7 design rules for small bedrooms that experts use to create tiny spaces packed with style

Design rules for small bedrooms are the perfect starting point for working out how to make sure your little bedroom looks like a bijou gem

Small bedroom with pale cream walls, single bed with brown bedding, framed pictures on the walls and wooden vaulted ceiling
(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography)

Design rules for a small bedroom are more important to follow than in any other room. Small rooms require a lot of care to make sure they pack in plenty of style but remain functional. 

If you're just starting to plan your small bedroom ideas, or are looking for quick ways to instantly change the look of your tiny bedroom, we've rounded up the top design rules for small bedrooms that design experts always stick to. 

The most important aspect is to design around your needs, your favourite colours and the pieces you want to use. Creating a good flow is essential to the overall feel of your space and this can be achieved by following the design rules below. 

Design rules for small bedrooms

We've asked the expert for their small bedroom design rules around paint ideas, storage, lighting, furniture and every other variable factor that can make or break a bedroom. These are the rules they keep in mind to help create stunning, tiny bedrooms.

1. Use dark colours to accentuate height

design rules for small bedrooms, charcoal and stone painted tongued groove, teal bedding, sheepskin, 70s style cushion, postcards, artwork, wall light

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Although there seems to be a 'rule' that says you must paint a small room in a pale colour, you can mix it up with darker colours too. In fact one of our favourite design rules is a small bedroom paint idea. It involves pairing dark paint shades on the bottom part of a room to anchor the space and draw the eye up with a paler shared.

'Consider the perennially popular Railings with its subtle blue note for a slightly softer look,' advises Patrick O'Donnell, brand ambassador, Farrow & Ball. 'For a fully immersive colour experience, paint your woodwork in the same colour – especially if the room has quite low ceilings as this will help accentuate the height of the room.'

Then use further colours on the bedding and a touch of pattern for extra interest. Both will distract the eye from the dimensions of the room whilst keeping it cosy and unique.

Headshot of Patrick O'Donnell wearing a blue shirt
Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O’Donnell has been bringing his impeccable eye for colour to Farrow & Ball since 2012. Over that time, he has been a Showroom Manager, Global Colour Consultancy Manager and now Brand Ambassador. However, he is best known as the much-loved face of Farrow & Ball on social media 

2. Streamline window dressings

how to decorate a guest room, coral walls with bright green beading, stripe headboard, green bedspread, green lamp on modern side table, flowers

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

It is important to make sure that a small bedroom feels  'light'. When it comes to bedroom curtain ideas if you go to heavy these can take up quite a bit of space visually. Instead, consider blinds, shutters or pale curtains that blend with your scheme.

'In a small room, you don't want to take up unnecessary space with large oversized curtains. While these will certainly make a statement if you need your small bedroom to be functional stick to slim-fitting blinds, shutters or light curtains,' says Rebecca Knight, Ideal Home Deputy Digital Editor. 'You can still make a statement with a bold print or colour but without sacrificing any space.'

3. Always look for double use furniture

Small bedroom with pale cream walls, single bed with brown bedding, framed pictures on the walls and wooden vaulted ceiling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

We love double-use storage for all areas of your home, and in a small bedroom, it's paramount. You must pick pieces that work within the space and give you key storage without compromising on the room you have available.

'It’s important to utilise every inch that’s available, especially in the bedroom,' says Jonathan Clark, creative director at Shelved. 'By keeping bedroom storage units to one wall only, you are freeing up additional wall space for a large headboard, artwork, and other bedroom furniture – floor-to-ceiling units will also allow you to save valuable floor space by using vertical space instead.'

The best place to double up on usage is with your bedroom storage ideas and bedside table. A dresser can work double duty as both.

4. Avoid the big light

design rules for small bedrooms, green bedroom with paneling, trio of pendant lights, pink and green bedding, table lamp, colourful

(Image credit: Pooky)

Another great design rule for small bedrooms is to be creative with your bedroom lighting ideas and that means no Big Light! 

