20 design tips for small bedrooms

Make the most of a small bedroom with these savvy design solutions

Mantelpiece headboard

Thomas J. Story

Something borrowed

Architectural details can become furniture. A mantelpiece, for instance, can provide structure for a fabric-covered foam headboard. If over-the-top is your style, go almost all the way to the ceiling with a salvaged pocket door and by-the-foot crown molding. (And you’ll have room for sconces.) Best for: those with a sense of occasion—and history.

Shelves and cubbies headboard

Thomas J. Story

Creating boundaries

Take a leaf from the Murphy bed book: Frame your bed with custom cubbies, forming in the process a headboard in reverse. This mix of open and closed storage lets you display what you want while stashing the rest. Painting the headboard zone in a neutral color keeps the whole thing from being overwhelming. Best for: the mildly OCD, who will keep the open shelves nice and neat.

Built-in shelves

Thomas J. Story

What lies within

When space is tight, it pays to look for storage in unusual places—say, between the studs, as San Francisco architect John Lum did here. The boxy shelves are set in a wall that divides this bedroom from a windowed entryway; resin panels let light filter from there into the darker bedroom. Best for: the constant reader, who can never be far from a book (or 12).

Floating shelves

Thomas J. Story

Sideways thinking

Install a floating shelf to increase bedside square footage. This clever idea, from Napa Valley interior designer Erin Martin, makes a nightstand an option (just tuck it under the shelf) rather than a necessity. Best for: the decisive, who won’t be rearranging furniture at the drop of a hat.

Half-wall headboard

Thomas J. Story

Double duty

Tucson architect Rick Joy is known for clean, simple designs, and his rammedearth house is no exception. Its “bedroom” is separated from the rest of the house only by a half-wall that also acts as a headboard. A rectangular recess on the wall’s bed side is a handy place for books and a carafe. Best for: loft dwellers and those who don’t need much privacy.

Be bold with color

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Be bold with color

Paint a small bedroom in a cheerful hue to make an impact.

Add a green screen

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Add a green screen

Potted plants serve double-duty here as a privacy screen from neighbors (while still allowing a view) and as natural air filters.

Personalize it

Photo by Lisa Romerein

Personalize it

The Ikea light fixture next to the bed is customized with a tassel. Monogrammed pillows add yet another personal touch.

Attract the eye

Photo by Martin Tessler/Gamma Pro Imaging

Attract the eye

Short on space for displaying your photos and treasures? Bright red captivates and immediately catches the eye. Use that to your advantage by showcasing prized possessions with a backdrop in the hue.

Storage-savvy space

Storage-savvy space

In a small room, getting creative with storage solutions is key. This bed's backrest slides up to reveal storage. On the headboard, you push in on a hinged panel to access a similar space.

Wall as canvas

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Wall as canvas

Instead of painting an accent wall, cover it with arty or playfully printed wallpaper—a nice technique for a small space.

White nights

Photo by Lisa Romerein

White nights

Keeping walls and linens white makes a small space look bigger and airier. Adding a small pop of color, like this pink chair, keeps the space lively.

Two rooms in one

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Two rooms in one

Use furniture, like this console, to divide a bedroom into sleeping space and lounging space.

Clutter-free look

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

Clutter-free look

If it doesn’t fit, you don’t need it: a philosophy that's easier to live by when your limited storage space is used artfully, like these floating cabinet-shelves.

Be whimsical

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Be whimsical

Try a unique wallpaper pattern that serves as a focal point. Then pepper in quirky items from your collection, like a salvaged lamp, retro clocks, or hard-covered books.

A bunk-bed alternative

Photo by Thomas J. Story

A bunk-bed alternative

Trundle beds work well for older kids and help maximize a small space.

Give peace a chance

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Give peace a chance

While bold patterns and bright fabrics may rule the rest of the house, create a tranquil zone of woven linens in the bedroom for a neutral sanctuary.

Go vertical

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Go vertical

A lofted bed creates additional storage space underneath. A bold, antique wooden frame draws the eye away from items stowed below.

Create a modern look

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Create a modern look

Wood paneling above the bed and on the armoir infuses a soft yet modern feel to the room.

Protect your goods

Protect your goods

As the “door” to your closet, use a semi-translucent scrim composed of industrial-grade sheet vinyl. It'll block UV rays, protecting clothes from sunlight pouring in through your bedroom window. What's more, using one in a bright hue adds a pop of color to a neutral palette.

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