We’ve most likely all heard the phrase “less is more,” but when you have a tiny bedroom it doesn’t always feel that way. Rita S. Wilkins, an interior design expert and author of “Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle,” knows firsthand what it’s like to live in small spaces — and she’s passionate about how her decluttering lifestyle has informed how she makes the most out of those spaces.
Not only did Wilkins go from a 5,000-square-foot house to a considerably smaller 875-square-foot home during this process but she also gave away 95% of what she owned and — the impressive part — has continued to live simply since. The process worked for Wilkins because downsizing freed up more time, money, and energy for her to pursue what mattered to her. And she swears she’s never been happier.
This combo of passion, expertise, and results is why we asked Wilkins to share her tried-and-true design tips for small bedrooms. If you’re waking up feeling confined because there’s no room to stretch or going to bed, wishing there was less clutter, read on to find out how to turn your bedroom from cramped to cozy.
Eliminate physical and emotional clutter
Having too much stuff makes a small room look even smaller. Your bedroom is one place to prioritize certain necessities first, like your bed, a nightstand, and a place to store your clothes. The rest of it could just be clutter.
When it comes to choosing what to eliminate, Wilkins recommends asking:
- Do I need it?
- Do I love it?
- Does it serve a purpose?
- Why am I downsizing?
- What do I wish I had?
These questions can help with one of decluttering’s biggest challenges: the emotional process. According to Wilkins, getting rid of clutter is not about the clutter itself, it’s about the memories attached to them. Try accounting for the emotional weight of these items before you begin — it might be the preparation and motivation you need to start decluttering.
And be honest with yourself. Check in on whether you need something or are keeping it around because it’s already there. And decide whether it holds emotional weight for you, which is important! If you're unsure, Wilkins recommends asking a friend to keep you in check.
Another decluttering tip: If you are waffling on keeping something physical around, photograph it for permanence. Wilkins suggests taking pictures of items, so you can look back through the photos when you want to fulfill your nostalgia need.
Look up for storage options
You’ll have a hard time seeing all the possibilities of your room if you only think of space in terms of surface area. In fact, if you’re the kind of person who likes to pile things up on top of a nightstand or on your bed, you could probably benefit from this mental reframe.
The trick for small rooms is to protect your surfaces. Instead, think of open areas, like your wall and ceiling, as new frontiers for storage. Hanging floating shelves, hooks, and mirrors will not only clear your surfaces, it will make your room more functional.
“Instead of keeping a lamp on a nightstand, you can use a beautiful chandelier above the bed or even pendants on both sides of the bed,” says Wilkins.
Opt for functional decor
The furniture world is vast and overwhelming, with options for pretty much any whim. But when you’re furnishing a small space, function is even more important than looks, since you’ll need anything that goes in there to play a role. For example, a pegboard for hats or jewelry can look artistic while functioning as a storage hack. Ottomans, trunks, and woven baskets not only make for nice decorative pieces, but can also serve as storage for blankets, pillows, and other personal items.
When in doubt, ask yourself if your furniture will serve a purpose or solve a problem.
Your bedroom’s focus should be your bed
In a small space, you’ll want to work to optimize relaxation. This means that the focus should be on your bed and what makes you feel relaxed. If possible, tuck distracting elements away in aesthetic storage cabinets or baskets.
When it comes to your personal style, go big
Rather than clutter your space with several small pieces, opt for special large pieces of furniture, which can make a small room look more spacious than it is. Wilkins suggests investing in statement pieces you absolutely love. The right statement piece is an opportunity to bring joy and some dynamism into your room — and being honest with yourself about what is or is not worth an investment can help clarify your priorities.
Use tricks of the eye to expand your space
“In my bedroom I have a very large mirror that rests on the floor. It makes my small bedroom look double the size. It’s the perfect example of less is more since I chose to have less furniture,” says Wilkins. She gave up her dresser which used to support the mirror.
If your windows overlook trees or a park — as Wilkins’ does — you can angle a mirror to bring that view inside. “[My mirror is] angled in a way in which I can see the park sitting on my bed.” Wilkins advises that bringing nature indoors can help make your bedroom feel like it extends far past the four walls.
Other hacks include ditching bed skirts and boxy chairs for furniture with exposed legs to help you better visualize your space; adding ceiling fixtures and tall bookshelves so that the eye looks up and elongates the bedroom; and putting up boldly colored artwork to add depth to your walls.
Make every day a vacation
If you’re struggling to find ways to turn your bedroom into a personal escape, think about what you love when you’re on vacation.
“When you’re on vacation, you are a different person. For example, you are likely more relaxed and open,” says Wilkins. “Think about the person you want to be in your bedroom and style your room so you embody that person.”
What types of hotels to you choose? What makes you happiest when you’re away?
For example, if you opt for tropical destinations with bold colors, bring those elements into your space. Wilkins suggest playing with textures. Don’t go for the most inexpensive option but for the one that makes you feel luxurious, like a velvet headboard to truly mimic a comfy, relaxed vibe.
Or if your favorite part of your getaway is the minibar, dedicate a space in your room to barware. That cleared-out shelf in your bookcase doesn’t have to be used for books. “[It] could be the perfect place to include some wine glasses, an ice bucket, and mini bottles of wine,” says Wilkins.
Cater to your senses
Making a small room feel big isn’t just about paring down. It also means catering to the senses you favor as well. Sight is important but don’t neglect the importance of smell, sound, and touch either. Instead of a charging station, dedicate the top of your nightstand to a sound machine or a diffuser to create a calming experience. Wilkins also recommends having a plush robe that you leave draped over a chair or at the end of your bed, so it's ready for you at the end of the day.
“Falling in love with your small space often means not being afraid to add a bit of luxury." Wilkins says. “Make the most of it by doing what you can to make it more enjoyable.”