An optical illusion

marti8aOctober 5, 2008

I think our house was designed by a first year architecture student, and I know it was built by a beginner. There are things we noticed when we first looked at the house that we knew would never work, and changed some of them then, but others have had to wait until we had more money.

One thing they did was put the "back door" on the side, which meant that every time the kids wanted to go out to play when they were small, I had to go out, unlock the gate and let them into the backyard. When the dog needed out, same thing. Not only that, but this door faces north and has no porch over it, so wind howls through in winter and rain is forced in too.

Finally after 13 years here, we put in a door from the kitchen into the backyard yesterday. I wish we had done this instead of putting in flooring 13 years ago. What a difference it has made. The extra light makes the room seem twice as big.

That made me think of the other optical illusions we use to make small spaces seem larger. When we moved in, the flooring was a dark vinyl. We put in white tile and the room seemed to double in size.

The master bedroom is 12x15 and only has one 3x6 window. I am going to put curtains on either side of the window so it looks like there is a 9x6 window there instead.

The other 2 bedrooms are 10x10 and have the same 3x6 window. In those rooms I had curtains, but when I took those off & just put up valances, it seemed to open the room more.

My next goal is to clear the clutter both on the floors, table tops, and walls because it feels like the walls are closing in lately.

What have you done to visually create more space?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Light colors definitely help. Our narrow galley kitchen had dark cabinets and a lowered ceiling. Just going to white cabinets really opened it up. I wanted to raise the ceiling, but there were too many structural issues. We plan on selling the house anyway.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I hung curtains I put the rods as high as possible and off to the side as you suggested. Seemed to raise the ceiling.

Put glass doors on some upper cabinets in the kitchen and used them for pretty things only. I did not have room for china cabinet. Had enough other cabinets to hold the not so pretty kitchen things.

Most of all I try to keep things decluttered. Paired it down as much as I could to things I HAD to have to make life easy. I allowed myself to have just pretty things if they would fit behind glass doors. So I cheat and collect glass door cabinets. Heheheh

We had a door in the master bath at the end of the house where the snow does not slide just to be able to let the dogs out into their safe yard. The master bath is large and it has turned out to be a lifesaver with bad weather here. I laid out large bath towels and close the dogs in there for a little bit to let them dry their feet.Easier to wash the towels then shampoo the carpets. This is REALLY worth the added cost of the door. And someday we might put a hot tub in the back yard.I did have the nine light door and it helped to keep the room from feeling like a dark box.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 4:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree about the light colors and careful selection of window treatments.

A trick I figured out in my house also for window treatments is to match the treatments to the home or architecture of the house, and not try to match them with your decor.

For example, my walls are a creamy beigey yellow, and the woodwork and trims are all white. I purchased some chocolate brown window treatments because they're great with my furnishings and decor color scheme & look great with the wall color. Even hung with optical trickery as you describe, they still stifled the rooms.

I changed them to identical panels, but in white to match all my trim...and now they look like they go with the house and not with my stuff. The whole place looks and feels bigger.

Also, I am very careful about which walls I put paintings/hangings on. I've learned in a smaller space, a painting can definitely be a focal point, but many times it also serves as an end point and forces the eye to stop there and not feel the space surrounding it. Hope that makes sense.

There are a few walls in my house where in a larger space I would definitely hang something cute, but in this place it almost cramps and makes space feel lost. They are better left blank.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 5:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My small house has a tiny living/dining room "L". I knew the best shape for my dining room table would be a round pedestal, and was delighted when I was able to pick up a 48" table with windsor chairs. Unfortunately the table seemed too large and the chairs took up a lot of space. I finally gave the set away on Freestyle and bought a 42" pedestal table with smaller antique chairs. It was amazing how much difference it made to have a slightly smaller table!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 8:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gayle, you are so right about having the window treatments match the style of the house. My house is a ranch with an old-fashioned feel. In those two small bedrooms, I have mini blinds with the valances over them, but the mini-blinds just look so harsh to me, so I put lace sheers over them. In the day, I pull up the blinds so only the lace sheers are visible from the street, and inside, I have the airy look with a little privacy. I love it.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 8:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

marti8a I did the same here with the lace and mini blinds. I am not a big fan of them but they are a necessary evil.I might have to change the lace for something more insulating for winter. I get by with as little as I can.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Clean :), organize, tidy, get rid of stuff, add built ins, more light does help. I hear horizontal lines make a space look bigger.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 4:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our house is a late 1970s ranch. It is 1675 sq ft and has 7 windows. One per room - except the family room that has a 6 ft slider instead. In the kitchen, which is right next to the family room, there was a cloth valance when we moved in. Last fall, as the days got shorter, I realized that the valence was blocking a lot of light that I needed. I went online and found a stained glass panel that was made with mostly uncolored, obscured glass. I put it at the top of the kitchen window where the valence had been. The obscured glass gives us privacy so that the house next door does not look into the kitchen so much, but lets the light into the room.

