One of the housing trends I see now and in the future is smaller houses. The large American house is no longer a smart way to live. It made sense when building was cheap, energy was cheap, and labor was cheap.

But now only labor remains cheap. It costs a lot more to build and maintain a house now. And with resources such as wood and metal being gobbled up by emerging economies like China, it isn’t going to get any cheaper to build. Likewise, energy is not going to get any cheaper either. Gone is cheap oil.

This means a small house that costs less to build and costs less to heat, cool and light makes real sense.

Anyone in NY isn’t going to really make any adjustments because we already live in small houses!

Here are some tips to making a small house feel spacious:

1. Declutter
Along with small houses come the need for less stuff. That bike machine you haven’t used in four years? The six pairs of old shoes? Get rid of all junk, i.e. stuff you don’t actually use and use often.

2. Keep the windows clear
Heavy drapes are good for keeping the cold out but they make a room feel smaller. Translucent white drapes are the best because they brighten the room and bring the outside space in. You can even buy insulated white drapes now. The draps hold air inside them and act as insulation to keep the cold and hot from passing. But they are still translucent so they let the light through.

3. Use furniture that is light and see-through
The first thing to consider is if you even need the furniture! But for the furniture you do need, know that clunky thick furniture takes up space and makes a room smaller. A sleek, lighter design adds space to a room. A classic example is a heavy wooden table with thick boarded legs vs. a stainless steel metal frame table with a glass top. The glass top table lets light pass through it and increases the space in the room dramatically.

4. Lots of light
The best lights are low watt fluorescent or LED, and lots of them. The LED are good for filling otherwise dark corners. They can be put under kitchen cabinets to light up counters, in bathrooms, entryways, stairs etc. The more dark spaces you have in a room the smaller it feels. Lots of light is really important. Light means electric bill, though, so use colored fluorescent so it actually looks nice and LED, since they eat little electricity.

5. Remove Doors
Doors take up valuable space and obviously enclose a room. Take away the doors and your rooms will provide views into other rooms, which adds a sense of space. The valuable real estate around the doorway can now be used as well since there isn’t a swinging door there. If you must have door then a sliding door is a better alternative if possible.

6. Think colors, or lack of
Paint color effects the space of a room. Basically, dark makes a room smaller and light makes it bigger. Always use a bright white for the ceiling since it reflects the light down. For the walls use bright light colors.

7. Keep it minimal
Simple is a lot more spacious than cluttered or complicated. This applies to everything: art, furniture, paint colors, styles. Pick simple lines and textures for pillows and furniture. Pick minimalist art styles. The paint colors should be minimal, i.e don’t have a hundred different colors in the place, keep a simple palate of two or three colors.

8. Store it!
Put things in drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, under the bed. Keep it out of sight! This means having a good choice of storage areas that fit into the rooms. You don’t want a huge clunky armoire taking up the whole room. Slender shelves against the wall that go more up than out are better.

Here is a great example of combining form, function and multiple use. The owners of this table found the driftwood and ball, so the table has personal meaning. Practically it serves as a table. It doubles as art. It is salvaged and incorporated some creativity from the owners to make it (very green!). And also very important, the glass top allows light to highlight the wood as well as pass into the rest of the room.

9. Multi-task it
Like the driftwood glass table above, try to incorporate more than one use for all the objects and rooms in the house. Gone are the days of formal living rooms or dining rooms. Today the dining room is also the homework room, laptop room, meeting room, and home business room. Incorporating multiples uses and meanings into rooms and objects increases their usefulness and decreases the amount of stuff and space you need. Now that is green!

10. Scrap the art
If you pick your objects and homes carefully you may be surrounded by art that is also actually useful. A classic example is a beautiful tea pot given to you by your mother. It is art, functional and emotional warmth all in one. Or how about the house with the amazing view? Who needs paintings when you can look out the window? So spend your money on a beautiful sofa and keep the walls clear. Not only can you admire the sofa but you can doze on it too!