This simple flooring trick makes a narrow space seem wider – the architect behind it explains how

This simple tiling idea tricks the eye into thinking a narrow living space is larger than it really is. This architect explains how it's done

narrow kitchen flooring in diagonal terracotta tiles
(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook))

Anyone who has to contend with narrow areas in their small home will, at times, long for more space. For most of us, the idea of a sprawling interior with ample room is nothing but a pipe dream, but luckily there are some clever design tricks that can make your space seem bigger - and this home has one up its sleeve that you'll want to know about. 

This narrow house belongs to a family of four who wanted to maximize space. They called in the help of Rees Architects who redesign a cohesive ground floor for the owners to entertain friends and family throughout their modern home more comfortably. For us though, the star of the show is the use of diagonal floor tiles in the narrow conservatory extension which has the effect of making the space seem far bigger than it really is. Here, we asked them to share their design secret in more depth. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She has an eye for appealing designs and interesting spaces which she regularly shares with readers through home tours, such as this one. After chatting with the architect's behind this project, she was keen to impart their clever design trick that  makes this small home look bigger.

A narrow galley dining space with diagonal tiled flooring

(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook)

The trick in question? Using diagonal kitchen floor tiles in their narrow addition which is used as an open-plan seating and dining area. Not only does the unique idea offer an intriguing design to draw the eye, but it makes the small floor space look wider than it really is. 

It's also a continuation of the flooring on the outside patio, bridging the gap between interior and exterior to help bring the outdoors in. 'The diagonal orientation of the floor finish is a direct connection from the adjacent patio,' explains Daniel Rees, Managing Director at Rees Architects (opens in new tab). 'The patio was purposely designed on an angle to cut through the backyard and building, drawing your eye through the glazed part of the addition and making both feel like one space.'

So how does this clever illusion work? Well, floor types are actually one of the best ways to play with perception. As the biggest surface area of a room that we first lay eyes upon, patterned tiles can contribute a lot to a space. Just as horizontal lines can make a surface look wider, and vertical lines give the illusion of length, horizontal lines carry the eye across as our minds anticipate the continuation of the pattern. Combine that with the impact flooring has on design, and you can trick the eye into thinking a space is larger than it really is. 

In this home, the transitional-style design connecting out and in also plays a part. 'Using the same material on the inside and the outside, without a step, immediately draws your eye past the full-height glazed doors and window into the garden,' says Daniel. 'The narrowness of these tiles enhances this, as there are more lines to accent the direction, making you feel like you are in a bigger space than you really are.'

The choice of slim terracotta tiles compliments the muted tones used within the neutral color scheme while also echoing the brick walls of the home's exterior. 

As Daniel explains: 'The design of the project uses different natural materials to give a warm, sophisticated and timeless aesthetic to the house. Terracotta tiles are used in this area as they are a hard-wearing material that is suitable for both inside and outside, but also give a similar warmth, tactility and depth to the stone, brick and wood materials used elsewhere.' 

Terracotta tile, Stone Tile Depot (opens in new tab)
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Terracotta tile, Stone Tile Depot (opens in new tab)

For a timelessly beautiful floor, terracotta tiles are the way to go, and these ones from Stone Tile Depot are an excellent choice. They add a warm Meditteranean feel to any room and can be arranged in a pattern to fit your space and dimensions.

If you're wanting to try out the technique, Daniel suggests using it in spaces that are directly related to a backyard, especially when connected with larger windows or bi-fold doors, such as a sun room, backyard studio or orangery. 

'I would avoid using it in a kitchen as the grout lines and slightly rough surface of the tiles aren't the easiest to clean grease from,' he adds. 'However, they are suitable for muddy boots, entryway mudrooms could also be a good location.' 

To really play on the idea of maximizing space, Daniel's tip is to run the materials in the direction you want to feel wider to draw your eye and connect spaces. 

The rest of the house

A kitchen with black marble island and white marble countertops

(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook)

In fact, the rest of the house is full of design ideas too. The monochrome palette in the large minimalist kitchen is warmed up by different textures and materials, such as the oak cladding cabinets that lead down into the extension. 

The black granite island and white kitchen countertops show how two-tone kitchens can be done in way that feels complementary - both surfaces have the same level of gleam. 

A narrow built in book shelf

(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook)

Clever space-saving storage solutions feature throughout the home, such as this slim bookshelf nestled in the corner of the cabinets. The simple black lines of the shelving are a good example of how a pared-back design can prove that less is more.

A view inside a built in kitchen pantry

(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook)

A built-in pantry helps to keep this kitchen organized and the recessed storage is an excellent way of freeing up floor space. 

A small powder room painted in a dusty pink with a round mirror

(Image credit: Design: Rees Architects / Photography: Chris Snook)

The decision to color-drench this powder room in a dusty pink is yet another trick to make a small space seem bigger. A wall-mounted sink also frees up the limited floor space available.  

Lilith Hudson
Junior writer

Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She 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. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.