I have de-cluttered a the request of the cleaning lady. She wanted to dust fewer things, so some things went down into the basement.

I recently purchased a big leather couch from Craig's List. It replaced a chair and a love seat that were in the family room. The love seat was always covered with a slipcover. Between DH and the dogs, the slipcover was always askew, so it looked frumpy and cluttered. Now, the family room is neater with the couch and two chairs, instead of the love seat and three chairs. Everyone comments at how much more comfortable and neater it looks. Sometimes few big pieces of furniture make a small space work better than many smaller ones. When we moved the TV, CDs, tapes, and stereo components into a big 5 ft x 2 ft x 5 ft high cabinet, the loss of clutter made our tiny living room in our last house feel bigger.

When I was shopping for furniture, I discovered a new pet peave - big rolled furniture arms that doubled the size of a chair. I don't know whose house they were made for, but those furniture sets with the huge arms made huge wasted space in a family room the size of mine. I settled on a couch with medium sized rolled arms, as I like the comfortable feel, but did not want to waste so much space.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 5:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nancy, I've noticed that about the number of pieces of furniture before, as well as color. Our current den furniture is navy blue, but our last furniture was tan. Same number of pieces and about the same height, but this seems to take up twice as much room.

Another optical illusion we have had before was a mirrored wall. It was in a house we were renting and was the full length of the wall. It really did make the room look large, but if the bathroom door was open, the shower door faced that wall, and that was when I was beginning to look like my mother. Ugh.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 11:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You all have some really good ideas!
My suggestion is for those planning to build a smaller home: you can have fewer windows if they are bigger windows. My previous home was a 1366 SF Cape Cod style 2 story (or story and a half?) and there were only 8 windows in the house when I bought it and I added 1 in the downstairs bath that had no window. That snug little house never felt dark or dreary because I used minimal window treatments and no curtains where privacy was not an issue, only a valance. At night I used plain roller shades for privacy as the house sat close to the street.

That was a cute little house - just not worth the commute after a year and a half. :o(


    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 9:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our trick is to finally (two years after buying our 900 sq ft house) accept the dimensions of our rooms and work with them, not against them. In our bedroom, for instance, we desperately wanted a dresser and two nightstands--we wanted to finally own that ever elusive "adult" suite of furniture. Well, there isn't room. So, after a year and a half of searching for a dresser/nightstands that were small enough, we finally worked with the space we have and purchased two very tall wardrobes from Ikea and put them on either side of the bed. Their footprint, believe it or not, is the same footprint as a nightstand! And they go from the floor to the ceiling, so they provide a huge amount of storage. We got them in white to match our woodwork, and it's funny how many people think they are built in. Way better than a measly little dresser!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 11:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd like to see that xantippe, if you have a pic.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 12:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My friend has a Doggie door off the back door of her house and a covered dog-run outdoors. Perfect-her dog and cat can go in and out as they wish.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 10:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Che1sea wrote "I hear horizontal lines make a space look bigger." I got a really good demonstration of that some years ago. We have a small den that's 17' long but only 9' wide. We bought a set of three 3' wide base cabinets and bookcases to fit on top from an unfinished furniture store. We kept them in the natural maple color with just polyurethane finish. It was absolutely amazing when we moved the three base cabinets into the room against one of the short walls. That room instantly seemed to look bigger.

The problem with bookcases is that they need regular attention or they become too cluttered. I've never been able to achieve it, but magazine photos of "done" rooms often show a lot of EMPTY shelf space, which helps add to the feeling of more spaciousness.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 4:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My last home was 1000 sq.feet .We painted the ceiling glossy white and put in dark flooring.I used a light semi-gloss cream on the walls and in the gally kitchen I painted the cabnets glossy white and did dark blue on the walls. We put built in storage every where and I put as many cabnets in the kitchen as we could. In this 900 sq ft house we have high ceilings so it feels alot bigger than it is.Leaving off curtains or taking them to the ceiling really adds to the height of the room . I also take them to the sides.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 11:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

madeyna, how did you like the glossy ceilings?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 2:56PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Mama Goose - a question?
Hi Mama, I saw in one of your posts that you have painted...
knife sharpener help
I need a knife sharpener. I have 1 knife sharp enough...
upper shelves in kitchen
Ok I am having someone make me some upper shelves in...
Artistry of home construction
When MamaGoose explained the concept of the Construction...
Family of 5 into 1500 sq ft
Hello! I thought I'd introduce myself since I've been...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™