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Q: I love our new house, but the rooms are small. What decorating tips do you have?

A: More homeowners are simplifying their lives and reducing their carbon footprint by choosing smaller homes. And while it’s true that good things come in small packages, less space can present challenges when decorating — especially if a new space is smaller than what you are used to.

The good news: While you can’t change the dimensions of small rooms, you can fool the eye into seeing spaces as being larger than they actually are. The trick is to use scale to deliver big impact.

Contrary to what you might think, one large piece of art on a wall can become a strong focal point that can actually appear to open up a room. On the other hand, several small pieces scattered around the room are apt to make it feel cluttered and small.

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As you select your furniture and accent pieces, choose a specific focus — whether it’s a wall or a striking piece of furniture. Then you can add or take away elements to ensure that the room is functional and comfortable.

In a small room, it’s always a good idea to use furniture that can multitask. An oversize ottoman, for example, can double as a coffee table. A wooden or wicker trunk can serve as your coffee table and as a storage space.

Another helpful trick is to select smaller, portable pieces that can be rearranged. This will give you the option of changing the room to accommodate guests or clearing space for children to play.

While you may decide on one large piece of furniture to anchor a room, it’s a good idea to choose something that doesn’t overwhelm the space or hinder the flow of foot traffic.

A chair without heavy arms or a love seat instead of a full-size sofa can create comfort and warmth, but without taking up too much space. Whenever possible, keep the number of furniture pieces in a small room to a minimum.

For a square room, add round elements. Choose a round coffee table instead of a rectangle, or use a circular ottoman instead of a square one. The softer edges help to create a cozy feeling and make the room feel less cramped.

If you have one large piece of art on a focal-point wall, you can add color and pop with couch pillows in contrasting or complementary colors. They won’t take up valuable space in the room, but they will make the décor feel warmer and more personal.

Look for useful pieces that can incorporate storage space. Place baskets and bins beneath tables.

Arrange bookcases as room dividers to create intimate seating areas, or position a low bookcase along the back of a sofa to double as a console table. And don’t be afraid to experiment and try different arrangements. Changing the furniture placement in a room can be a lot of fun, and makes everything feel fresh and new.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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