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 John Casado.

Rule to Break: Stay Away From Lots of Patterns

Solids, tone-on-tone textures and small prints can make a room feel larger by making it seem calmer. Sometimes, however, calm can be, well, boring. But there's no chance of dozing off in this dressing room designed by April Sheldon. With its bright red chinoiserie wallpaper and zebra-patterned rug, the space is vibrant and lively. And rather than make the nine-and-a-half by 10-and-a-half foot space feel even smaller, says Sheldon, the patterns actually enlarge the space.

"I think big bold prints on the walls and lots of pattern in a small space really distract you from the size of the area," says the San Francisco-based designer. "The room takes on the feeling of a walk-in art piece."

Of course, not every mix of patterns will work well in a small space. The key, says Sheldon, is to make sure that the scale of the pattern varies. "If the scale of the wallpaper and the rug had been the same, it would have been overwhelming." But because the wallpaper's pattern is much smaller, the room looks - and feels - comfortable, rather than cramped.

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