dear reader | to the one with the tiny room

Marian ParsonsDecorating, Secret Weapons, Tips and Tricks

dear reader

You hear me talking about rearranging furniture and you look around your “cozy” room and laugh.  Everything is wedged perfectly in the space and any rearranging would be impractical at best and a fire hazard at worst.

You want to change things around, to experience the joy of getting a new look without spending any money.  But you feel stuck.

You’re not alone.


Several people have walked into my house, after having seen it only on the blog, and most of them say, “Oh, it’s smaller than I thought it was!”  Aside from the kitchen and family room, which are generous in size, the rest of the rooms are average or on the small side.  Or at least small compared to newer homes.

(That rug in the living room is 8 x 10, so the actual room is about 10′ x 12′.)

And there are several rooms in my home that can really only support one furniture arrangement, unless I start covering up the windows or totally ignore traffic paths.

The dining room, home office and guest room fit in that category.


And even though the family room is large, there is only one place for the sofa, so it’s been in that same spot for nine years.


But, just because your room is small or your furniture arranging options are limited, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play musical furniture with the rest of us!

Here are some tips and suggestions for arranging and rearranging a small space.

1.) If the furniture arrangement really needs to stay as is, try swapping out one piece for another like piece.  A chair for a chair or a small side table for another one, similar in size and scale.  You can get a different look without spending money or changing the furniture arrangement, just by doing a little swapping.

(I can’t tell you how many times I swapped the chairs from the living to the family room and back again.)


2.) Assess the small space…if it’s feeling a little “too cozy”, maybe you have too much in the space.  Small rooms benefit from editing and making sure that every piece in the room is one you love and/or need/use.

This is tough.  I know it’s hard to let go of pieces that are sentimental or valuable or you just really love, even if you know that they aren’t working in your space.  Let me tell you that there is real freedom in letting go of some things, so the rest of your things can shine.

3.) Maybe the furniture that’s in the room is the only furniture in your house that’ll fit there.  If that’s the case, I would suggest focusing on the accessories and soft furnishings, like pillows, curtains and rugs.

Set a day aside and see if a friend (or family member) can help you with what I call a “room reset.”  Remove everything except the large pieces of furniture that are staying put.  Everything.  Take it all off the walls, clear the tables and shelves and remove all of the pillows, blankets and small pieces of furniture.

Even the curtains.  You’d be surprised what a different look you can achieve just by removing curtains!


See how the furniture feels in the room with it empty.  Are there any pieces you should take away?  Sometimes a piece is in a room, simply because it’s been there for years.  Not because you really love or use it.  Remove anything that doesn’t fit in those categories.  Start adding in small furniture and wall art, followed by accessories, pillows, throws, etc.  

Remember to shop your house.  You don’t have to put everything back in the room that was in there.  In fact, that would defeat the purpose of resetting the room!  This is why it helps to have a friend help you.  The kind of friend who will tell you if something is dated or clashes or doesn’t make sense.  Or it’s just ugly.

I will warn you, though.  Resetting a room can sometimes snowball as you shuffle things from one room to the other, so don’t do this the day before company is coming or you’re hosting Bunko night.


4.) Scale is very important in a small room.  Try to use pieces that have a small “footprint.”  For example, I had a huge antique upright piano (above) in my small living room and it took up a lot of visual and physical space without serving much of a purpose.  Plunking out Jesu, Joy of  Man’s Desiring a couple of times a year isn’t what I would call productive.

I swapped it out for a hutch that, even though it’s taller, has a smaller footprint and provides functional storage.


If you have a similar situation, perhaps it’s an overstuffed sofa or bulky chairs, consider selling the piece that isn’t working and take those funds to purchase a piece that will work better in the space.


There is definitely this prevalent idea that bigger is better when it comes to homes.  With neighborhoods filled with mini-mansions that boast media rooms, “bonus” rooms, a guest wing and master suites that are larger than the military apartment my family of four lived in, it can feel like a 10′ x 12′ living room is dinky and difficult to work with.  So why bother.

And I used to think that way.

I hated how small our first townhouse was – 1100 square feet.  The problem wasn’t the size of the house, though.  The problem was that I was working against it, trying to stuff too many things into the small space.  I wasn’t appreciating the satisfaction that comes from whittling your possessions down, editing and making strategic choices… until that small space is quality from corner to corner.

And it doesn’t feel small anymore.

It feels perfect.

Until next time,



PS – Jo, this one was for you.

dear reader | to the one with the tiny room

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