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Tweak the Design of Your Small Space

Katherine Maund is all about using design tactics to trick the eye into thinking a space is bigger and brighter than it really is.

The founder and creative director of Copeland + Co. Interiors points to her accessory dwelling unit project “The Donna” as an example of how to re-create an existing space without doing any major modifications. Affectionately named after the clients’ fur baby, The Donna is a garage-turned-ADU that the clients now list as an Airbnb. The Donna’s vibe is Palm Springs modern, and the goal was to create an open, functional and inspirational space.

Using The Donna as a road map, Maund gave an introductory plan for visually expanding a small space.

Train the eye to look up

Painting the bottom 4 feet of The Donna’s bedroom pink draws the eye up from the 4-foot line to the ceiling. This gives the illusion that the walls are taller than they really are. Another color tactic? Black or dark ceilings, which give the illusion that the ceilings disappear.

Keep the floor moving

Every piece of furniture in The Donna has legs, from the couch to the bed to the plant stands. “Being able to see the floor continuing for as long as possible gives the perception that the room is larger than it really is,” Maund says.

Think “open and airy”

The Donna’s garage door is clear glass, which brings in a lot of light the team didn’t want to break up. Instead of a solid wall, the team chose a slat wall to separate the bedroom from the rest of the space. This is a great way to distinguish a work or sleeping space while keeping things light and airy.

Seek plenty of light

Lighting is a game changer for small spaces. Wall sconces or hanging lights mean less floor is covered. Mirrors can also do a lot to visually extend a room, especially when they reflect the right lighting fixtures, Maund says.

Remember plant power

The Donna features vertically growing snake plants to keep the eye moving up. To keep the floor visible, these plants are set in plant stands. Maund also recommends grouping plants of different sizes in trios and using hanging plants like ivy that grow downward, not outward.

This story also appears in Willamette Week’s Home Guide Magazine, Nester, published October 2022.

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