedside table without taking up an entire wall, as a closet would. 

Tell us: How have you made the most of a small bedroom? Share your ideas and photos in the Comments below.