A top interior designer explains 5 ways decor can make a small space seem bigger

Take a tour of Osborn House, Australia, as designer Linda Boronkay explains five ideas to steal from it which can make any small space seem bigger

living room with blue and green walls and a pink chair
(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

There's a relaxed sense of luxury in the design of new hotel Osborn House, an hour outside of Sydney, Australia. Jewel-toned armchairs you want to sink into, oversized headboards you can't wait to have your morning coffee against, and bathrooms with brilliant aquamarine tiles. But then, this elevated and cozy sense of glamor is what we'd expect from the first completed project by Linda Boronkay under her new design brand Linda Boronkay Design Studio.

The Livingetc columnist - and former Design Director of Soho House, wrote the book on modern interior design. It's her aesthetic, seen at places like Soho House Mumbai with its sumptuous fabrics, pretty patterns and an eye for artistic flair, that has influenced so much of how we like spaces to look today. 

And while Osborn House isn't small - it includes 15 luxury suites and seven free-standing luxury cabins - there are ideas aplenty in it which could be repurposed for any small space. 'You can always have very architectural elements in your home alongside something more decorative,' Linda says, and here she explains the design lessons she put into practice that could make any bijou home seem bigger. 

1. Wallpaper the ceiling and upper wall to add height

blue living room with yellow armchairs and wood panelling

(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

One of the most eye-catching features lies in the games room, where Linda wallpapered the top third of the wall as well as wallpapering the entire ceiling in the same blue-green wave pattern, reminiscent of Australia’s vibrant ocean. She used the height of the window to dictate the proportions of the paneling on the lower third of the wall, and the wallpaper on the upper third.

‘Instead of painting, we decided to have fun with a very geometric wallpaper,' she says. The trick was to take the wall paneling two-thirds of the way up the wall, add a dash of wallpaper, paint the coving the same shade as the paneling, and then wallpaper the ceiling, too.

'This approach helps create fake height to the room so it feels like it's a higher ceiling height,’ she explains. ‘It's a nice trick to use if you want to achieve that in your own home, but it also breaks up a very high ceiling too. If that's the case, and you have high ceilings, I would recommend using darker colors.’

2. Add a hint of blush to increase the breeziness

blue living room with pink and green chairs

(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

The library is a much softer space than the games room, meant for reflection. It's essentially exactly the same palette - blues and rich dark greens, but the introduction of blush pink on the art and accent chair entirely changes the feel. 

'I wanted to give each room a very different character, so you have a series of experiences depending on your mood,' Linda says. 'It means that whatever you want to do with your time, you can find the right spot.’ 

And all it takes to add a sense of serenity is that little dab of dusty pink. The breeziness of this tone entirely stops the richer shades from feeling heavy, a moment of levity in a lavish scheme.

3. Make a room feel more airy with rattan

living room with big pendant light and wicker chairs

(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

That same palette appears here yet again, yet this seating area feels totally different, a living room in which you could walk barefoot, relax completely in the morning with a coffee and good book.

The reason? Those rattan chairs. Rattan is a great leveler, it brings more sumptuous pieces like the navy blue armchairs down a notch, adding a hint of informality overall. And also, thanks to the gaps in between its weaves, rattan allows light to flow more easily around the space, genuinely helping to increase the airiness.

'It’s one great takeaway from hospitality design that you can easily use in your own home to add more fun and variety,’ Linda says. 

4. Use statement headboards to make bedrooms feel larger

bedroom with curved wood headboard and blue sofa

(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

The bedrooms are a mix of Linda's signature styles - ornate artistry, plump seating and well-chosen lights. And admittedly, this one is far from small, but Linda says that using a statement headboard is a way to make a bijou bedroom feel both bigger and more luxurious. 

‘A really high headboard works surprisingly well with smaller rooms and I think they’re really undervalued,' Linda says. 'There’s so much you can do with a nicely shaped headboard; it really makes that elevation work wherever your bed is positioned, and whatever its height or size.’

Don't be afraid to take the headboard almost to the ceiling, if you happen to have a low room. Because it's not a room that really requires much other furniture you can go large on the one thing you definitely do need to add a sense of grandiosity. When going large, choose curved edges like on this one, above, which seem slightly less imposing.

5. Use two bathroom mirrors to increase the feeling of space

marble bathroom with two gubi mirrors

(Image credit: Alan Jenson)

The modern bathrooms throughout Osborn House have all been given a  makeover, but the use of double vanities and elegant bathroom taps help to preserve the period feel that Linda and her client both loved about the building.

In fact, the use of two mirrors - here, Linda chose the much loved F.A.33 mirror by Gio Ponti at Gubi - is a clever design trick. Both are slim, so don't take up too much wall space, but quickly increase the amount of light bouncing around, adding the illusion of more room.

Of course, it helps that Linda has used hi-shine materials elsewhere. ‘They're all marble clad with marble mosaic on the floor,' Linda says of the bathrooms. 'But almost everyone had a different design to ensure that unique experience.’ 

See more of Linda's work at Linda Boronkay, or book a stay at Osborn House

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.