6 ways to maximize room

Here’s how to create the illusion of space without adding square footage.

With a few well-placed windows and built-ins, it is possible to make more of less. And remember, often what the eye needs is the illusion of spaciousness — not more space, says architect and author Sarah Susanka.

Think diagonal views. Think back to geometry and how the hypotenuse of the triangle was the longest of the three sides. Apply that to the sight lines within your small-house design. “If you can stand at one corner of the house and look to the far corner, you will think your house is much bigger than it actually is,” says Susanka.

To add space…add a wall? It’s intuitive to assume that to maximize space one would take out walls — but “you rarely feel you’re comfortable in that spaciousness,” Susanka says. Don’t chop up rooms a la old tract homes, but consider adding a wall that slightly breaks up a room, or putting a freestanding bookcase in the middle of a room, to make a space seem bigger.

Vary ceiling height. Altering the height of the ceiling, even within one room — lower at first, higher as one proceeds — creates a sense of entrance and welcome. A simple cloth hanging over a bed creates “a different flavor of space” and makes an area more human-scale and intimate, Susanka says.

Layer your area. Though it’s counterintuitive, adding different elements in the middle-distance of a room — a pillar, a low bookcase — can act rather like punctuation marks in a sentence, slowing down the eye, and letting it experience the space, Susanka says. “I’ve had fights with clients over putting a column in,” because the clients think it’s blocking, not opening, she says.

Think like a sailor. Think-small architects often refer to their creations as sailboats, which have no wasted space. Look for opportunities for built-ins, such as bookshelf opportunities in staircases, cool cabinet possibilities, drawers under beds, etc.

Remember: Glass is good. In addition to letting in light, which is crucial to lending a house an airy feel, well-placed windows steal space from the outdoors and give it to the house. To give the best view of outside, place windows no more than 2 feet, 6 inches higher than the floor, Susanka suggests. For a horizon view, place windows together at a corner of the house. Author Michelle Kodis likes clerestory windows — windows placed high on the wall that people can’t see in, but make space feel bigger, while bringing in natural light.