You're So Tidy

5 Ways to Prevent Visual Clutter in a Small Room

So it doesn't make you scream

No matter the size of your living space, you probably have the chair. That is, the piece of freestanding furniture—or sliver of floor space, or end of the bed, or even a wall hook—that gets heaped with things at the end of every day (and sometimes at the start, if you're a serial outfit changer, as we all occasionally tend to be). In a small bedroom or living room, this kind of inevitable visual clutter can become especially pronounced drive you to the brink. The good news is that the furnishings and accents you choose to populate the small space, and how you arrange them, can combat those messy, disorganized vibes. Below, we've rounded up the best decorative tips from the designers at Laurel & Wolf for a small space that always feels tidy and clean.

Sconces by Apparatus and a painting by Hector Frank are displayed above the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa in the living room of this Manhattan apartment.

Photo: Brett Beyer

Disguise exposed cords

If you're not up for hard-wiring your wall sconces, the resulting exposed cords can look a bit scraggly running down the walls or behind a console. "The most basic and effective way to hide them," says Laurel & Wolf designer James Tabb, "is to buy cord covers and paint them the same color as your wall. You won’t even know they are there."

Float some furniture

No matter what kind of floors you have—glorious wide-plank wood or pink linoleum that your landlord refuses to swap out—the more you see of them, the less cramped your space will feel. Float any furniture you can: a pair of nightstands or even a series of shelves that make up a bookshelf. "Wall-mounted nightstands or floating shelves have a cleaner, more streamlined feel," the Laurel & Wolf team says, "and they make your space look less cluttered if you do keep a few items on the floor."

An all-cool color scheme keeps this room by Laurel & Wolf feeling tidy.

Simplify your palette

Go light and bright (white walls are never a bad idea; the Laurel & Wolf team says they will "almost always make a space look bigger") or go dark and moody (you rebel!)—just stick to a limited color palette. The color of your bedding, for example, should be near the color of your walls on the color wheel. Yes, a color wheel. The less jarring contrast in your overall color scheme, the more serene and uncluttered it will feel.

Let pieces breathe

What furniture you don't float you'll want to keep spare and spread out. If your dresser is crammed next to an accent chair crammed next to a laundry hamper, nix the chair (unless you can find a way to live without one of the other two). The more room between furnishings, the less cluttered the space. Fair warning: If you have lots of stuff and the room is really small, you might have to offload some of your darlings.

Embrace asymmetry

In a small room, you might not have room to put two matching nightstands on either side of the bed—and even if you do have room, it might not be the most efficient use of space. Nix both, slide your bed over so one side is against a wall, and add a desk—the Laurel & Wolf designers suggest you "let [the desk] do double duty by placing it beside your bed and using it as a nightstand." The added sliver of floor space you'll gain with the asymmetrical layout will open up the space.