5 Small-Room Rules to Break

Forget what you've been taught! Top designers throw small-room decorating rules out the window and share how to maximize your space.

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Photo by Nick Olsen.

Rule to Break: Paint Small Spaces White

When decorator Nick Olsen moved into his 525-square-foot studio in New York City, the walls were painted white, in keeping with small-space convention. "But the place just looked gray and dingy," says Olsen. And so, rather than just slapping on a newer, brighter coat of white, he painted the apartment's main room Oregano Green (Benjamin Moore 2147-10), in an oil-based metal enamel, to resemble lacquer.

"Although the apartment is small," says Olsen, "it's actually rather grand with 12-foot ceilings, huge windows and a high-relief fireplace. So I felt it would be a shame to tone it down with a pale color or white." For even more impact, he painted the doors glossy black and the trim white, and added a deep teal velvet sofa. Olsen didn't shy away from bright color in the 35- (yes, 35!) square-foot kitchen either, wallpapering the fridge in a bright spring pattern and painting the walls and the ceiling Sea Mist Green (Benjamin Moore #2041-50). "To make color work in a really tiny room like this kitchen," Olsen suggests, "paint the walls and ceilings the same color so you're eye doesn't stop at the ceiling line."

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