By Domino Staff

Published on December 6, 2016

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Photography by HOLLYWOOD INTERIORS BY PAUL

Winter’s chilly weather means we’ll be spending more time indoors, and we need our apartments to be sanctuaries of light and coziness. Since the season comes with more hours of darkness and cold (hello, bundling up), it’s the perfect time to focus on how to make any space in our homes feel more open and breathable. Your bedroom or dining room doesn’t need an overwhelming redo to maximize its potential. A few techniques can make it the space you’re happy to hide away in all winter long.

Make Your Ceiling Pop

Drawing the eye upward creates the impression of high walls—so give people something to look at. Doses of pattern are a fun way to personalize a space, but patterned rugs can actually make a space look smaller. Instead, direct your attention north with a pretty printed wallpaper or a serene hue that contrasts the walls.

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Photography by ALYSSA ROSENHECK

Keep Your Shelves High

Another way to pull focus up and heighten a room is to place shelves closer to the ceiling. Any time you can build shelves into the wall, it’s going to both actually save space and create the look of more space. So just place those shelves higher to get any potential clutter out of the way, and to also make the walls seem taller.

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Photography by ALYSSA ROSENHECK

Pull Your Furniture Away From the Walls

This one feels counterintuitive. Pushing everything against the walls seems like it would result in the most space, but pulling that couch or table toward the center and getting creative (placing things at angles, or grouping together) actually gives the sense that you have more space. It breaks things up a bit. This effect is even stronger if your pieces sit on legs instead of going all the way to the floor.

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Photography by DASHA MINAIEVA VIA YAHOO

Bigger is Better

Clutter is the enemy of a small room. Decorative accents are how you make any apartment feel like you, but be sure to choose fewer, bigger, bolder pieces rather than clusters of smaller ones. Consider the “cantaloupe rule:” Only use decorations bigger than a melon. The effect is all interior self-expression, no chaos.

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Photography by BLOG.LIVELOVELY.COM

Light Different Parts of the Room

One big overhead light in the middle of your ceiling greatly limits how big the room can feel. Instead, place lighting in different parts of the room to highlight the different spaces it holds. Light shining around instead of down opens the space up, so go for table lamps and floor lamps. Lovely advises arranging your lights in a triangle pattern, which moves the eye across the room.

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Photography by DESTINATION FEMME

Behold the Power of Stripes

Vertical stripes are a silhouette-elongating fashion secret, so apply that same logic to dressing your room. Stripes on the floor or wall (or ceiling!) of a space create the illusion that it goes on forever. The look is sharp and modern, and it makes a statement. It’s amazing just how much bigger a linear-painted wall or printed rug can make a setting feel.

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Photography by DESIGN*SPONGE

Use Different Shades of the Same Color

Choosing light colors over dark will naturally brighten up a room and make it feel more open. Don’t stop there, though. You can make your space feel even more breathable by sticking to a monochrome palette. Choose a neutral or pastel, and then play with different shades of that hue. Use the lightest tones on your walls, and add standout pops—from a couch to a picture frame—in darker tones. The uniformity is both strikingly artful and flawlessly streamlined.

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Photography by ATHOMEINLOVE.COM

Color Code Your Shelves

Another way to make color work for you is by color-coding the smaller items that fill the shelves in your space. While reducing clutter to make a room feel more expansive is key, that doesn’t mean you have to toss every book. Organizing them by instantly creates a sleek, organized look. Bonus points for mixing up your stacks, which can leave some valuable space for collectables within each shelf.

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Photography by APARTMENT THERAPY

Mirror, Mirror Everywhere

Mirrors have long been hailed as a go-to for small spaces. They add depth and maximize light. Go further than hanging one above a dresser, though, with mirrored accents like an end table, or finishing touches like a vase. You could even get creative and design a new wall pattern with antiqued mirrors.

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Photography by MINIMALISTI.COM

Be Clear With Your Decor

Like mirrors, glass and lucite let the light in. Furniture and decorative accents that are sleek and transparent are a cool, modern look that also keeps a dining room or living room bright and open. The approach eliminates the heaviness of dark furniture, creating the perception that there’s nothing there at all—it’s like magic. 

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Photography by JONAS INGERSTEDT/INGERSTEDT.SE VIA BUZZFEED

Leave Windows Bare

Curtains and drapes can feel heavy and close a room off, even in lighter colors. The easiest and most impactful way to open up a room is to skip the window treatments. There’s no greater tool for making a space airier than natural light. That bare window adds a new level of depth to the room, and the sill is the perfect shelf for accessories. 

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Photography by HGTV

Replace Doors With Curtains

Curtains are a vital tool in any room even if they’re not dressing the windows. The secret in any small space is to always think of how you can go one step lighter. Curtains might make a window feel unnecessarily closed off, but they’re the brighter alternative to closet doors. Similar to window treatments, doors can weigh a room down. Curtains are immediate space-softeners, and the lighter in fabric and color you go, the better.