How to Decorate a Difficult Room

There are many reasons why a room can be a challenge to decorate and style, ranging from the obvious (too small, unusual shape) to the more complicated (too many focal points, an open living space or a large window). These ‘difficult’ rooms are often the biggest task to face when we are decorating our homes, and they can present a block when trying to locate furniture so that the rooms flow as you move within the house. However there are plenty of design and decorating solutions to turn a difficult room into something functional and beautiful.

1. Scaling

One of the most common problems faced is a space that is either too big or too small. A classic way of dealing with this is to scale your furniture up or down. Small rooms require smaller pieces, such as a loveseat sofa instead of a full scale sofa, or a double bed instead of a queen/king. Large, open living spaces are often appealing to home buyers, can then be difficult to layout and decorate, particularly if they are fulfilling several functions. Scaling ‘up’ and using several key, large statement pieces is often a great way to begin to design an appealing layout.

2. Clever Lighting

Lighting can completely transform your space, arguably more than any other aspect of a room. Rooms with small or awkwardly placed windows can mean a lack of natural light, and an unwelcoming environment. “Up” lights, which sit on the floor and point towards the ceiling can lighten a room very effectively and subtly as the light source is diffuse and soft, mimicking daylight. Floor standing uplighters are also space saving lighting options for a smaller room. Other lighting solutions include spotlights and ‘layering’ atmospheric lighting with more functional task, object or background architectural lighting.

3. Paint and Colour

Semi-gloss paint can make a room seem lighter and larger because of its reflective properties- but ensure that walls are smooth and flat because the sheen also highlights imperfections- great for an ultra-modern scheme. There are also all kinds of colour tricks to help improve a difficult room. Whilst lighter colours, or a monochromatic colour scheme, can really improve a dark or small room, sometimes a richer, deep colour enhances the intimacy of the space and can create a very atmospheric quality that is great for listening to music or reading.
Colour schemes for open plan rooms are more complicated as you must decide where to stop and start wallpapers or feature colours, but a good starting point is to choose a single accent colour for highlights throughout the room. Whether it be a painted piece of furniture or cushions or a rug, using the same tone and pairing it with neutrals will really unify the space.

4. Mirrors and Metallics

Metallic accessories can fix a range of room problems – reflective surfaces help with both size and lighting issues. Using mirrors to make a space appear bigger is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it can also be used to help ‘iron out’ an awkward nook or alcove whilst adding to the depth of the room’s appearance. Metallic lighting, vases, picture frames and decorative objects all bounce around light and add much needed texture and interest, giving a room more life and visual movement.

5. Storage

Intelligent storage solutions can fix a lot of problems with a room. If the room has an awkward nook or cranny, it may be the perfect space for some fitted furniture – such as shelves or a custom fitted storage cupboard. Larger rooms can appear cluttered if there are too many individual pieces of furniture. Built in furniture is usually the answer, adding character and interest, bespoke fitted furniture often feels part of the architecture of the house and if done well can add enormous value at resale.

Smaller rooms benefit from furniture that doubles as storage, such as an ottoman that doubles as a storage trunk, or a raised bed with storage drawers underneath. Again, bespoke solutions are often required in order to achieve the maximum results in a small or unusually shaped room. Alcoves can be filled with desks, beds, shelves or simply covered with doors, all serving to give the appearance of a larger, more functional space.