Why Bold Patterns Make a Small Room Feel Bigger

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When you see designer Caitlin Murray’s High Contrast room in the Small/Cool Experience, a major stand-out detail is the black and white striped wallpaper covered in colorful, vibrant wall art. Turns out, the wallpaper is more than a Kate Spade-esque touch—it’s a trick she used to make the room feel bigger. 

During an Instagram Live chat with Murray and Apartment Therapy’s Home Director Danielle Blundell, Murray talked about how using a large-scale pattern actually is better for a small space than a smaller print because it makes the rest of the room less cluttered and chaotic. “I liked that it was larger scale and was a way to really design the whole space without having to fill it with a bunch of stuff,” Murray said of the black-and-white striped Chasing Paper design she chose. “That’s the other thing: you don’t want to just have a ton of little pieces.”

Beyond wallpaper, Murray mentioned that larger-scale items in general work in smaller rooms, like a big couch or table. These pieces fill up a room, but also reduce the risk of chaotic clutter and, ultimately, sensory overload.

“I like to create different zones so you can have a multi-function thing going on,” Murray said. “I love putting a table in a room where you can tuck either a chair a bench or an ottoman. It makes a moment and a functional thing.”

The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to go big and bold! And don’t forget to add a little pop of color in there, while you’re at it.


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