Photo courtesy of Ashton Woods

By: Barbara Hobbs, writer for New Homes & Ideas

If you went to the recent Parade of Homes, you were dazzled by homes with fabulous kitchens, beautiful living areas, gorgeous bathrooms, screened-in rooms to die for, and light fixtures you couldn’t take your eyes off of. But these houses also had a big square footage and a price tag of as much as a million dollars.

Small homes can have that same impact. Builders know how to achieve it. Decorators know how to enhance it. Vendors have products to optimize it. Let’s take a look at how they do it.



Open concept is the builder’s greatest gift to small homes. Combining living, dining and kitchen areas creates a large open area conducive to family activities as well as a sight line that says “wow”. By including lots of windows, 10’ ceilings, crown moldings, Edison bulb light fixtures, and fireplace treatments that go to the ceiling, they create the same impactful look in smaller homes that are found in the larger ones.

Tara Deans, Studio Manager at Ashton Woods-Raleigh Studio confirms this. “The open layout and great windows are vital to a small space. Stunning wall treatments such as thin brick are a favorite look with customers and give our town homes a hip modern urban loft feel.” Add in the light-colored wide plank hickory floors throughout, industrial lighting and barn doors, one can easily see why the Mackenzie model at Ellis Crossing was a Gold winner in the recent Parade of Homes.

Builders also use a judicious color palette on the walls and the same flooring as far as the eye can see to increase the impression of size in the home. “For Baker Residential, the impact of a home starts at the entry which always features double doors,” stated Rachel Greene, Marketing Manager. “It continues inside with the flow of the wood flooring and six different color palettes on the walls. Baker features a soft grayish white whose neutrality becomes a setting for any colors the homeowner wants to bring out in their furnishings and décor.”

Builders are creative about using small areas in corners under stairs, in attics, under eaves or above closets. Small nooks can be built out as coffee bars, pet bedrooms, mini-offices, sewing centers, mud rooms, or appliance storage. Space-saving barn doors or pocket doors are installed where conventional doors would be more cumbersome. Access doors are built into unfinished areas in the attic which are then easily set up for storage.

Baker Residential tries to use every nook and cranny throughout our homes to optimize space,” stated Greene. “Homeowners love our butler’s pantries which offer so much storage for dishes near the dining room as well as our pocket offices tucked in small areas, and the drop zones near the garage entry where there are cubes for backpacks and shoes, hooks for coats and shelves for other outside items. We’ve even built a doggy bedroom under a stair case!”

Photo courtesy of Baker Residential


The best way for homeowners to make their small space feel bigger is to clear as much floor space as possible. Take a second look at your furnishings. Get rid of pieces you don’t really need or that are too big for the space. Use creative storage methods to clear the floor.  Choose furniture like coffee tables, side tables and ottomans with storage capacity. Hang window curtains at ceiling height, drawing the eye upward and letting in plenty of light. Display art and other wall treatments that are vertical rather than horizontal.

In the bedrooms consider beds that have storage in their bases or use storage containers that slide underneath. Wall-mounted bedside tables lend to the illusion of a larger room. Install bedside lighting on the wall or ceiling. Paint wood feature walls with satin paint rather than matte so it will reflect light instead of absorbing it.

Photo courtesy of Closet Factory


When it comes to storage space, there is no area more open to optimization than the closet. Builders may build-out master bedroom closets, especially in the higher end homes, installing multiple clothing rods, shelves, drawers and shoe racks. But reach-in closets, found most often in secondary bedrooms, can also be organized and customized as much as walk-in closets can. “We install panels in various widths and combinations to fit the reach-in closet’s size,” said Suzanne Pail, CEO of Closet Factory. “The homeowner has many choices of what he wants to have in the panels – clothing rods, shelves, drawers, shoe racks, cubbies and pull-out jewelry drawers. The elements he picks are adjustable and can be placed at any height or on any panel. If those change in the future, they can be moved around to better accommodate the new needs. These systems actually offer the ability to reduce bedroom dressers by incorporating drawers, baskets, and pull-out trays.


Custom pantries are truly life-changing. A pantry is never too small or full to be organized using the right accessories and layout. For The Closet Factory everything is customizable using a combination of shelving, drawers, and other design elements that work together to create a more functioning space. “Closet Factory uses the same panel system in pantries that it does for closets,” stated Pail. “The adjustable shelving can be placed at heights for cereals boxes, canned goods, spices, or even appliances. Baskets, drawers, pull-out trays, even wine racks make the pantry as customizable as your kitchen. Flat wall panels can be mounted in small areas for hanging cookware or utensils.”


Garage storage cabinets, shelving and wall organization optimize garage space not just for tools and lawn equipment, but for sports gear, seasonal items, bulk food items, baby equipment or furniture like folding chairs. The extra reward for these efforts is often that you may no longer need to rent a storage unit, and you can get your car in the garage!


One of the most surprising aspects of smaller homes is that the measurable dimensions are smaller but impact possibilities are not equally limited. Good choices by the builder and the homeowner optimize the uses of the space available. Well-designed floor plans create impactful sightlines in a smaller home. Sensible color palettes lend to the impression of larger space. Clever storage options help rid your home of clutter. Ingenuity optimizes the usability of small spaces. All these elements come from builders, remodelers, interior designers, and vendors but in the end it is the homeowner who brings it all together to create the home of his dreams.


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