“Restored by the Fords” designer Leanne Ford knows a thing or two about small-space renovations and makeovers. She first gained national attention for converting a tiny 1907 Pittsburgh schoolhouse into a roomy home and has since starred in “A Very Brady Renovation” and “Rock The Block” on HGTV and released a book with her brother, “Work in Progress,” about their design process.
Ford also recently partnered with Leesa mattresses to launch the new Leesa Legend, the first dual hybrid mattress on the market. “Sleep is so important in our lives and for our creative brains,” she tells StreetEasy. “Especially when living in a city, it’s important to set up a sleep sanctuary.”
We sat down with Ford to get her advice on setting up that perfect snooze spot (yes, even in a one-room studio) and how to make significant design impact in a small apartment. Here, her five best tips for designing small spaces. Some might surprise you!
Leanne Ford’s Small Space Tip 1: Move the Bed
In a small bedroom, you might think everything has to be pushed up against the wall to make it feel more open. Ford believes you should ditch that notion: “Don’t be afraid to move the bed off the wall and position it differently,” she says. “If you’re in a studio, for example, turn the bed so it’s facing out the window. This will create a separation between living and sleeping areas, ultimately making the space feel larger.”
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Leanne Ford’s Small Space Tip 2: Hang Mirrors
If it’s not physically possible to make a space larger, reflective surfaces can do the trick for you by bouncing the light around and giving a sense of space. “A mirror creates another window in the room,” Ford says. “So get a big one — one that seems too big for the space — and the room will feel bigger.”
By the same token, says the designer, avoid covering your actual windows. “I don’t really use window treatments, so the light can just flood in,” she said. “You don’t need privacy in your kitchen or your family room, for example. Ditch the curtains, and the natural light will help a space to feel more open.”
Leanne Ford’s Small Space Tip 3: Decorate the Ceiling
Another spot often dismissed? Look up. “When you have a small space, play with the ceiling,” says Ford. “Paint it, or install pine boards to make it look rafter-style. It’s so cheap and easy, it adds an architectural element, and it makes the room feel taller. I always do really pretty ceilings, especially in the bedroom — when you wake up, you want to see something pretty.”
Leanne Ford’s Small Space Tip 4: Use Your Wall Space
You might have already maximized your floor space, but using the walls is great for both decorating and maximizing functionality. “It’s just like New York City: If you can’t go out, go up,” Ford says. “Use the space all the way to the top. If you want kitchen cabinetry, open or closed, go all the way up to the ceiling and keep stuff up there that you need less often.”
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Leanne Ford’s Small Space Tip 5: Curate, Curate, Curate
For surfaces where things are on display, Ford recommends becoming a creative director. “Curate everything that is visible,” she says. “The only things that should be out are things that are beautiful and make you happy. People with a large house feel like they have to fill it, but it’s more of a design challenge to create a curated collection. That can make all the difference in a small space.”
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