Pro tips to ensure this small space reaches max potential.

By Wendy Rose Gould
June 09, 2020

The smallest room in the house is often relegated to “spare bedroom” status. Like a junk drawer, it tends to be a sort of catch-all, hodge-podge of a cramped space that remains relatively unused unless a visitor happens to stay over. Even if you intend to make your tiny spare bedroom a designated space for future guests, there are numerous ways to ensure it fully serves you and your home year round. With expert help, we’re serving you some pro tips on how to transform this space to make it an inviting, multifunctional reprieve

Give Your Spare Bedroom a Theme

One of the biggest mistakes you can make for this room is turning it into a furniture graveyard—a destination for old furniture you’ve outgrown or hand-me-downs you couldn’t say no to.

“A small space actually requires more editing, strategic placement, and planning. Nothing is more ‘low energy’ than filling a room with furniture you don’t love, so come up with a clever plan,” says Christina Simon, senior designer for Mark Ashby Design in Austin, Texas. “The best way to approach this is to give the room a theme or story, which inherently helps make a room more cohesive.”

For example, if you want to use this room for reading, playing music, making art, or even working, then fill the space with the items that reference or pertain to that theme. Hang a guitar on the wall or make a handsome bookshelf and comfy chair the focal point. From there, really make sure the room works for you. Bring in task and ambient lighting and add art or furniture that inspires you and leans into the theme.

Make the Bed a Secondary (or Hidden) Feature

As Simon mentions, carefully thinking out and utilizing every inch of a small room is vital to making the most of your space. That said, making a bed the focal point of a spare bedroom may be the default design move, but consider your options before ordering that mattress.

“I recommend opting for a bed that can fold up, such as a sleeper sofa, [a day bed], or a murphy bed,” says Alessandra Wood, vice president of style for Modsy. “This allows your guest room to have a daily personality. You don’t have guests every night, so it doesn’t make sense for the primary features of the space to cater to guests. Optimize your room for daily use with a bed that can be stored away.”

Get Creative with Your Storage

Making use of clever storage solutions is a game changer when it comes to designing a small space. Simon says to “think vertical” and to conceal when you can. For example, a mounted bookshelf gets items off the floor and onto the wall, and a bedside, side, or coffee table with storage will make more use of the space. Another option is to incorporate furniture with a hidden storage compartment, such as a desk, chair, or a bench.

“These items provide ample storage so that even with the limited space the room will not appear cramped or cluttered,” says Kate Rumson, interior designer and Trane Residential partner. “The addition of chairs or benches for seating and storage, along with other crucial features and design touches, is really what makes the room comfortable for you and your guests.”

Incorporate a Large Mirror

Adding a large mirror to a small room is one of the oldest interior design tricks in the book, but it’s worth repeating. Not only does a mirror make a room feel way bigger than its true square footage, it’s vital in a spare bedroom from a utilitarian perspective. Lisa Queen, founder and principal designer of Los Angeles’ Lisa Queen Design, says, “I like either embedding a mirror in the wall as a large inset panel framed in molding, or incorporating a large leaning mirror. If you can find a great old piece with lots of character, all the better!”

Choose Pieces That Serve Multiple Needs

In the same way it pays to get creative with your storage solutions, your tiny spare bedroom will benefit from multi-functional furniture. For example, Wood says to “choose an upholstered ottoman that can double as a coffee table when a tray is placed on top of it,” or to position your desk so that it doubles as a nightstand. These sort of clever furniture placements really allow the room to serve you even when you don’t have a guest staying over, notes Queen.