'Creating the ideal ambience in a small bedroom involves strategically layering lighting to bring a harmony of warmth, cosiness and function,' says Jo Plant, head of design at Pooky. 'This is particularly important in a bedroom, as you will need a combination of task and ambient lighting solutions for relaxation, reading or getting dressed.'

Placement is key too, if you do want a ceiling light then Jo has the answer: 'Nearer the bed, why not opt for small pendants over bedside tables as an interesting alternative to a table lamp or wall light. Not only does it create another decorative point but frees up space on your nightstands, which is ideal if you’re short on surface space. 

'We've observed a rising trend of using pendants in pairs or trios in bedroom settings. For a touch of playfulness, experiment with different styles or colours. You can even hang them at varying heights to introduce visual intrigue—just be mindful of headroom!'

5. Utilise alcoves to the max

White bedroom with build in shelves

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Making the most of the space you have means being clever with those sometimes quirky spaces that you find in period properties. Alcove ideas are one such element that can be maxed out in small bedrooms. 

‘When it comes to designing a small room careful planning of storage is an absolute essential to ensure you have a considered framework that will ensure you maximise every inch of space,' advises Caroline Mills, head of interior design, Zulufish. 'A great area to utilise, which is often overlooked, is the wall behind the bed. Adding recessed shelving here allows for shelving for treasured objets and photographs, whilst at the same time adding the functional benefit in the role of a bedside table, without taking up precious floorspace.'

To help the alcove blend in and to create a continuous visual flow, use the same wallpaper or paint colour behind the shelving as you have used on the walls. 

6. Don't ignore wallpaper

Pink bedroom with mirrored cupboard

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It's often thought that wallpaper will make a small bedroom appear too 'busy' and therefore shouldn't be a design 'no', this couldn't be further from the truth. 

'Wallpaper works well for adding instant interest to small bedrooms and can help create the illusion of a more spacious room through thoughtful placement – both bold and muted wallpapers work well in smaller bedrooms,' explains Chelsea Clark, head of brand at Lucie Annabel. 'Feature walls can be used to create a focal point in smaller rooms, helping to deceive the eye and create the illusion of a longer, taller, or wider room by drawing attention to one side of the room.'

Choose a design in a colour that you love and bring the shades through into your accessories for cohesion. 

expert headshot Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark

Chelsea Clark launched anything but ordinary wallpaper brand, Lust Home, in 2021, and now works across the Henderson Design Group portfolio as Head of Brands for Lust Home, I Love Wallpaper, and Lucie Annabel.

7. Choose a bed that fits the space

The bed is the most important aspect of a small bedroom, and while large furniture can be a clever trick to make rooms look big. If you don't have the space, please don't opt for a king-size. If you can't walk around your bedroom without knocking your legs on the corners you're just going to get annoyed at the room. 

When working out what size bed will fit, plan to place the bed in the middle of the longest wall, in front of a window. This is generally the best position for a bed that is small in size. But if the room isn't wide enough for a bed you might need to flip the bed to rest against the shortest wall


How should a small bedroom be arranged?

Firstly, have a good declutter – it's amazing how having a good clearout can free up space. Then look at the furniture you currently have in your bedroom and ask yourself if it works right now. Proportions are key, and if your bed is too big it will make your room feel small instantly. 

Clever change-ups can make all the difference. Do you need bedsides or could you manage with a shelf? If you love yours then pop a wall light above it and ditch the table lamp to free up space. Could an alcove be turned into a wardrobe? Look at ways you can use the space you have more efficiently, there's no reason why you can't achieve wonders with a few clever design upgrades. 

How do you layout a small bedroom?

One main rule is to place your bed so it's the focal point and symmetrical – it's a great way to create a harmonious feel. 

If space is tight, then take out the wardrobe and use a small chest of drawers instead of bedside tables, the double use will give you more storage and floor space.

'When it comes to decorating a small bedroom, it’s important to consider its layout. Determine the room’s shape, ceiling height, and amount of natural light first, as these factors will affect how different patterns and colours will read in the space,' adds Chelsea Clark.

With the right choices your small bedroom can still pack a punch, even choosing one or two of the rules will update your space.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events.