Design Dilemma #2: How Do I Make a Narrow Room Feel Wider?

This is a particular challenge for those of us living in a terrace property where two reception rooms have been knocked into one. What we often end up with is a long, narrow room. How can we avoid the ‘tunnel’ effect and create the illusion of space? Here are 5 tips for decorating a room that’s much longer than it is wide.

1. Use colour

Colour can work magic and trick the eye. If you paint the wall at the far end of a narrow room in a stronger colour than the walls either side, it will look closer than it is and make the space feel more square. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the colour you choose that makes a wall appear closer but the strength of colour, otherwise known as the tonal value. So a strong, cool tone will be more effective than a pale, warm one.

2. Introduce a focal point

Another way to ‘square’ a long rectangular room is to introduce a focal point at the far end in the form of a fabulous object that pops out from the wall behind it. This might be a colourful artwork or bright piece of furniture. If you have a window at the far end, choose some beautiful curtains or blinds in a fabric that contrasts with the walls around them.

3. Look up

Drawing the eye upwards will take the focus away from the width of the room and onto the height, giving the appearance of spaciousness. If you have high ceilings or architectural features, make the most of them. Why not fully embrace the fifth wall by wallpapering the ceiling or choose a striking colour that you continue down the walls to the picture rail? If your ceiling isn’t especially high, choose a lighter tone of the wall colour for the ceiling to make the walls feel taller than they are. Full length curtains hung high will further assist the illusion.

4. Create depth of field

When a room is long and narrow, the temptation is to only place furniture around the perimeter. Avoid this if you can. As with small rooms, moving furniture away from the walls, even by a few centimetres, will give a sense of more space. If possible create a number of smaller zones such as two seating areas or one living and one workspace. An L-shaped sofa positioned so that the longer edge creates a subtle division between two areas is a great way of doing this. As you look down the length of the room, your eye will be drawn to furniture in the foreground as well as the far end. This depth of field adds interest and creates a greater feeling of space.

5. Deploy the oldest trick in the book

Last but not least, mirrors bounce light around a room making it feel larger and wider so use as many as possible. Consider a wall of mirrors or, particularly effective in a narrow space, position mirrors opposite each other on the longer walls to create an infinity effect.