WCL: Small Space Design Tips from HGTV's Vern Yip

HGTV designer Vern Yip stopped by to share some of his top tips to make a small space look and feel bigger.

Yip recently designed a 1,000-plus-square-foot condominium in Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the best part? You can win it!

For a chance to win HGTV Urban Oasis 2011, enter twice a day through Friday, October 7 on www.hgtv.com/urbanoasis and www.frontdoor.com/urbanoasis

Want to make your apartment look and feel bigger? Follow Vern's tips:

1. Employ a Monochromatic Color Scheme
Small spaces always appear visually larger with a monochromatic color scheme. Keeping things monochromatic within a single space reduces the amount of visual breaks due to contrast. By reducing the amount of visual breaks, the eye effortlessly flows through the room as one element blends into the next. In the HGTV Urban Oasis, the entire main living space (including the foyer and the kitchen) is painted Edamame Green, extending all the way from the baseboards to the doors to the walls to the ceiling. This helps a small space seem more visually expansive.

2. Utilize Similar Wood Tones throughout the Space
Keeping wood tones similar throughout a small space will help visually link everything together, creating a sense of balance, harmony, and ease. The warm wood floor installed in the HGTV Urban Oasis visually extends onto the kitchen cabinets because they share the same medium brown hue with orange undertones. This visual link not only creates harmony in the space, it also makes the kitchen appear larger and more spacious.

3. Install Floors that are Darker than the Wall Color
Dark colors on a horizontal surface visually depress into the volume of the space. A dark ceiling, for example, has a tendency to feel as though it is collapsing onto you because it is visually pulling down into the space, creating a sense of less volume. A dark floor, on the other hand, creates the sense of more space because it is visually recessing into the room, expanding the sense of volume. In the master bathroom of the HGTV Urban Oasis, a dark brown "leather look" tile is utilized on the floor with three of the four walls in a much lighter stone look tile. The fourth wall is an accent wall composed of glass mosaic tile, creating the illusion that it is lighter in color than the floor because it is bouncing back light?even though it is about the same tone. The dark floor in the master bathroom visually expands the volume of an already substantial space because it is now visually depressing further into the ground.

4. Choose Bigger and Fewer Items
Installing fewer but bigger items will make a small space appear much larger than outfitting it with smaller scaled furniture. Bigger items give a room a sense of scale and reduce the number of visual breaks in a space. In the master bedroom of the HGTV Urban Oasis, a large canopy bed was installed to give the room a sense of grandeur and emphasize the volume of the room. In the main living space, a large custom made sconce, a large custom piece of artwork, and a large salvaged architectural eagle serve as clear focal points on the walls rather than an assortment of smaller images, which could make the room feel cluttered, messy, and small.

5. Select Pieces that Multi-Function
Small spaces demand pieces that work hard for their keep because there just isn't the room to accommodate single-use pieces throughout. In the main living space of the HGTV Urban Oasis, an upright desk houses both a work area and an entertainment area by accommodating a wireless printer and a laptop for business and cocktail glasses, beverages, snacks, and other accoutrements for pleasure. In the master bedroom, custom mahogany art pedestals showcase reproductions of the Sprites designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Chicago Midway Gardens but also open up to reveal generous storage inside.

6. Utilize Chrome, Glass, and Mirrors to Reflect Light
Small spaces really benefit from both natural and artificial light. Chrome and glass furniture always helps to create a sense of space because it takes up less visual space while also reflecting light sources back into the space. Similarly, mirrors are a wonderful tool for small spaces since they take whatever light is coming into the space, bouncing it right back and creating a greater sense of volume. In the main living room of the HGTV Urban Oasis, a vintage chrome and glass dining table and side table take up much less visual space than their footprints might suggest, creating a greater sense of volume. In the master bedroom, two chrome finish table/ stools and a mirror add help keep light reflected throughout.

Where Vern Shopped in Chicago:
Broadway Antique Market
Chicago Botanic Garden Art and Antique Festival
Edgewater Antique Mall
Frank Llyod Wright Home (store) and Studio in Oak Park
Jayson Home + Garden
Museum of Contemporary Art (store)
Post 27
SG Grand
Urban Remains

About Vern Yip:
Vern Yip, HGTV Design Star judge and designer for the annual HGTV Urban Oasis home, is an award-winning architectural and interior designer who gained national acclaim for his expertise in transforming homes and restaurants in his private design practice and on primetime television.


About the HGTV Urban Oasis Giveaway 2011
HGTV is giving one lucky viewer the chance to win a modern urban apartment right in the heart of downtown Chicago, along with the fabulous lifestyle that goes with it. Best of all, the high rise pad is designed and decorated by world-famous Vern Yip, who will put his contemporary spin into a space with endless views of Chicago.