Flip through the pages of interior designer Erin Gates’ fun and informative new book “Elements of Style: Designing a Home and Life” and you’ll feel like you’re stepping into her new house. Gates, 32, created the decorating tome while moving from her hip (yet overpriced) Boston rental to owning a grown-up home in the suburbs. She documents the process and offers plenty of design advice — like what’s on her popular blog — in this chic addition to your coffee table.
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“Lots of tiny furniture can make a space feel super crowded,” says Gates. She recommends decorating with a few larger pieces like a regular sofa instead of a love seat or a full-size armchair instead of something dainty.
Mirror are your best friend
“Mirrors add light and are a great way to trick the eye,” says Gates, who recently used them to brighten up her dark dining room. “I got three paneled French-style mirrors and positioned them on the wall across from the window,” she explains. “So it now looks like I have two windows.”
(Rug) size matters
Nothing makes a room look smaller than the “dreaded rug island” says Gates. “That’s when people place a tiny rug under their coffee table and no furniture touches it.” For small spaces, the designer recommends getting the biggest rug possible. As a general rule, she says to go for a rug that comes within five inches of the edge of the wall on each side.“It makes a room seem bigger, because your eye gets tricked with this nice wide expanse of material.”
Create an entryway
“First figure our what you need from the space,” advises Gates. “Is it that you need a place to drop keys and mail? Then find a tiny console, find a basket.” The key to decorating this tiny, but essential, nook in your home is finding things that are attractive — but also functional. “It can’t be just pretty and it can’t be just functional, cause then you’re kinda depressed when you come home,” says Gates. She recommends searching Etsy and eBay for items like statement- making hooks.
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“With smaller spaces, keeping it simple is super important,” stresses the designer. One way is to serve a limited bar: “Have wine — a red [and] white — and one specialty cocktail. Don’t try to make everyone a different drink.”
Embrace a buffet
If you don’t have a dining table that fits a bunch of people set up a buffet, says Gates. This can still be cute. Her suggestion: Start by picking up affordable trays at a discount store like Target. Arrange place settings on each tray and let people spread out where there’s room.
Lighting is key
Arrange a bunch of votives and candles “so your tiny place feels — as real estate agents like to say — cozy instead of small,” says Gates.