Five clever layout tricks for small bedrooms

If you want to make the most of a small bedroom, try these on for size

Designing any small space can be a challenge but small bedrooms are one of the more enjoyable ones; as spaces to dream, you can do some truly wonderful and imaginative things in the tiniest spaces. There are lots of brilliant decorative tricks that work brilliantly in these rooms – colour drenching, going wild with pattern and adding small four poster beds to create the illusion of space – but how can you maximise the floorspace with clever layout tricks instead?

Tuck the bed away

One smart way to use the space in a small bedroom is to add a bed against one wall, rather than jutting into the middle of the room. Box beds and nooks are extremely cosy and create a lovely nook to sleep in – they're perfect for guest bedrooms and children's rooms, which tend to be the smaller bedrooms in a house. Curtains are always a good idea with this type of design as they create a distinct sense of place, rather than feeling as though you've just shoved a bed against a wall. However, if curtains aren't quite your style, follow Studio Peake's example and wrap the space in a wallpaper to zone it.

A dressing room bed in a Norfolk house by Veere Grenney – who regularly uses box beds in his projects – with curtains in a wool felt from Holland & Sherry. The addition of shelves above the head of the bed, lighting and art creates a world of its own in the space.

David Oliver

A box bed for a child in a south London house by Studio Peake. The bed was built out from the sloping ceiling of the attic space. Ottoline de Vries' 'Chintamani Trellis' wallpaper lines the inside. The use of a braid around the edges gives the box a sharp, clean finish.

Alexander James

If a full box bed or nook feels too much, simply putting the bed against one wall is still a good idea as it frees up as much floor space as possible for other furniture. In Gabby Deeming's Bloomsbury flat (below), the bed takes up the width of the room. The window has a linen half-curtain made from a vintage tablecloth as a concession to privacy. The lack of other curtains or blinds mean that the attractive curved tops of the windows are still visible. Of the canopy bed she says "it feels so self-contained, a bit like a ship that's going to set sail with me in it, which I love. It's a very good bed for daydreaming."

Build in storage

Perhaps it seems obvious but smart storage is essential in smaller rooms and bespoke joinery goes very far in these spaces. By far the most space-saving solution for small bedrooms is to incorporate built-in wardrobes across one wall, if possible. When you have freestanding furniture, it tends to be bulkier and therefore feels like it's taking up more of the space, whereas a subtle wall of lovely bespoke joinery can blend in better, and means you potentially don't need any more than a bed, bedside tables and perhaps a chair in the rest of the room. The wardrobes can either be a whole wall, or frame a bed – ideally with space for slim bedside tables or with little niches carved out either side for a glass of water, book and reading glasses.

A concealed wardrobe with a sliding door is perfect for smaller bedrooms, where traditional hinged doors can cause an obstruction.

Take inspiration from Marianne Evennou in this Paris apartment. This room features an element Marianne integrates into many of the small flats she decorates: a built-in desk. ‘They take up less space and are also practical. Plus, they create a separate workspace, which enriches even the smallest room with another distinct zone.’


Add a window seat

The space below a window can be redundant most of the time, so consider adding a slim window seat – if your window is recessed. This can be both a space to read, negating the need for a bulkier chair in the room, as well as conceal some extra storage for clothes, blankets or toys.

A charming window seat makes the most of a bay window in this small bedroom.

Owen Gale

A welcoming window nook provides seating in the spare bedroom of Orlagh McCloskey's house.

Mark Fox

Think outside the box

Small spaces require us to think beyond the usual solutions and test our creativity. If you have a disused chimney breast, follow Emma Ainscough and Georgina Cave's examples below and use it for storage. Georgina created a bespoke – and rather brilliant – shoe cabinet from hers, while Emma used the space for bookshelves in a tiny cottage bedroom, even wiring it up to add a plug socket to the space.

A chimney breast in this Victorian cottage on the Bradford Estate designed by Emma Ainscough made for dead space in the bedroom; Emma had bespoke shelving built around it and painted the woodwork in Farrow & Ball’s archive colour ‘Bay Area Blue’.

Christopher Horwood

Georgina Cave's bedroom is painted in Farrow & Ball's 'Setting Plaster' with woodwork in 'Drop Cloth'. Georgina designed the shoe cupboard in the former fireplace.

Owen Gale

Georgina Cave's bedroom in itself is a study in how to layout a small bedroom. The room is narrow, with little space on either side of the bed for furniture, so Georgina added a wall behind the bed, behind which is the en suite bathroom, a built-in wardrobe and a small walk-in wardrobe. As a nifty extra, two little shelves slide out at mattress height on each side, acting as bedside tables.

Simon Brown

As a final word, for bedrooms that are only big enough to fit a bed and nothing else, Sue Crewe's design above is rather clever. The panelling behind the bed does several jobs: bedside lights are wired into it, nooks have been carved out to serve as bedside tables, and the shelf above is both decorative and useful.